In Memory of Gene Freese

Former Major Leaguer Gene Freese dies at age 79
by Mike Gegenheimer
New Orleans Times-Picayune
June 19, 2013

(c) Houston Astros

After spending the last 60 years of his life in New Orleans, former Major League Baseball player Gene Freese passed away Wednesday morning from natural causes at the age of 79.

The man who claims to have given Pete Rose his "Charlie Hustle" nickname never left the Crescent City after spending the early part of his career playing for the New Orleans Pelicans -- a Double-A, Minor-League team affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates during Freese's tenure with the organization.

After a few years with the now-defunct Pelicans, Freese made his Major-League debut as a third baseman with the Pirates in the spring of 1955, but his career peaked while playing with the Cincinnati Reds in the early 1960s.

The Wheeling, W. Va., native experienced his best season as the starting third baseman on the 1961 Reds World Series team that lost to a Yankee team that featured a Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle fresh off a historic race to beat Babe Ruth's 34-year-old home run record.

A member of the New Orleans Diamond Club Hall of Fame, Freese was a .254 career hitter with 115 homers and 877 hits through 1,115 games played.

Freese's son Tim said his father -- who he described as a power hitter after finishing second on the Reds' 1961 team in homeruns behind Hall of Famer Frank Robinson -- remained friends with many of the league's top players long after his career was over.

The third baseman wasn't the only Freese to see time in the Major Leagues, though, as his older brother George reached the Show during his career as well.

Freese's son recalled an anecdote his father once told about a young pitcher named Tommy Lasorda -- now a Hall of Fame manager -- throwing at Gene while George was in the outfield. The elder Freese proceeded to charge the mound of his own pitcher in defense of his younger brother.

Freese would injure his ankle in the spring of 1962 -- something his son said he was never able to fully recover from.

He would spend another five seasons as a journeyman ball player before retiring back to New Orleans with his family. Freese was only out of baseball for a few years and then took a job as the manager of the Double-A Shreveport Captains. The managerial job only lasted a few season as well and Freese returned to New Orleans for good.

Freese is survived by his three children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, as well as his wife Mary and brother George.