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Thursday, August 4, 2022

Fred Gladding learned much about pitching, then made bigs over 13 seasons, coached

Future Detroit Tiger Fred Gladding valued his time at AAA Denver in 1960. He used his control there, but he also took good instruction, he told The Knoxville News-Sentinel the next February, in 1961.

"Actually, I learned quite a bit about pitching," Gladding, who'd played the previous year in Knoxville, told The News-Sentinel. "I used fastballs and changeups about 90 percent of the time but I didn't try to overpower hitters like in the Sally League."

Gladding went on to use his pitch selection to make Detroit that July. He then saw the majors each season afterward, for 13-conscutive campaigns, first with the Tigers, then with the Astros.

He then went on to a career as a coach, both in the majors and in the minors. Along the way, he was given some credit for Mark Fidrych's early success. He also worked to teach others the pitch selection he'd learned in the minors himself.

Gladding's long career in baseball began 1956, signed by the Tigers as a free agent. He graduated from Flat Rock High School in Michigan.

Gladding started at Class D Valdosta. He made AA Birmingham and AAA Charleston in 1958, then Denver in 1960. 

He then made Detroit in 1961. He saw eight relief outings that year and six more in 1962. He then became a regular. Gladding saw 22 appearances in 1963, then more than 40 over eight of the next nine seasons.

Gladding saved 12 games for the Tigers in 1967, then 29 for the Astros in 1969 to lead the league.

Gladding saw 450 total appearances over 13 seasons through 1973 and recorded 109 saves. He ended with career ERA of 3.13.

By 1975, he had turned coach with the Tigers at AAA Evansville. Among the players he worked with there was Fidrych. 

They both then arrived in Detroit for 1976, Gladding as pitching coach. That July, in the midst of Fidrych's stellar rookie season, Gladding indicated to The Detroit Free Press he took no credit.

"I don't want credit for nothing," Gladding told The Free Press. "He's done everything himself. All we did was just work him in gradually and I guess we handled that pretty good, considering how he's going."

Gladding continued in Detroit as pitching coach over three seasons. He then moved to AAA Tacoma. He later joined the Astros by 1986 at single-A Asheville, then the Indians for 1990 at high-A Kinston. He moved to single-A Columbus for 1992 and stayed there through 1997.

In August 1992, Gladding spoke to The Charlotte Observer about one of his pitchers and trying to get him to throw his fastball more.

"In high school, you can throw (the curveball) all the time," Gladding told The Observer. "Here, you can't do that."

Gladding is last recorded as coaching in 1997. In May 2015, he passed away at the age of 78.

"'The Bear,' they called him," Tigers radio analyst Jim Price, a teammate of Gladding's for one year in Detroit, told The Detroit News after Gladding's passing. "A good guy. He loved life, like all of us when you're young and in the big leagues."

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,988
Made the Majors:1,327-33.3%-X
Never Made Majors:2,661-66.7%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:543
10+ Seasons in the Minors:329

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