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Frankie Silvanic

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Frank Silvanic

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 190 lb.

[edit] Biographical Information

Frankie Silvanic was a professional in both baseball and basketball during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Due to a series of injuries, the hard luck athlete retired at age 26, when most athletes are just entering the peak of their careers. He is the brother of Bill Silvanic.

Silvanic won two straight Southern Tier Conference basketball scoring championships at Johnson City H.S. in Johnson City, New York in 1936 and 1937. Frank was good enough to play basketball for Coach Johnny DeYoung in the New York-Pennsylvania League where he starred for his hometown Binghamton Triplets (basketball). He was spotted by a New York Yankees scout while playing baseball with the JC team.

In 1937, he began his pro baseball career in Bassett of the Bi-State League, hitting just .091. He soon transferred to the Butler Yankees in the Pennsylvania State Association where he led the Butler team to the league championship (.310, 11 HR, 62 RBI, 12 SB) in 79 games. He tied for 4th in the PSA in homers and was sixth in RBI.

1940 Crowley Baseball Card - Frankie Silvanic

He had his finest year in 1938 while playing for the Akron Yankees of the Middle Atlantic League. [1] Labeled a can’t-miss prospect by Yankee scouts, the 19-year-old Silvanic led the league in Homers (7 ahead of #2 Walter Alston) and batted .363, sixth in the league. He was named Middle Atlantic League’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts. “Winning that trophy gave me one of my greatest sports thrills,” said Silvanic in an interview on the occasion of his 33rd birthday. According to the Spalding Official Base Ball Guide, his Akron batting statistics were impressive: .363 Avg, 35 HR, 122 RBI. He was second in the circuit in RBI. He also tallied 35 Doubles and 11 Triples. His on-base percentage was .453 and his slugging percentage was a whopping .729. Frank seemed to have a good chance at being on his way to Yankee Stadium.

The 1939 season was a huge disappointment for Frankie as he suffered from appendicitis much of the year. His batting average dropped all the way to .264 for Norfolk of the Class B Piedmont League . He still popped 21 Home Runs in 112 games for the Tars, tied with Morrie Aderholt and Irv Plummer for sixth in the circuit. He was promoted to his hometown team, the Binghamton Triplets for 1940.

Having grown up less than 2 miles from the Triplets’ Johnson Field, Frankie returned home as a hero. The fans celebrated Frank Silvanic Night at the ballpark and honored the ballplayer with speeches and gifts before the first game. “I was really jittery when I came to bat the first time,” said Frank recalling the 1940 season. “The fans soon put me at ease and I want to tell you right now, the people at Johnson Field treated me swell. They gave me a night I’ll never forget.”

Silvanic was having a nice comeback year, hitting just below .300 when he was struck with his second major setback. Always a target for beanballs due to his prodigious power and his hard-nosed style of play, Frankie had previously been able to escape mostly unscathed if not ornery. This time was different. In an era long before batting helmets, Silvanic was struck on the left side of his head with a rising fastball. He went down in a sickening thud. Fans were shocked as their star player was carried off the field in a heap.

Silvanic refused to stay down long. He begged manager Bruno Betzel to let him start the second game of the doubleheader that day. Betzel acquiesced and Silvanic took his place in the field. Frankie later recalled that he “played the game in a fog.” He believed for the rest of his life that his decision to continue that day was the beginning of the end of his baseball career. The beanball definitely affected his play, as his batting average dropped to a career-low .234 by the end of the year. His 14 home runs almost marked a significant decline. He even tried glasses for a time, but nothing seemed to help him get his batting eye back.

Despite his injury, the Yankees continued to move him up through their farm system. In 1941, it was on to Minnesota to play for the American Association's St. Paul Saints. An injured knee hobbled the young prospect, who hit only .225 with 10 homers and 44 RBI.

He bounced around the country in 1942, moving from the Newark Bears to the Dallas Rebels to the Kansas City Blues to the Elmira Pioneers. His statistics for this period are incomplete, but it is clear that at every stop Silvanic was managed as a featured star. Newspaper records list him 3rd or 4th in the batting order virtually every game he played. He spent 1943 and 1944 toiling among the Yankee’s top farm clubs including the Yankees #1 minor league club, the famous Newark Bears of the International League, where he hit .204/~.335/.329 in 88 games in 1943 and was only 2 for 31 in 1944. His 1944 season was ruined when he broke his ankle sliding into a base in Baltimore.

1945 spelled the end of his career when he broke his ankle a second time playing the outfield for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. He returned home to his native Binghamton, New York, where he took a job with IBM. Soon after his return, the Boston Braves came calling. They wanted Frank to give it one more shot, but he decided to stay home with his wife Helen and keep his job at IBM. He retired from IBM in 1975 and lived in his hometown until his death in 2000.

[edit] References:

Reach Official American League Baseball Guides

Spalding Official Baseball Guides

Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database

The International League: Year-by-Year Statistics by Marshall Wright

1940 Crowley Binghamton Triplets Baseball Card - Frankie Silvanic

The Binghamton Press

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