Paradice found -- on the green

Alex Leon

BURBANK -- Every day is a good day to be living in Hawaii for Frank

Sullivan.

For 38 years since he decided he would be better off living on an

island than on the mainland, the 72-year-old wakes up in paradise every

day.

But ask the 1948 Burbank High graduate and he will say that he has had

the best of both worlds. Before he pitched for 10 years in the major

leagues from 1953 to 1963, Sullivan said the small Burbank town where he

was raised was a fantastic place to grow up.

"I was back in Burbank a few years ago and I drove by the house that

we lived in on Fairmont Street and it looked as good now as it did when

my family lived there, right near the high school," Sullivan said. "There

was no smog in those days and me and my friends used to drive a Model A

to Laguna Beach right through Downtown Los Angeles, and it would take

just 45 minutes."

Sullivan should have good memories of Burbank High, where was the

student body president in 1948. The same year, the 6-foot-6 center for

the Bulldogs boys' basketball team was offered a scholarship to Stanford

University.

But Sullivan was a standout in baseball as well, and instead of taking

his chances in Palo Alto, he signed a professional baseball contract with

the Boston Red Sox.

He finally landed in the majors in 1953, and pitched with Boston until

1960. He was talented enough to be considered among the best

right-handers in the American League. He was named to the all-star team

in 1955 and 1956, and led the American League in 1955 with 18 wins and

260 innings pitched. "I had a good, live arm and I was always ready

to go when my turn came up in the rotation. Boston was a good baseball

town and I feel proud to have pitched the majority of my career there,"

he said. "But playing pro baseball in those days was not everything that

people thought it was. We had to supply a lot of our own equipment and

pay for a lot our own living expenses.

"For example, in 1953 and 1954 I made $6,000 with the Red Sox, but

paid out $9,500 to play and live. To make ends meet, I had to either work

as a grip in the motion picture industry or play winter ball in Mexico,

if there was an opportunity.

"The funny thing was that on a few occasions, I made more in the

winter than I did with the Red Sox."

*

Everyone loves a parade. The year was 1954 and the parade route along

San Fernando Road was jammed with local residents and students from

Burbank wanting to see Sullivan. He was being honored after going 15-12

in his first full season in the majors, striking out out 124 in 206 1/3

innings.

Brad Atwood, a former sports writer and sports editor of the Burbank

Daily Review -- later to become the Leader -- said the parade honoring

Sullivan was a big deal.

"Frank Sullivan was the first Burbank resident to play in the major

leagues, and the local residents came out in droves when he was honored

with a parade after his breakthrough season in 1954," Atwood said.

"But what people might not know was that he was also a pretty darn

good basketball player, good enough to be offered a basketball

scholarship to Stanford."

Another nugget of information that few might know about Sullivan is

that he practiced with the Boston Celtics following the 1956 baseball

season, the first year that Bill Russell played on the team.

"I stayed in Boston that winter and Jack Nichols, the former starting

center before Russell got there, was going to dental school and was only

going to be available for games and not practice. He asked me to take his

place during practices and like a dummy, I said yes," Sullivan said.

"Red Auerbach eventually asked me to consider suiting up for games

and playing two pro sports year-round, but after getting beat up by NBA

Hall of Famer Tommy Heinsohn every day, I said 'thanks, but no thanks' to

that offer."

*

His worst day of golf is better than his best day of work. But because

Sullivan has worked in the golf industry since he retired from baseball

following two years with Philadelphia in 1961 and 1962, and seasons with

the Minnesota Twins in 1962 and 1963, he has become an islander and has

left the mainland for good.

He is currently working as a consultant for the Pua Kea Golf Course on

the island of Kauai The course is scheduled to open in a few weeks.

Following the opening, he will be heading up a golf project at Grove Farm

on Kauai for AOL-Time Warner Chairman Steve Case.

Playing golf and living in Hawaii is his passion now, but even after

almost 40 years away from baseball, Sullivan still gets asked questions

about what it was like to play for the Red Sox -- and having Ted Williams

as a teammate.

"It was unbelievable to play with Ted Williams for eight years. And

when you think about what a great hitter he was, he did it while missing

several years fighting in Korea," he said. "I saw him hit a homer his

first at-bat when he got back from the war, and hit his last home run

when in 1960 in his last at-bat before he retired.

"I guess I was a pretty good pitcher back then in my years with

Boston, and I guess you had to be to get to that point. The Red Sox gave

me a great opportunity and I will always be grateful for the shot they

gave me in baseball."

The Sullivan File

Name: Frank Sullivan

Age: 72

High School: Burbank High. He was the student body president in 1948

Baseball Background: Played in the Major League from 1953 to 1963 --

eight years with the Boston Red Sox and parts of two seasons with the

Philadelphia Phillies and the Minnesota Twins.

Honors: Named to the American League All-Star team in 1955 and 1956.

Led the American League with 18 wins and 260 innings pitched in 1955.

Did You Know?: Sullivan was a practice player for the Boston Celtics

in 1956.

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