Fritz Brickell, the Little Rabbit

“Brickell bounds around like a little rabbit, grabbing everything in sight and getting the ball away with amazing speed.”

Angels Over the Pond founder, Editor and features writer, Matt Thomas, writes on the illustrious heritage of our Angels.

At just 5ft 5in or thereabouts, Fritz Brickell was a player who was short in height, played short stop, was only in the Major Leagues for a short time and sadly lived a short life. A native of Wichita, Kansas, Brickell was the son of former Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies outfielder ‘Fred’ Brickell. The pair became the first father and son combination to be elected to the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1976. Brickell was picked up by the New York Yankees in 1953, spending eight years navigating the Yankees farm system, earning praise from Frank Haraway, who wrote; “Brickell bounds around like a little rabbit, grabbing everything in sight and getting the ball away with amazing speed.”

During those minor league years Brickell was proven to be a capable young player but doubts were evident over the amount of errors he made in the field, Brickell himself openly discussed that he had a tendency to rush his throws, but his skill in making double plays was noted as being of merit, despite his erratic throwing. On April the 30th 1958 Brickell finally made his big league debut for the Yankees as a defensive replacement, but his time in the spotlight was fleeting and he was sent back down to the minors. His progress was interrupted further when he suffered a broken ankle, in July, but the determined shortstop travelled to play in the Dominican league over winter to recuperate.

“I never really felt I had a chance to play in the big leagues… I only played a few innings, then back to the minors I went… You can’t do anything if you don’t get a chance to play.”

In June 1959 the Yankees chose to recall their diminutive player, and on the 25th of July Brickell hit his only Major League home run, but again he was returned to the minors by the Yankees shortly after. Interestingly the Baseball Digest reported that it was “questionable whether he could handle major league pitching”. Brickell obviously disagreed, he failed to report on his return to the minors and was fined for his behaviour. Brickell said; “I never really felt I had a chance to play in the big leagues… I only played a few innings, then back to the minors I went… You can’t do anything if you don’t get a chance to play.” On the 4th of April 1961, a week prior to Opening Day, Brickell was traded to the Angels for their inaugural season. Sadly just days later, on April the 8th Brickell’s father died unexpectedly.

On April the 11th Brickell started as shortstop with the Angels, becoming their first ever starting shortstop, versus the Baltimore Orioles. Despite an unexpected win for the team his personal performance was less than perfect. In the second inning Brickell’s two errors led to the Orioles putting down the first ever run against the expansion team, in the process Brickell became the first ever Angels player to record an error. The local press were scathing in their reporting of Brickell’s error strewn run of games with the Halos, and it was no shock when he was told his future lay elsewhere in May. After a short time in the majors in the proceeding months Brickell retired from the game and tragically passed away in October 1965 from cancer, at just thirty years of age.

If you would like to share your own memories of how you became an Angels fan, about Britain’s own baseball heritage or your view on anything Angels related for Views Over the Pond please get in touch.

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