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Frank Tanana: The Joy of Competition

On August 18, 1993, the New York Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds 12-2 in Cincinnati. After the game former Red pitching great turned broadcaster Joe Nuxhall interviewed winning pitcher Frank Tanana.

Joe Nuxhall: Frank Tanana is our Star of the Game. Frank working 8 innings tonight, he gets his 6th win and 2 hits, a triple with the bases loaded, and 3 ribbies. Frank, you’re over your career as far as RBIs because you had 2 before this, and you’d never been to the plate before this year, so this is a pretty good evening.

Frank Tanana: This is a great evening, Joe. I had a blast out there. It’s been fun swinging a bat this year. It certainly was nice to get a win. I’d picked up 1 in my last 10 games. Of course every pitcher’s going to say this, but I’ve pitched better than my record. But so what? But it’s nice, nice to get those 12 runs, get the win, get some ribbies. I just had a blast tonight.

JN: Frank, when you look at tonight’s ballgame, you got the 2 runs in the 1st inning, but then the two kids hit back to back home runs in the 3rd. What happened?

FT: Well, you throw the ball up there. I got behind Jeff Branson and threw a fastball up and he just smoked it. And then my thinking was, in case anybody had missed the first one, I thought I’d give them an instant replay because Willie Greene hit it in the exact same spot Branson did! So I thought I’d show them another one! But really, fastballs up, Joe, and they just smoked them. Later on I was able to get the breaking ball and get the ball down and utilize some left-against-left strength. But boy, I stuck us in a hole. I’m just glad the guys came back and took the lead for me.

JN: Frank, let’s go back. When you first came into baseball you threw extremely hard. Then you hurt your arm and had to change everything as a pitcher.

FT: At one time I did throw in the 90s. Threw it hard and struck out a lot of people. But I had that good fastball for about 4 or 5 years only. In the last 15 years, Joe, I’ve been able to just simply finesse, move the ball around, change speeds, pop it once in a while. I think what’s helped me stay effective, Joe, I’m still able to get in on the righthand hitters. Even with my 80-mile-an-hour, I’m still able to get it in there and keep them honest.

JN: Making the pitches to set up that very pitch.

FT: Exactly, and not being afraid to throw my 80. I throw 80, but I don’t throw it down the middle. I’m able to keep it on the edges, with a good curve ball and the ability to change speeds with both pitches. That’s really the definition, as you know, Joe, of pitching. That’s what you’ve got to do. So I’ve been very blessed and grateful to pitch in the big leagues for 20 years.

JN: How about the pitch to Hal Morris?

FT: I tell you what, it’s just fun. I mean, I get it over! I flip it up there, what did it go, about 23 miles an hour? And then I tried to make another one to him. I foolishly threw it again, and he triple clutched. If it was basketball, Eddie Murray said he’d have been called for traveling, his feet were moving so much. But somehow he got set and I thought he’d hit it out of the ballpark, but it stayed in.

JN: Frank, talking about hitting. You were in the American League all those years. Now this your first year in the National League. Did you look forward, when you found out you were coming to the National League, to hitting or not?

FT: No question about it, Joe. I went 19 years without being able to swing the bat. I grew up swinging the bat. That’s baseball! Baseball is swinging the bat, getting a hit, running the bases. I can just imagine the fun I would have had if for 20 years I’d have been able to hit. Win a ballgame, move a runner over, do some little things to help you. If I was growing up now as a kid, Joe, I wouldn’t pitch. I’d first base or somewhere. Hitting is baseball. Baseball is hitting. You can’t change things, and I’m thankful for the career I’ve had, but it has been an absolute blast playing and hitting and running and sliding a couple of times.

JN: You know what I would have been, Frank, if I’d have been a righthander? Listen to this one: a catcher.

FT: You’re a big man, Joe. I bet you’d have been a heck of a catcher.

JN: You can’t be too sure there.

FT: You’re right, but we’ve done all right. We wouldn’t take anything back.

JN: Frank, we congratulate you on your 2 hits. The big triple, the first of your career. And your 6th win. So on to Denver!

Epilogue: One month later the Mets traded lefthanded pitcher Frank Tanana to the New York Yankees. Tanana did not win any of his 3 starts for the Yankees and retired after the season.