Frederick Joseph Patek (The Flea)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 5", Weight 148 lb.
"I'd rather be the smallest player in the majors than the tallest player in the minors" - Patek
One of the shortest players of his era, shortstop Freddie Patek stood just 5 feet 5 inches tall. Nonetheless, he was solid in the field, stole a lot of bases, and was a three-time American League All-Star during nine years with the Kansas City Royals.
Born in Seguin, Texas (just east of San Antonio, Patek was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 22nd round of the 1965 amateur draft. He made his pro debut the following summer, and with the Columbus Jets in 1967, he stole 42 bases to lead the International League. After hitting .304 in 33 games the next year, he was called up by the Pirates.
Patek made his big league debut with the Pirates in June 1968 and stole 18 bases in 61 games. He won the starting shortstop job the following season, supplanting Gene Alley, but Alley replaced him at short in 1970. Late that year, he was dealt to the Royals as part of a six-player trade.
In his first summer in Kansas City, Patek had his greatest success at the plate. He hit a career-best .267, led the AL with 11 triples, and was second in the circuit with 49 steals. In a July 9th game against the Minnesota Twins, he hit for the cycle. His average slipped to .212 in 1972, but he led American League shortstops in fielding and was selected to his first All-Star Game.
As the years went by, key players for the Royals joined the team after Patek. John Mayberry joined the team in 1972 and stayed through 1976. Frank White joined the team in 1973 and stayed through 1990. George Brett made his debut in August 1973. Hal McRae joined the team that same year, while Al Cowens was a rookie in 1974. Only Amos Otis and Buck Martinez, among the key position players, pre-dated Patek.
Patek was again selected as an All-Star in 1976, as the Royals won the AL West crown that year. He hit .389 and drove in 4 runs in the American League Championship Series, but K.C. fell to the New York Yankees in five games. The next summer, he led the circuit with 53 stolen bases as his club repeated as division champs. He again hit .389 in the ALCS, but his team once again fell to the Yankees in five. Patek was an All-Star for the third and final time in 1978. After the 1979 campaign, he became a free agent and signed with the California Angels. With the Angels, he was primarily a utility player, but on June 20, 1980, he hit 3 homers against the Boston Red Sox. He ended his big league career following the 1981 season.
- 3-time AL All-Star (1972, 1976 & 1978)
- AL Triples Leader (1971)
- AL Stolen Bases Leader (1977)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 2 (1976 & 1977)