At 23, Fred Lynn is an uncannily accurate model of the storybook hero—boyishly handsome, modest, loyal, upright, and the most exciting young player in baseball. A superbly graceful outfielder, Lynn left the New England summer echoing to the dangerous crack of his bat, then led his Boston Red Sox teammates into the World Series. He became the first rookie ever to be named his league’s Most Valuable Player (as well as Rookie of the Year), making a shambles of the competition for postseason honors. He led the league in runs (103), doubles (47) and slugging percentage (.566) and, defensively, had no peer. Veteran observers compared the awesome span of his talents to that of the young Joe DiMaggio.
Soft-spoken but intensely competitive, Lynn learned baseball from his father, who raised the boy after he and Fred’s mother were divorced. “Every night after Dad got home from work I’d pitch to him, and he’d hit me fly balls. I never got tired of it.”
A superb natural athlete, Fred was offered college scholarships in baseball, football and basketball. He played defensive back at USC for a year but gave it up. In his sophomore year as a baseball All-American, he saw a lot of major-league games. “Jeez,” he said to himself, “I’m as good as these guys. I knew then I’d make it.”
Last season Lynn never went more than two games in a row without getting a hit. “You’ve got to be a pig,” he says. “When you have a big day, you’ve got to lunch up because there’s a lot of days when you’re not going to have them.” His blond wife, Dee Dee, learned not to coddle him. “I have to treat him like he treats himself,” she explains. “Some people think I’m cruel, but if he goes 0 for 4 I can’t be the kind of person who says, ‘Well, that’s all right.’ He’d just get mad at me.”
A private man, like one of his predecessors with the Red Sox, Ted Williams, Lynn will be a conspicuous absentee on the rubber-chicken and stomach-pump circuit. He also turned down an offer to host the Merv Griffin show for a week in Miami Beach. “I could give speeches all winter,” he says, “but that’s not my idea of relaxing—flying all around the country and getting up in front of a crowd and telling them the same old stuff. I just want to fish and golf and relax. Otherwise I’d go into spring training all burned out. My job is playing baseball.” Lynn, whose home is in El Monte, Calif., is already working out and lifting weights, and next month he will start throwing and hitting with Boston teammate Rick Burleson, who lives nearby.
Also on his agenda, of course, will be contract negotiations with the prosperous Red Sox. Fred hired a business manager after the World Series. “He and I won’t be asking for more than we think is fair,” explains Lynn, who earned only $20,000 in salary last season. “We won’t be asking for six figures, I’m sure of that.” Then he grins. “But it maybe close.”