Bob Friend played in the major leagues for 16 seasons from 1951 through 1966, primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He won 197 games, including a league-leading 22 victory season in 1958. (He also lost 230 decisions, including two separate 19 loss seasons, and two others where he lost 18.)
Friend was a three-time All-Star and received votes for the Cy Young Award in 1958 and the MVP Award in 1955, 1956 and 1958.
One particular victory that came during Friend’s Pittsburgh Pirates career is notable in Mets history. Although he started seven Opening Day games in his career, Friend did not draw that assignment in 1964. Instead, he pitched the third game of the season – which just happened to be the first official game played at Shea Stadium.
As he noted in the inscription on the Baseball Flashback card I sent him, Friend was the winning pitcher in that first game and he notched a complete game – one of 13 he’d throw that season.
While the Mets went on to their third straight 100+ loss season, they put up a fight during that stadium opener. After future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell got the first hit at Shea – a solo home run in the second inning – the Mets responded with three runs of their own in the fourth.
Pittsburgh responded with single runs in the fifth and seventh innings to tie the game at 3-3, and another future Hall of Famer, Bill Mazeroski, drove in Stargell in the top of the ninth to provide the Pirates’ margin of victory.
Two years later, Friend became a Met, where he finished his career.
Now 83, Bob Friend appears to enjoy receiving autograph requests through the mail. SportsCollectors.Net has over 600 logged and Friend has returned 98 percent of them, most in about a week.
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