Gene Freese – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
New Orleans Pelicans/MLB
A native of West Virginia, Eugene “Gene” Freese came to New Orleans to play for the Pelicans in 1954 and turned in an outstanding season, batting .332 with 182 hits, 30 doubles, six triples and 16 home runs in 145 games to launch a 12-year Major League Baseball career. While that was his only year playing in New Orleans, he made the city his lifelong home following that season.
After the standout 1954 season with the AA Pelicans, Freese was brought up to the Major Leagues by the Pittsburgh Pirates for 1955. He bounced from the Pirates (1955-58) to the St. Louis Cardinals (1958), Philadelphia Phillies (1959) and the Chicago White Sox (1960).
From 1961-63, he played with the Cincinnati Reds, recording his career-best season in 1961 as the Reds starting third baseman. He batted .277 with 26 home runs, 27 doubles and 87 runs batted in as the Reds made it to the World Series against a New York Yankees team which featured Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, fresh off their historic home run chase when Maris broke Babe Ruth’s 34-year old record for single-season homers.
After his Reds tenure, Freese returned to Pittsburgh for a short stay and finished his career with stints with the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros. In 1,115 career games, he batted .254 with 115 home runs. He ranks among the all-time leaders in Major League Baseball with nine pinch-hit home runs.
After his professional baseball career, returned to New Orleans and enjoyed a long business career in his adopted hometown. He was also inducted into the New Orleans Professional Baseball Hall of Fame (2008).
Born January 8, 1934 in Wheeling, West Va., Freese died on June 18, 2013 in New Orleans.