JULY 7, 1975
The year was 1979, two decades before newscasters first mispronounced androstenedione, and Fred Lynn was on a surprising power surge that had sportswriters befuddled. Lynn, the Boston Red Sox' center-fielder, was showering the bleachers with baseballs at a pace that resulted in his nearly doubling his career high of 22 home runs. After some thought, reporters decided that Lynn's power had to be the product of his fancy new off-season strength builder, a then unfamiliar machine called Nautilus. "The media kind of took it and ran with it," says the 48-year-old Lynn, a part-time TV baseball analyst who still uses the weight-and-pulley system, now seen in gyms everywhere. "I'd never lifted before, so I felt a difference: I didn't have to hit a ball right on the screws to hit it out."
Lynn went deep a career-high 39 times that year, winning the batting title in the process, but it was the only time he matched the unreal expectations wrought by his explosive 1975 rookie campaign, when he led the Sox to the World Series and became the first player to win both the Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in the same season. Despite winning four Gold Gloves and making nine All-Star Game appearances (in '83 he hit the only All-Star grand slam, a bomb that left first-time All-Star pitcher Atlee Hammaker of the San Francisco Giants traumatized, apparently for the rest of his career), Lynn never quite lived up to his promise. He retired after the '90 season with 306 home runs and a .283 lifetime average. The man once touted as Ted Williams, Tris Speaker and Carl Yastrzemski rolled into one ended up more like George Foster, an outstanding player stranded a cab fare short of the Hall of Fame.
Not that this seems to bother Lynn. If easygoing were a vocation, Lynn might just be employee of the decade. Since he stopped playing, he has enjoyed the sunbaked life in La Costa, Calif., where he lives with his wife, Natalie, and their cat, Panther, a former stray who Fred says fills the role of "varmint eradicator" at the Lynns' secluded four-bedroom house three miles from the beach. To keep busy in retirement, Lynn has done color commentary for ESPN, CBS and Fox and has played Mr. Mom to his two children from a previous marriage, 22-year-old Jason and 21-year-old Jennifer. However, ask the self-effacing Lynn what he has been up to, and he first mentions another source of pride. "Well," he says after a moment's pause, "I lowered my handicap from 13 to four."
Must be that fancy Stairmaster thing he's been using.