Frenchy Bordagaray

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Stanley George Bordagaray

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Biographical Information[edit]

Frenchy Bordagary had an eleven-year career in the major leagues, six of which were with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He appeared in the 1939 and 1941 World Series. Bordagaray was known as a colorful character who said "All the stories about me are true". [1] He was the last 20th Century player to wear facial hair before Reggie Jackson over 30 years later. He set a record for pinch-hit batting average in a season. A two-time .300 hitter, his career batting line was .283/.331/.366. As a minor league player-manager, he was named MVP the same year he helped guide the club that integrated the circuit.

Childhood and college[edit]

In spite of his name, Stanley George "Frenchy" Bordagaray was born in California. All six of the Bordagarays brothers were called Frenchy due to their last name, though the family was Basque in origin. [2] He went to college at Fresno City College, where he was a four-sport letterman. He starred in track and played halfback in football. [3]

1931-1933: Minor leagues[edit]

After his college success, he was signed by the Sacramento Senators in the Pacific Coast League. He started off with a bang, hitting .373 and slugging .540 in 70 games in 1931. Among players with 100+ at-bats, he led the PCL in average; Ox Eckhardt at .369 led the qualifiers. Bordagaray played enough to qualify in 1932, hitting .322 with 223 hits, 33 doubles, 10 triples and a .419 slugging percentage. Among players with 500+ at bats, he was 9th in average, between Dolph Camilli and Pinky Higgins. He was 8th in triples and tied Jerry Donovan for 8th in hits (223). He also had 22 outfield assists. In 1933, Bordagaray hit .351 and slugged .478 for the Senators. Among players with 100+ games, he was 5th in the PCL in average, between Augie Galan and another Frenchy, Frenchy Uhalt.

In either 1932, 1933 or 1934, Frenchy was involved in the first of several humorous anecdotes during his career. In the 9th inning of a game against the Portland Beavers, Bordagaray went to use the toilet. While he was off the field, the pitcher threw the ball, unaware he had no right fielder. Naturally, the Portland batter hit one to right, leading to an easy double. Manager Earl McNeely did not criticize Bordagaray, rather telling the pitcher to make sure his fielders were in place before throwing. [4]

1934: Minors and majors[edit]

The Chicago White Sox bought Bordagaray's contract from Sacramento for $15,000. He batted .322/.344/.379 in 29 games for the Pale Hose, but all his offense was clearly coming from singles. He had no home runs and two RBI and stole a base in 3 tries. Another former football player, Evar Swanson, reclaimed the role he held in 1933 as starting right fielder for Chicago, Bordagaray being returned to Sacramento. He spent most of 1934 with the Senators, batting .321 with 34 doubles and a .433 slugging percentage. He led Sacramento in average, though he did not make the PCL's top 10.

1935-1939: First extended stint in the big leagues[edit]

Sacramento traded Bordagaray to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Johnny Frederick, Art Herring and cash in December 1934. He hit .282/.319/.363 with 18 steals and 69 runs scored for the 1935 Dodgers; he was their second-most-used outfielder, following Buzz Boyle. The free swinger had only 17 walks and 29 strikeouts in 453 plate appearances. He was third in the 1935 NL in steals, four behind leader Augie Galan and two behind Pepper Martin. Frenchy also tied Dick Bartell for 5th in times hit by pitch (6). He produced at a .315/.346/.419 rate for the 1936 Dodgers with 12 steals. He was third among the team's regulars in average, behind Babe Phelps and Joe Stripp. In an era of low steal totals, he was 9th in the NL in stolen bases. His .991 fielding percentage was second among outfielders in the league. He showed up at spring training with a mustache, something not permitted in those clean-shaven days, the first player to have a mustache since Wally Schang in 1914. It would be 36 years before Reggie Jackson was the second player to break that rule. In the less stuffy 1970s, facial hair caught on, especially with Jackson's A's. They held a mustache day and invited Bordagaray to be master of ceremonies. [5] He had grown his mustache when he had a bit role in a movie that offseason. [6] That winter, he was sold, with Dutch Leonard and Jimmy Jordan, to the St. Louis Cardinals to complete a deal of Tom Winsett and Eddie Morgan from Brooklyn to the St. Louis system.

With the 1937 Cardinals, Bordagaray was used as a utility man, backing up Don Gutteridge at third base and the outfield quartet of Joe Medwick, Terry Moore, Don Padgett and Pepper Martin. He produced at a .293/.331/.367 rate, no match for Cardinals stars Medwick and Johnny Mize but better than half the starters (in OPS). He tied Gene Moore and Hersh Martin for 8th in the NL with 11 swipes. In 1938, the veteran was used mostly as a bench player (Enos Slaughter had joined the outfield mix while the younger Gutteridge and Moore made strides offensively from 1937); he batted .282/.325/.327 and his steal total fell to two. He was 20 for 43 as a pinch-hitter that year. He fell two pinch-hits shy of Sam Leslie's MLB record. Through 1999, it still was the second-best pinch-hit average for a player with 35+ at bats in MLB annals, behind Ed Kranepool's 17 for 35 in 1974. [7] That year, Branch Rickey said "He's either the greatest rotten third baseman in baseball or the rottenest great third baseman. But he's never in between. [8]

St. Louis dealt Frenchy to the Cincinnati Reds for another backup outfielder, Dusty Cooke. He struggled for the 1939 Reds at .197/.252/.254 in 63 games. He was only 6th among Reds outfielders in plate appearances, behind Ival Goodman, Harry Craft, Wally Berger, Lee Gamble and Nino Bongiovanni. In the 1939 World Series, he pinch-ran twice for Ernie Lombardi, failing to score either time and not playing in the field or getting to bat. The Reds fell to the Yankees.

1940: Back to the minors[edit]

Bordagaray was sent to the New York Yankees in the offseason, along with Bongiovanni, to complete an earlier deal for Vince DiMaggio. Bordagaray took DiMaggio's spot on the Kansas City Blues and excelled. He bet teammate Jack Saltzgaver he would hit .350 and delivered. [9] He hit .358 with 39 doubles, 8 triples, 31 steals and 214 hits, leading the American Association in hits. He was also second in average (.011 behind Ab Wright), four steals behind leader and teammate Phil Rizzuto and tied Harry Walker for second in doubles, one behind Tedd Gullic. The Blues went 95-57 to finish first in the league, led by Bordagaray along with Rizzuto, Jerry Priddy and Johnny Lindell. The league did not issue an official MVP award at that time, but Bordagaray was obviously a major candidate had one been given out.

1941-1945: End of his major league career[edit]

The Yankees called up Bordagaray for 1941 and he hit .260/.325/.274 in a familiar bench role (36 games, 81 plate appearances). Along with a faded George Selkirk, he backed up the dynamic trio of Joe DiMaggio, Charlie Keller and Tommy Henrich in the outfield (all three hit 30+ home runs with a OPS+ of at least 136. In the 1941 World Series, he again served as a pinch-runner for his team's catcher, running once for Bill Dickey and failing to score. In three World Series games during his career, Bordagaray neither batted nor played the field.

The Yankees sold him to Brooklyn, returning him to where he got his first regular action in the majors seven years prior. He hit .241/.279/.276 as a little-used backup outfielder for the 1942 Dodgers, who had a productive group of Pete Reiser, Dixie Walker and Medwick, with Galan and Johnny Rizzo as other backup flyhawks. He had his best OPS+ in the majors at 120 in 1943, producing at a .302/.379/.384 clip. It was his second .300 season in the majors, seven years after the first one. He did not have a set position, splitting third base with Hall of Famers Billy Herman and Arky Vaughan and joining Luis Olmo and Paul Waner as the 3rd through 5th outfield options after Walker and Galan (Reiser left for military service). On July 23, he joined with Galan and Olmo to have a whopping 18 outfield putouts in one game. He remained productive as Brooklyn's main third baseman and leadoff hitter in 1944, hitting .281/.331/.385 with 85 runs scored and only 22 strikeouts in 501 at bats. He topped 100 games in the big leagues for the first time in eight years. In 1945, the veteran batted .256/.328/.355 and struggled with the glove, fielding only .886 at third base. Despite playing just 57 games at the hot corner, he was third among 1945 NL third sackers in miscues, behind Chuck Workman and Bob Elliott. That concluded his MLB career.

Run-ins with Casey Stengel[edit]

During his two stints with the Dodgers, Bordagaray clashed with manager Casey Stengel several times. He once failed to slide into third in a game against the rival New York Giants; Stengel fined him $50. The next day, Frenchy slid into every base after hitting a home run, earning him a $100 fine for showing up the skipper. [10] Once, Bordagaray plunked Stengel with a throw during practice, knocking out the manager; Stengel said "I'll send Frenchy to Podunk tomorrow." [11] The last game of the year, facing the Giants, Bordagaray's hat flew off; he ran back to catch the hat, then caught the ball as well. [12]

1946-1947: Player-manager[edit]

In 1946, he managed the Trois Rivieres Royals to the league championship of the Canadian-American League. That team is notable for having two of the first black players in the minor leagues in the 20th century: Johnny Wright (12-8, 4.15) and Roy Partlow, (10-1, 3.22, second on the team in ERA). The big performer, though, was none other than Bordagaray himself, winning the MVP Award as well as Manager of the Year. [13] He hit .363/.457/.513 with 20 steals, 83 RBI and 78 runs scored in 104 games. He only struck out in 11 of 353 at-bats. He won the batting title, made the top 10 in steals and was second with 27 doubles. He finished second to Al Rosen in slugging. [14] As the skipper of one of the first integrated teams of the decade, he had to endure a couple of difficult situations. One Southern pitcher complained to Bordagaray about being replaced by Wright in a game, while the team was unable to stay in their old hotel in Schenectady, NY as Wright and Partlow were not allowed, forcing Bordagaray to find new lodgings for his club. Otherwise, he reported no troubles, with the team showering together with no incident and viewing each other as ballplayers rather than as people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. [15]

He concluded his career as manager of the Greenville Spinners in 1947. In July, he spat tobacco on umpire Dallas Blackiston over a disputed out call at first base. He was promptly fined and suspended for 60 days. He issued the line "The penalty is a bit more than I expectorated", the quote for which he is most remembered. The incident ended his career, though, as he was replaced as Greenville manager, former teammate Pepper Martin taking over. He was hitting .342 after 48 games; only two South Atlantic League players finished higher. [16] In 1948, the role of skipper for the St. Paul Saints became available; Frenchy later said that Walter O'Malley and Branch Rickey wanted to give him the job, but others in the organization preferred Walter Alston, who won it. [17]

Later Life[edit]

After baseball, he was a restauranteur and club owner in St. Louis and Kansas City and a developer of 15 cemeteries throughout the Midwest. Thereafter, he moved back to California and worked for Ventura with its parks department and sports and recreation department. He was named to the Fresno County Sports Hall of Fame and the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame. [18]

Career Statistics[edit]

Bordagaray hit .283/.331/.366 in 930 major league games; never a slugger, he had 14 career home runs. He had only 173 walks and 186 strikeouts in 2,869 plate appearances, while he stole 66 bases. His OPS+ was 91. He fielded .982 in the outfield and .918 at third base. In the minors, he batted .344 in 783 contests, hitting at least .320 in all seven of his seasons on the farm. Overall, he had 951 runs scored, 1,757 hits, 306 doubles and 66 triples in professional baseball.


Bordagaray was the first of four players to win a World Series and then move to the losing team before the start of the following season. The others were Don Gullett, Gary Thomasson and Pat Burrell.

His name is one of those featured in the jazz standard song "Van Lingle Mungo".

His main teammates using the Bill James Teammate score were Augie Galan, Dixie Walker and Van Mungo.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1946 Trois-Rivières Royals Canadian-American League 72-49 1st Brooklyn Dodgers League Champs
1947 Greenville Spinners South Atlantic League 54-45 -- Brooklyn Dodgers replaced by Pepper Martin (23-32)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Norm King: "Frenchy Bordagaray", in Bill Nowlin, ed.: Van Lingle Mungo: The Man, The Song, The Players, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2014, pp. 135-139. ISBN 978-1-933599-76-2


  1. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes" by Tony Salin, Masters Press, Chicago, pg. 180
  2. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes", pg. 187
  3. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes", pg. 186
  4. "Baseball's Forgotten Stars", pg. 180-182
  5. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes", pg. 183; Baseball
  6. New York Times obituary
  7. "Great Baseball Feats, Facts & Firsts" by David Nemec, Signet, New York, 1999, pg. 229-230
  8. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes", pg. 179
  9. "The American Association" by Bill O'Neal, Eakin Press, Austin, pg. 260
  10. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes", pg. 182
  11. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes", pg. 184
  12. "Baseball's Forgotten Heroes", pg. 185
  13. "Baseball's Canadian-American League" by David Pietrusza, McFarland, Jefferson, 1990, pg. 64
  14. 1947 Baseball Guide, pg. 360-361
  15. "Baseball's Canadian-American League", pg. 169-170
  16. Greenville News, July 14 and July 20, 1947 (as quoted in "Pepper Martin: A Baseball Biography" by Thomas Barthel. Also see "Baseball's Canadian-American League", pg. 59
  17. "Baseball's Canadian-American League", pg. 59
  18. Los Angeles Times obituary

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