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 Minnesota Twins > Twins Greats > Frank John Viola
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Frank John Viola
Frank John Viola

Name: Frank John Viola
Bats Left, Throws Left
Height 6' 4", Weight 209 lb.
School St. John's University
Born: April 19, 1960 in Hempstead, NY
Awards: 1987 Babe Ruth award; World Series MVP in 1987; 1988 AL Cy Young Award; All-Star in 1988, 1990, and 1991.


Frank John Viola was born April 19, 1960 in East Meadow, New York. He was a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Minnesota Twins (1982-89), New York Mets (1989-91), Boston Red Sox (1992-94), Cincinnati Reds (1995) and Toronto Blue Jays (1996). He batted and threw left-handed, and was nicknamed "Sweet Music" – an unusual nickname he picked up after a Minnesota fan began displaying a banner bearing the phrase in the outfield's upper deck whenever Frank pitched.

Frank Viola attended East Meadow High School in East Meadow, New York, at the same time that convicted serial killer Joel Rifkin was there. A school newspaper article exists that was written by Rifkin about Frank's athletic exploits. Frank went on to attend St. John's University before being drafted in the 2nd round of the 1981 amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins. His first year in the majors was only one year after that, on June 6, 1982.

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After posting a combined 11-25 record and a 5.38 ERA in his first two seasons, Frank posted two consecutive 18-win years in 1984 and 1985, adding a 16-13 record in 1986, when he led the league in starts. Key to Frank Viola's success was a changeup taught to him by Twins pitching coach Johnny Podres; it gave Frank more confidence in his fastball, and would eventually become his signature pitch.

The most prominent portion of his career came in Minnesota, where he picked up 112 of his 176 career wins. His overall career stats are impressive, with a 3.73 ERA, 176-150 record, 74 complete games, and 16 shutouts in 421 games. His most impressive career achievement is his Cy Young Award in 1988, when he won a career high 24 games.
His first two years in the majors were not horrible, but playing with some bad Twins teams, his statistics were rather disappointing. In the 1982 and 1983 seasons combined, he went 11-25 with a 5.37 ERA. However, after those two seasons, his career took off.

In 1987, Frank helped the Twins win the World Series. After getting past the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship Series, Frank and the Twins had to face favorites, the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. He pitched game 1, when the Twins blew the Cardinals away 10-1. Game 4 was Frank’s 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 under a Don Baylor home run, it was up to Frank Viola to clinch the title in game 7. He pitched a phenomenal game, shutting the Cardinals out after giving up 2 runs in the 2nd inning. Jeff Reardon saved the game and the Twins won 4-2 and won the World Series 4-3. In his shining moment, Frank Viola was named the World Series MVP.

Averaging 229 innings pitched through his career, he was a true workhorse, finishing 74 of the 420 games he started. His best year, which was also his last full year with the Twins, most likely came in 1988 when he won 24 games, losing only 7 and completing 7 games, 2 for shutouts. That year, he had an impressive 255 innings pitched and gave up only 20 home runs and 54 walks. He had 193 strikeouts and easily led the league in wins. His ERA was a career-low 2.64 and he would go on to win the American League Cy Young Award.

Frank Viola's humble and enthusiastic approach to the game earned him tremendous popularity in Minnesota. However, Twins fans were greatly offended when his agent wrote a "trade-me-or-pay-me" letter to Twins management in 1989. Local hero Kent Hrbek attacked him in the press and third baseman Gary Gaetti chimed in with his negative feelings regarding Frank's contract demands.

Not surprisingly, Twins management elected to give Frank Viola's agent what he wanted, and Frank was dealt to the New York Mets on July 31, 1989 for a number of top players, including Rick Aguilera, David West, and Kevin Tapani. Leaving his lifelong team was tough, but Frank would go on to have more good years in New York and Boston.

In 1990, he would have another great season, this time for his hometown New York Mets finishing 3rd in the Cy Young voting. He was 20-12 that year, with a 2.67 ERA in 35 starts, including 3 shutouts.

After making his third all-star team in 1991, he signed with the Red Sox in January of 1992. He would have a few mediocre seasons with them, and then finished his career with the Reds and then the Blue Jays ending his career on May 28, 1996. His last career win came in May at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, the site of his very first. He finished his career with 1844 strikeouts.

Frank Viola was a curly-haired changeup artist and established himself as one of the leagues finest pitchers and the ace of an otherwise mediocre Minnesota staff. Despite the bad press due to his agents’ brash letter, Frank Viola started his career in Minnesota and led them to the World Series. He will always be known as a Twin “great.” Many fans hope that Frank will get the nod to join the teams’ Hall of Fame.

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