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