By Randy Bruce
September 29, 2013
When honorary starters and Southeastern greats Brett Butler and Jeff Frye set the 27th-Annual Whang Bang Alumni Golf Tournament in motion at 9 a.m. on Oct. 4, most in attendance will be remembering them for swinging a different set of sticks.
Butler and Frye played a decade apart and for different legendary SE baseball coaches, but both made significant contributions to a baseball program that has amassed a record of 1,773-741 since 1964, making it one of the most successful at any collegiate level.
Butler spent three seasons in a Savage pinstripes between 1977 and 1979 under the tutelage of Dr. Don Parham who guided the program from 1964 through 1980.
He transferred to Southeastern after spending his freshman season at Arizona State and certainly made an immediate impact on what was already a talented ball club.
He was a two-time NAIA All-American and helped guide SE to a National Runner-Up finish in 1977 and to a trio of Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference championships over his stay.
He wasted little time making his mark, and in addition to helping that 1977 team to a National Runner-Up finish, he did so by becoming Southeastern’s first .400-hitter, finishing the season with a .439 average. He would go on to rewrite the SE record book in career numbers during his stay as well with 31 home runs, 209 runs scored, 15 triples, 220 hits, 162 walks and a .394 career batting average.
Meanwhile, almost a decade later to the season another talented ballplayer destined for a Major League career transferred in to ply his trade for Southeastern, this time under the guidance of Mike Metheny who has led the baseball program since becoming the skipper before the 1981 season.
Frye’s story was a little different, making the short trip to Durant after spending two seasons at Carl Albert State in Poteau, Okla., but the results were strikingly similar.
He picked up all-conference honors in each of his seasons at Southeastern, and while Butler may have been the first .400-hitter in SE history, Frye would set the record 11 years later with a .455 performance during the 1988 season. That year he would go on to earn OIC Player of the Year honors and garner NAIA All-American recognition.
Frye’s .455 single-season batting average still sits atop the SE list for average in a season, while his .420 career batting average was the second best career mark posted ever.
With just the mentioned achievements the duo helped push the status of Southeastern baseball higher, however, neither one would see their story end in a Savage jersey.
Butler would see his professional baseball dreams become a reality when the Atlanta Braves drafted him after his senior season. He would spend seasons at the Class-A level before making the jump to Triple-A Richmond in 1981 and before that season had come to an end he had become the centerfielder for the Braves.
He hit .283 in 1983 with Atlanta and led MLB with 13 triples, but was shipped to Cleveland in 1984 where he proceeded to turn in 52 stolen bases, 108 runs, 10 triples and 86 walks for the Indians.
Over 17 seasons he would play for the Dodgers, Indians, Giants, Braves and Mets, earning an All-Star Game appearance in 1991 with the Dodgers while also finishing in the top-10 in the MVP voting.
He finished his career with 2,375 hits, 131 triples, 578 RBI and 558 stolen bases.
Frye was drafted by the Texas Rangers after completing his college career and steadily progressed through the organization, earning early on the recognition as the best second baseman in the Rangers’ organization.
In 1992 he earned his trip to the big leagues and went on to earn the team’s Rookie of the Year honor.
After four seasons in Texas that were plagued by injury, he would sign with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent where he would spend the next four seasons. In Boston he hit .275 or better in every season and had his two best seasons in hits and steals.
However, the injury bug that found him early on in Texas would follow him throughout his career and after 10 seasons in the big leagues, missing two entire years due to injury, he would retire after the 2001 season which he spent with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Despite his injuries, he tallied career marks of 626 hits, 135 doubles, 316 runs scored and 194 RBI and boasted a career fielding percentage of .984 at second base.
Brett Butler and Jeff Frye turned storybook college baseball careers into the dream-come-true of nearly every little boy tossing the ball around in the backyard and made the long climb to the Major Leagues.
Butler and Frye will dispense their honorary starter duties when they mark the start of the Whang Bang Alumni Golf Tournament on Friday, Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. at Silverado Golf Course. The tournament is a six-person scramble with a shotgun start, but the tournament is limited to the first 144 players to register. Registration is $100 per person. To register online visit the alumni website at alumni.SE.edu or by calling the Welcome Center at 580-745-2288.