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Biggio's cycle for Blue Jays brings back bittersweet memories for Frye

Jeff Frye woke up Wednesday morning to a flood of tweets about Blue Jays rookie Cavan Biggio hitting for the cycle against the Baltimore Orioles the night before.

Jeff Frye woke up Wednesday morning to a flood of tweets about Blue Jays rookie Cavan Biggio hitting for the cycle against the Baltimore Orioles the night before.

The former Toronto utilityman was happy to see it — even if it removed his claim to fame as the last Blue Jay to accomplish that feat 18 years earlier.

"Now I'm irrelevant," Frye said with a laugh in a phone interview from Fort Worth, Texas. "But you could say I had a good 18-year run."

Frye watched highlights of Tuesday's game Wednesday morning and heard broadcaster Buck Martinez, his former manager in Toronto, calling the play.

"I heard Buck say that I was the last guy to do it," he said. "I know in the past a few Blue Jays had been close but had never pulled it off.

"So that was pretty cool to see."

Frye, who played just 74 games for the Blue Jays in his injury-interrupted final season in the big leagues, became the second Toronto player in franchise history to hit for the cycle when he did it against the Texas Rangers on Aug. 17, 2001. Kelly Gruber had the first in 1989.

Watching highlights of Biggio's cycle brought back memories of Frye's own big day — and not all of them were pleasant.

Frye, a late replacement for Felipe Lopez in Toronto's lineup that day, started his cycle with a triple off Darren Oliver in the bottom of the second inning.

He got a double off Oliver in the fifth, then homered off Pat Mahomes in the sixth to set up a final, nervewracking at bat against Kevin Foster in the seventh, when he hit the ball well to the gap in right-centre and sent outfielder Ricky Ledee scampering to the wall. 

A no-doubt extra-base hit, but Frye, needing just a single to complete the cycle, stopped at first base. 

"When I went up to the plate, I was really nervous," Frye said. "I'm a singles hitter and all I need is a freaking single and I hit one in the gap. I took a big turn around first and I was hoping the outfielder would cut it off but it got through.

"As I'm rounding first I'm screaming at Garth Iorg, our first base coach, going 'what do I do? what do I do?' and he's yelling 'stay here! stay here!'" 

Frye said he had thought about that very scenario before the at bat and asked for advice in the dugout.

"Before I went up I went to Cito Gaston, he was the hitting coach, and I said 'man, what do I do if I hit one in the corner or something?' and he said 'stop at first. And tell them I told you to,'" Frye said.

"So I figured, Cito said it was OK, Garth said it was OK, and the outcome of the game wasn't at hand — we had an eight-run lead."

Toronto won the game 11-3, and Frye caught flack from baseball pundits the next day, with analyst Tim Kirkjian questioning the authenticity of his cycle on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight".

Kirkjian seemed to still harbour those feelings years later, mentioning Frye when writing about cycles in his 2008 book "Is This A Great Game, Or What?"

"When Jeff Frye of the Blue Jays several years ago needed a single for the cycle and purposely stopped at first base instead of running to second for what would have been an easy double, that was it for me and cycles," he wrote.

Frye said he tried to apologize to then-Rangers manager Jerry Narron the next day, but got a cool response in return.

"So I walked away and I was pretty upset about that," he said.

The 53-year-old Frye has since gotten over the criticism he received nearly two decades ago. He became a sports agent after his playing career ended in 2003 — Oliver, the pitcher he tripled and doubled off during his cycle, was his first client — and he now co-owns Frye McCann Sports with Mike McCann in Texas.

While Frye doesn't get to watch many Blue Jays games, he tries to keep tabs on Toronto's young stars on a nightly basis.

After all, he played against most of their dads at some point in his career.

"I've been following the (Vladimir) Guerrero Jr., (Bo) Bichette, Biggio story, three former major leaguers' kids coming up," Frye said.

"It's cool to see these sons of people I played against doing well in the big leagues."


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2019.

Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press