Manager Dave Bristol and pitcher Fred Norman will be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame July 21, 2018.
Fred Norman pitched 16 seasons in the big leagues for seven teams, winning 104 games with a 3.64 lifetime ERA. But his seven seasons with the Reds – where he was 85-64/3.43, with two World Series Championships and six postseason appearances – represented the peak of his career and resulted in his induction into the Reds Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.
“I wanted to be a winner. I wanted to be on a winning club,” said Norman in a Redlegs Nation podcast.
Drafted by the Kansas City Athletics as a high-school senior from Miami, Florida in 1961, Norman made his big-league debut in 1962, appearing in two games in relief. He bounced between the majors and minors for several seasons with four organizations and dealt with a career-threatening shoulder injury before he established himself with the San Diego Padres in 1971.
Norman pitched well against the Reds several times during his Padres years – a fact that did not go unnoticed by manager Sparky Anderson and the Reds’ front office.
In midseason 1973, the Reds needed pitching. The cash-strapped Padres needed money to make payroll. So on June 12 the Reds made one of their best trades, sending pitcher Mike Johnson, outfielder Gene Locklear, and cash to the Padres for Norman.
Norman threw a five-hit shutout of the Pirates in his first start for the Reds; a three-hit shutout in his second start; and came within one out of a third-consecutive shutout in his next start.
“I couldn’t wait to get to the Reds,” Norman said. “I was fired up, tingling with excitement.”
The Reds went 68-36 following the Norman trade, and erased a large deficit to the Dodgers to win the NL West before losing to the Mets in the League Championship Series.
“I don’t think we ever thought we could lose,” Norman said. “It was like a World Series every day.”
Norman was often used as a “swing man” for the Reds, pitching effectively in relief as well as starting games. In June 1975, Don Gullett broke the thumb on his pitching hand when hit by a Larvell Blanks line drive, and was sidelined for two months. Norman went back into the starting rotation and was 9-1 while Gullett was out.
“I was always ready to go,” he said. “I believe I picked up the club.”
Norman won more than 10 games in each of his Cincinnati seasons (1973-1979) and was known as a fierce competitor who hated to be removed from a game. Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman said Norman was the most intense competitor he has seen among the Reds’ pitchers, and Sparky Anderson recognized that and would allow Norman to “vent” a bit when Sparky came out of the dugout to change pitchers.
“Sparky knew he needed pitching to win,” Norman said. “I always respected Sparky. And Shep [pitching coach Larry Shepard] stood up for the pitchers.”
Norman considers 1977 to be his best season, when he was 14-13 with a 3.38 ERA for the second-place Reds. But the 1973 season was his favorite. He started 1-7 with San Diego and was 12-6 with the Reds.
After the 1979 season, Norman filed for free-agency and finished his career with a 4-4/4.13 season for Montreal.
“It all worked out so well,” Norman said. I got to be on a super team, and made my dreams come true.”