Longtime Rangers writer Fraley passes away

May 25th, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Gerry Fraley, a fierce and relentless sports journalist who covered Major League Baseball for the better part of four decades, passed away Saturday after a long battle with cancer. He was 64.

Fraley at times covered the Phillies, Braves and Cardinals during his prolific career. His work covering the Braves for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was a particular source of pride.

Much of his baseball-writing career, though, was spent covering the Rangers for the Dallas Morning News. He was one of an extraordinary talented staff of sports writers and editors at the Morning News who -- at their zenith in the 1990s -- turned out daily one of the most highly decorated and respected sports sections in the country. The high-stakes competition between the Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram was one of the last great newspaper wars in America before the industry as a whole fell on hard times.

Fraley was in the middle of it with an unswerving work ethic and tremendous versatility. Baseball was his best beat, but he covered all four major sports with encyclopedic knowledge including the Cowboys, Mavericks and Stars.

He also handled college assignments without missing a step -- Florida State and TCU were favorites -- and also covered motor sports for the Morning News. Any athlete who was from the greater Dallas area -- whether it be Clayton Kershaw or Shawn Tolleson -- Fraley knew his story.

He worked in a variety of roles including beat writer, general assignment and columnist. But deep in his heart, Fraley was a reporter with a stated goal of educating his readers.

The tools of his trade were a notebook, recorder and pen, and a vast array of sources including players, scouts, umpires and coaches reaching down to the lowest levels of the Minor Leagues. Fraley had an enviable ability to talk easily with almost any baseball player or club official. He knew statistics as well as anybody, but his real work was done on the phone or in a clubhouse.

He disdained the waxing and lyrical prose that too often is vainly presented as great baseball writing. His venue was the daily newspaper, not "The New Yorker" or "Vanity Fair." He had great respect for former Braves outfielder Dale Murphy, but offered no odes or sonnets to bygone heroes.

Fraley had a direct style of writing, a hard-nosed writer covering a tough sport in a demanding business. He wrote with vigor and clarity, plus an impressive command of vocabulary and attention to detail that was superb.

Like all reporters, he dug hard for scoops and had his share of big ones. He was first to report Herschel Walker was signing out of Georgia with the USFL instead of the NFL, that Nolan Ryan was planning to pitch for the Rangers longer than his original two-year contract and that, for the 1993 season, Kevin Kennedy would be the next manager of the Rangers.

Fraley was fearless and didn’t back down to anybody. He was the first in Dallas-Fort Worth to write a column saying that Alex Rodriguez’s $252 million contract was an excessive burden to the Rangers. One year later, they traded Rodriguez to the Yankees and ate a big chunk of the contract.

Fraley could also zing them with the one-liners, as he did after Ryan pitched his seventh no-hitter at Arlington Stadium in 1991 and manager Bobby Valentine popped open a special bottle of champagne to celebrate. Fraley noted the bottle had been given to Valentine by owner Rusty Rose to be opened when the Rangers won the World Series.

Wrote Fraley: “This was no time to wait for an even bigger miracle.”

The only thing Fraley was more passionate about than journalism were his twin sons, Tyson and Sam. He could not hold an extended conversation with somebody at the ballpark without mentioning the twins and letting his pride bubble over.

Fraley was the fiercest of competitors, but any journalist who went up against him for an extended period of time, who studied his work and learned from it, ended up being a much better reporter for the experience.

Blood may have boiled, wounds may have been inflicted and indelible scars left behind, but journalism is a rough business not for the faint of heart. This goes back to the years before the internet when reporters walked barefoot outside to the sidewalk at 4 a.m. to check the rival newspaper and see what the competitor was reporting.

Fraley lived for that world. He was a member of a rugged, fiercely competitive fraternity that measured success by good, accurate reporting, not from accolades from the faux literary crowd. The best stories were written in 60 minutes or less on pressure-pounding deadlines, and never recognized in the annual dubious anthologies of what passed for great sports writing.

Fraley was a relentless and hard-working reporter and, as Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter Red Smith once said, there is no higher honor than that.