Obituary: Dave Frost (1952-2023)

RIP to Dave Frost, who co-led the 1979 Angels in victories with 16. The Angels announced his death on April 17 at the age of 70. Bob Nightengale of USA Today is reporting that he died of injuries related to a car accident last month. Frost played for the Chicago White Sox (1977), California Angels (1978-81) and Kansas City Royals (1982).

Carl David Frost was born in Long Beach, Calif., on November 17, 1952. Athletics ran in the family, from his parents to his siblings. Wally Frost, his father, was an athlete at Wheaton College in Illinois before polio cost him the use of his legs. Undaunted, he later joined the Flying Wheels, Long Beach’s wheelchair basketball team, and found ways to play catch with his children or hit them baseballs with a sawed-off bat in the yard.

Dave Frost would eventually reach a height of 6’6″, so it’s not surprising that basketball was a prominent part of his youth. He was a center on the Millikan High School basketball team. He carried his hoop skills to Long Beach City College, where he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 33rd Modesto Basketball Tournament in December of 1970. By comparison, his baseball career got off to a slower start. Millikan was one of the top baseball programs in the CIF, and Frost was used primarily as a reliever. After successful careers at both sports at LBCC, he transferred to Stanford University and became one of the top overall athletes on the campus.

Basketball continued to be the priority, which meant that Frost usually missed the opening of college baseball season to finish off basketball season. But he excelled for the Cardinal baseball team, as a starter or reliever. He was a combined 10-0 in 1972 and ’73. Basketball took a toll on Frost’s body, with back spasms and an injured ankle, and he quit the basketball team in February of 1974. Baseball came with its injury risks as well, such as a shoulder injury that kept him off the mound. But when Frost was healthy enough to pitch, he impressed scouts who came to see him. The Chicago White Sox took him in the 18th Round of the 1974 June Amateur Draft. Frost spent most of his time pitching in the team’s winter instructional league in Florida. He moved up to the Knoxville Sox of the Southern League in 1975 and turned in a 5-14 record. The high number of losses aside, Frost had a very good year, posting a 3.21 ERA and striking out 100 batters in 171 innings. He threw a 5-hit shutout against Jacksonville on June 13, 1975, striking out 10 batters while working on a new four-seam fastball grip. It was effective, according to Jacksonville manager Bill Scripture. “If he pitches any better, he doesn’t need to be in this league, or Triple-A either for that matter. This is definitely the best game anyone has pitched against us,” he said.

Frost’s 1976 season was delayed due to arm surgery, but he won 8 games for Knoxville once he was healthy. He completed 10 of his 20 starts and lowered his ERA to 2.38. The White Sox promoted him to Triple-A Iowa in 1977, where he had a 9-8 record and 4.04 ERA in 23 starts. Frost was called to the majors that September. His first two major-league starts were against the California Angels, and he fared well against his future team. He pitched 6-1/3 innings in his major-league debut on September 11, allowing 2 runs in a game the Angels later won 5-4. His first career strikeout was Dave Kingman, in the third inning. He earned his first win on September 18, beating California 7-3. He lasted 7-2/3 innings and allowed 3 runs on 8 hits. Frost’s final appearances of the season came against Seattle. He threw 2-2/3 scoreless innings in relief on the 25th of September and then took the loss in a start against the Mariners on October 2. He struck out 8 batters in 7 innings but allowed 3 runs on 10 hits. Seattle’s Dan Meyer drove in 2 of the runs with a single and double against Frost. For the season, the rookie made 4 appearances with Chicago and had a 1-1 record and 3.04 ERA in 23-2/3 innings. He walked just 3 batters and fanned 15.

White Sox owner Bill Veeck decided to add power hitters to the White Sox lineup in the offseason, leading to the South Side Hit Men. One of his acquisitions was Bobby Bonds, who came to the team in a trade with the Angels on December 5, 1977. Bonds, Thad Bosley and Richard Dotson went to Chicago in exchange for Frost, Brian Downing and Chris Knapp. Angels fans hated the trade at first. Frost later recalled that Angels fans said of him, “That guy isn’t even worth Bobby Bonds’ toenails!” However, it was a rare deal where both teams benefited. Bonds barely played for the Sox before he was traded to Texas, but Dotson spent a decade with Chicago and won 97 games. The Angels found a productive slugger in Downing, but Frost had some great moments as well.

The Angels started Frost in the minors for the 1978 season, but he was brought to the majors in late June to replace an injured Nolan Ryan. Not feeling much pressure, Frost dropped his first decision to Texas on June 24 but rebounded with a string of solid starts. He threw his first major-league shutout on July 8, a 5-hitter against Seattle. He was returned to Triple-A Salt Lake City at the end of July when back spasms left him unable to pitch. Frost rejoined the Angels in September and pitched even better, winning 2 starts to finish the season with a 5-4 record and a 2.58 ERA. He had the lowest ERA of any Angels pitcher, and in those 4 losses, the team scored a total of 1 run in support of his pitching.

“No, I wasn’t surprised by my success,” Frost said in the spring of 1979. “I didn’t do anything I hadn’t done in the past. I just hope I can start 1979 where I left off last year.”

There was no denying Frost a roster spot in 1979. In fact, aside from a couple of relief outings early in the season, he was the most durable, reliable starter on the Angels roster that season. He made 33 starts, second on the team to Ryan, and he pitched more innings than Ryan did, 239-1/3 to 222-2/3. Both Ryan and Frost won 16 games, though Ryan’s 14 losses were 4 more than Frost had. Ryan more than doubled Frost’s strikeout totals, 223 to 107, but Frost’s 3.57 ERA was just a little better than Ryan’s 3.60 mark. No other Angels starters made more than 30 starts or topped 200 innings pitched, so it was Frost and Ryan who pitched the Angels to first place in the AL West Division, with an 88-74 record.

Frost was a good 4 inches taller than Ryan, but he didn’t have anything close to Ryan’s famed fastball. He relied more on good command of all his pitches — fastball, curve ball and change-up — and he credited Angels pitching coach Larry Sherry for altering his delivery. “Larry made some adjustments in my motion during the spring. It took me a while to get my rhythm with the new motion so I didn’t have real good command of my pitches… I have to rely on putting the ball in certain spots.”

Source: The Desert Sun, March 24, 1981.

Frost won 7 of his final 12 starts to help the Angels reach the postseason. California faced the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Championship Series and lost in 4 games. Frost started the second game and took the loss in a 9-8 Orioles victory. He pitched 7 innings and allowed 6 runs (4 earned). Baltimore scored 4 times off him in the bottom of the first, with Doug DeCinces driving in 2 with a two-out single. He also pitched 3 innings in relief in Game 5 and was charged with 4 runs, though 2 of them came on a Pat Kelly homer that was hit off John Montague after Frost had departed the game. Frost was charged with 9 earned runs in 4-1/3 innings of work in the ALCS.

Ryan departed the Angels via free agency in the offseason, leaving Frost as the team’s ace. Unfortunately, after being a model of consistency in 1979, Frost could not stay healthy in 1980. He won his first two starts, including a 10-inning complete game over Minnesota on April 16. Back spasms and elbow problems limited his ability to pitch, and he was increasingly ineffective as the season wore on. He lost five decisions in a row before his season ended in mid-September to have bone chips surgically removed from his right elbow. He ended up with a 4-8 record and a 5.29 ERA.

The Angels had Frost start 1981 in Triple-A to rehabilitate, and he didn’t pitch well but still returned to the majors to keep his June 2 date against the Toronto Blue Jays. What was so important about June 2? On June 2, 1980, He defeated the Jays and starting pitcher Luis Leal by a score of 6-3. It was his last win of the ’80 season. One year to the day later, Frost made his first start of the 1981 season… and threw 6-1/3 scoreless innings to beat Leal and the Blue Jays 3-0. Andy Hassler shut down the Jays for the rest of the game to preserve the win. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me but I’ll take it any day,” Frost said of the calendar oddity. “I just wanted to go out and pitch better here than I did in Triple-A, where I was just hideous.”

That victory would be Frost’s only win of the 1981 season. He had a few good appearances but was knocked out of several starts early and lost 8 games, to go with a 5.51 ERA on the season. He became a free agent and signed with the Kansas City Royals in February of 1982. Frost began the 1982 campaign in the bullpen and pitched well, racking up 3 wins in his first 3 appearances as a Royal. Then the team moved him into the starting rotation, where he struggled. Furthermore, additional arm soreness sidelined him for long stretches, including most of June and July and all of September. He had an even 6-6 record by the end of the year, but his ERA was an unsightly 5.51 for a second straight season. He was released by the Royals that November and spent 1983 playing in the minors for a couple of organizations. He retired after failing to catch on with the Philadelphia Phillies in spring training of 1984.

Frost had a career 33-37 record in 6 seasons in the majors, making 84 starts in his 99 career appearances. He completed 16 games, threw 3 shutouts and picked up 1 save, earning a 4.10 ERA. In 550-2/3 innings of work, Frost struck out 222 batters and walked 174. Baseball Reference credits him with 6.2 Wins Above Replacement. In his first three seasons, before injuries cut into his effectiveness, Frost had an ERA+ of 120.

Frost, who lived in Long Beach after his playing career, participated in Baseballers Against Drugs programs with other Angels alumni in California. Pointing to his head, he would tell the gathered children, “I just want you to remember that this is the most important part of your body, whether in sports or anything else. Always use your head and you’ll be ok.” Frost was inducted into the Long Beach City College Hall of Champions in 2004.

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7 thoughts on “Obituary: Dave Frost (1952-2023)

  1. Sam, we’ll done. “Frostie” was a good friend. I got to know him in Instructional league in 74 in Sarasota and we were roomies in 75 in Knoxville. Great guy!!!
    Any idea on how he passed?


  2. His brother Dan Frost was also a top-level basketball player. Dan was all Big-Ten at Iowa and drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1976. He played for Athletes-in-Action for some years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After baseball, David pursued higher education to become a Mental Health Counselor. He was a sought after and effective therapist in Orange County.

    David had a beautiful baritone singing voice, mostly reserved for Sunday services. With coaxing in social settings, his singing was always very entertaining !

    Liked by 1 person

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