Alabama baseball great Frank Bolling, last to hit grand slam off Koufax, dies at 88

Published 9:23 am Monday, July 13, 2020

Frank Bolling, a two-time All-Star second baseman and the last player to hit a grand slam off Sandy Koufax, has died. He was 88.

Bolling died Saturday. He was diagnosed with cancer about five years ago, his family said. Bolling was born in Mobile, Alabama.

Bolling played 12 seasons in the majors, six with Detroit and six with the Braves, and hit .254 with 106 home runs. He won a Gold Glove in 1958 with the Tigers and for part of that season, his double-play partner was his older brother, shortstop Milt Bolling.

The road leading to Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile is Bolling Brothers Blvd. Aaron is from the city and was Bolling’s longtime Braves teammate, and they occasionally would visit over the years when the Hall of Famer returned to his hometown.

Last year, Bolling was added to the Wall of Honor at Miller Park in Milwaukee. He punctuated the tribute by throwing out the first ball before the Brewers hosted Philadelphia.

“He always followed baseball, all the way until the day before yesterday,” son Chris said.

Bolling was traded to the Milwaukee Braves after the 1960 season in a deal for outfielder Bill Bruton and became an All-Star in 1961 and 1962. In those days, there were two All-Star Games each season, and he started both the first year and twice was a substitute the next season.

In 1965, Bolling hit the sixth and final grand slam that Koufax allowed in his Hall of Fame career, connecting at County Stadium in Milwaukee. In 1966, Bolling was in the starting lineup for the first major league game played in Atlanta.

Bolling homered in his first big league game, tagging Baltimore’s Don Larsen on opening day at Tiger Stadium in 1954 for his first career hit.

Bolling missed the 1955 season while serving in the U.S. Army, and returned to the majors the next year.

Years after he retired, Bolling kept playing. Boosted by a grant from Major League Baseball and working with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, he created a league for physically and mentally challenged kids in Mobile.

“He loved being out there with them, he would do anything for them,” Chris Bolling said. “There were children in wheelchairs, kids he would help run the bases. It was amazing to watch.”

The program grew beyond the city on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

“It caught on and spread to other parts of the country,” son-in-law Sam Yarbrough said. “That was Frank. He was just a good guy.”