April 19, 1960 |
East Meadow, New York
|June 6, 1982, for the Minnesota Twins|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 28, 1996, for the Toronto Blue Jays|
|Earned run average||3.73|
|Career highlights and awards|
Frank John Viola, Jr. (born April 19, 1960) is an American former starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Minnesota Twins (1982–1989), New York Mets (1989–91), Boston Red Sox (1992–1994), Cincinnati Reds (1995) and Toronto Blue Jays (1996). A three-time All-Star, he was named World Series MVP with the Twins in 1987 and won the AL Cy Young Award in 1988. Long-time Tigers manager Sparky Anderson said of Viola, "...He's an artist; I love watching him work..." He is the pitching coach of the Las Vegas 51s.
He batted and threw left-handed, and was nicknamed "Sweet Music" – a nickname he picked up after a Minnesota sports writer declared that when Viola pitched, there was "Sweet Music" in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The nickname was a play on the fact that his last name is also a name of a musical instrument, although pronounced differently. A fan began displaying a banner bearing the phrase in the outfield's upper deck whenever Viola pitched. Twins fans considered the banner to be a good luck charm. The banner is now property of the Minnesota Historical Society. It was again displayed when Viola was inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame. Frank was honored as a member of the Twins' "All Dome" team in 2009.
Viola was born and grew up in East Meadow, New York, with his brother John and sister Nancy, and went on to attend and play baseball for East Meadow High School before playing collegiately for St. John's University. On May 21, 1981, Viola faced future Mets teammate Ron Darling, then playing for Yale University; the game is considered to be the best in college baseball history. Viola was drafted following his freshman year in the 16th round of the 1979 Major League Baseball draft by the Kansas City Royals, but he did not sign.
Viola signed with the Minnesota Twins after the team drafted him in the 2nd round of the 1981 Major League Baseball draft. After spending less than a full season in the minor leagues, Viola made his major league debut on June 6, 1982. Although his statistics were fairly disappointing, finishing 11-25 with a 5.37 ERA in the 1982 and 1983 seasons, Viola became a permanent fixture of the Twins' starting staff for the next 7 seasons, picking up 112 of his 176 career wins.
Viola helped pitch the Twins to their second World Series appearance and first World Series win in 1987, finishing the season 17-10, with a 2.90 ERA and 197 strikeouts in 251 2/3 innings. Viola would then sparkle in the post-season, going a combined 3-1 with 25 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings despite a 4.31 ERA. Following the Twins' Game 7 series clinching win, a game which Viola won 4-2, he was named the 1987 World Series Most Valuable Player.
Most baseball enthusiasts agree that Viola's best year was 1988, his last full year with the Twins. That year, he threw his signature circle change with skill, compiling an impressive 24-7 record, with 7 complete games and 2 shutouts in 255 innings pitched with a career-low ERA of 2.64. He also gave up only 20 home runs, and 54 walks. Viola led the league in wins and would go on to win the AL Cy Young Award in a landslide, finishing with 27 of the 28 first place votes and beating out 2nd place Dennis Eckersley by 86 total votes.
New York Mets
At the trade deadline in July 1989, two years after Viola had led the Twins to a World Series title, the Twins traded him to the New York Mets for four pitchers and a player to be named later. Viola was not having a strong year and was 8-12 when he was traded, but managed a 5-5 record with the Mets and finished the year at 13-17. Meanwhile, two of the pitchers the Twins acquired in the deal went on to become key members of the team, as Kevin Tapani was one of the front line starters for the Twins in their 1991 World Series run while Rick Aguilera eventually became the team's closer and one of the better relievers in the major leagues.
Viola had a much better year in 1990, winning 20 games for the second time in his career. He would finish third in the Cy Young Award voting behind Pittsburgh's Doug Drabek and Los Angeles' Ramón Martínez, and was named to the National League's All-Star Team.
In 1991, Viola made the All-Star Game for a third time after posting an 11-5 record in the first half of the season. However, as the Mets collapsed in the second half of the year to finish with a 78-84 record, Viola collapsed with them and went 2-10 in his final 12 decisions. His last win came in his second to last start with the Mets, on September 29 at Shea Stadium against the Philadelphia Phillies. He became a free agent after the 1991 season when the Mets opted not to resign Viola.
He signed with the Red Sox in January 1992. In a spring training game on April 2, 1993, Viola and Cory Bailey combined on a no-hitter as the Red Sox defeated the Phillies 10-0 at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium in Clearwater, Florida. He was injured while with the Red Sox and underwent Tommy John surgery. He finished his career with the Reds and Blue Jays, ending his career on May 28, 1996. He finished his career with 1844 strikeouts.
He only got one chance in the postseason and he certainly made the most of it. It was with the Twins in 1987. After getting past the Detroit Tigers in the 1987 American League Championship Series, Viola and the Twins had to face favorites, the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Viola pitched Game 1, when the Twins routed Cardinals, 10-1.
Game 4 was his second start, and the Twins went on to lose 7-2. After the Twins tied the series in Game 6 with an 11-5 win thanks to a Kent Hrbek grand slam, it was up to Viola in Game 7. He pitched a gem, shutting the Cardinals out after giving up 2 runs in the 2nd inning. Jeff Reardon pitched the ninth inning and the Twins won 4-2 and won the World Series 4-3. Viola was named World Series MVP.
Coaching and personal life
In retirement, Viola for a time coached baseball for Lake Highland Preparatory School in Orlando, Florida. He also coached with the Florida College Summer League's Leesburg Lightning. In 2009, Frank assisted the Cleveland Indians as a coach in spring training. Frank was also a part-time, substitute game broadcast announcer for NESN, network of the Boston Red Sox. On January 26, 2011, Viola was hired as pitching coach of the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets' Single-A (Short Season) team. Viola spent 2012–2013 as the Single-A Affiliate Savannah Sand Gnats pitching coach, winning Coach of the Year in 2013. Following the season, Viola was named the pitching coach for the Las Vegas 51s, the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. During a 2014 spring training physical, Viola was diagnosed with a heart condition that required open-heart surgery on April 2. After surgery he signed with Las Vegas 51s.
Daughter Brittany was a diver at the University of Miami becoming the 2008 and 2011 platform diving NCAA National Champion. Brittany narrowly missed making the 2004 United States Olympic diving team, but later competed at the 2012 London Olympics. Brittany will have Viola's first grandchild in August 2014. Daughter Kaley played volleyball at Winthrop University and is now an assistant coach at Davidson College.
Son Frank III attended Florida College and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 29th round of the 2004 MLB draft. Frank III struggled with injuries (including needing Tommy John surgery) and only pitched in 24 games at rookie level Bristol White Sox before being released following the 2007 season. In 2010, he pitched for the independent league St. Paul Saints and was 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA in 21 games before retiring from professional baseball. He now serves as analyst for Bright House Sports Network on their studio show and for their Florida State League broadcasts. Starting in 2012, Frank III has worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro on developing a knuckleball to resurrect his baseball career. On March 5, 2014, he was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays to a minor league contract and currently pitches for the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Advanced Single A Florida State League.
- List of Major League Baseball annual wins leaders
- List of Major League Baseball career strikeout leaders
- Zach Schonbrun (June 9, 2012). "Viola-Darling Pitching Duel in 1981 Has Not Been Forgotten". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 14, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2012.
- "Viola, Bailey combine on no-hitter". Chicago Tribune. April 3, 1993. p. 3.
- "Frank Viola takes job as Mets minor-league coach". Orlando-Sentinel. January 27, 2011. Archived from the original on November 10, 2013. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
- Anthony Rieber (March 19, 2014). "Ballpark a refuge for Mets minor-league pitching coach Frank Viola". Newsday. Archived from the original on March 26, 2014. Retrieved March 26, 2014.
- Andy Martino (April 28, 2014). "Former NY Mets pitcher Frank Viola recovering from heart surgery, getting big show of support". Daily News. Archived from the original on April 30, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- Adam Rubin (May 29, 2014). "Frank Viola back after heart issue". WEPN. ESPN.com. Archived from the original on May 30, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- D. J. Short (May 29, 2014). "Frank Viola recovered from heart surgery, ready to serve as Mets' Triple-A pitching coach". NBC Sports. Archived from the original on May 31, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- Anthony DiComo (March 25, 2014). "Viola to undergo open-heart surgery". MLB.com. Archived from the original on March 31, 2014. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
- Sid Hartman (July 16, 2014). "Continued: Hartman: Grant cherishes '65 All-Star Game, World Series with Twins". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on July 27, 2014. Retrieved July 21, 2014.
- Michael Wray (March 5, 2014). "Toronto Blue Jays sign knuckleballer Frank Viola III to minor league deal". Archived from the original on March 26, 2014.
- "Frank Viola". Baseball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on March 26, 2014.
- Whitzman, April (March 5, 2014). "Blue Jays sign another Knuckleballer with Frank Viola III". Canadian Baseball Network. Archived from the original on May 30, 2014. Retrieved March 5, 2014.