Frederick G. Flemming '53

Frederick G. Flemming '53

An eleven-time letter winner and four-sport star, Fred Flemming was one of the greatest all-around student-athletes in the history of Bowdoin College. A dynamic performer, his exploits earned him regional and national recognition.

Flemming excelled in four sports—extraordinary in his day and all but unheard of now. On the gridiron he was a key element of the Polar Bears’ offensive attack from the halfback and end positions, and was a three-time letter winner. In the 1952 season, Flemming’s senior year, Bowdoin earned the Maine state football championship, and “The Flapper” was named to the All-New England Small College Football team. In his two years with the basketball squad he was a steady performer as a forward. In three seasons with Jack Magee’s track and field team he was an outstanding high and broad jumper and carried the legacy of Magee’s top-flight jumpers. His success in the jumping pits is particularly remarkable considering the limits on his practice and competition time—track and field was but the secondary sport in his spring season.

While he achieved notable careers in football, track, and basketball, Flemming’s greatest impact on Bowdoin’s athletic program was as a member of the baseball squad. Years before the term was coined, Flemming was described by coaches and scouts as a five-tool player (hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, fielding, strength of throwing arm). As starting centerfielder for some of coach Danny McFayden’s best squads, Flemming led the Polar Bears to three consecutive state championships from 1951 to 1953, and was twice named All-State. After batting .292 as a sophomore, he raised his batting average a full 70 points during his junior campaign. He closed out his career with a .385 batting average in 1953, becoming the first player from Maine to be named as a first-team All-America in baseball. In Flemming’s era there was but one All-America team for all levels of intercollegiate baseball; he shared the honor with ballplayers from some of America’s most storied baseball programs.

It should be noted that Flemming had not played organized baseball before arriving at Bowdoin in 1949. Additionally, his success with the football squad required that he convert his English-style rugby skills to adapt to the American game.

After entertaining contract offers from fourteen of the sixteen existing Major League Baseball clubs, Flemming signed a major league contract with the Detroit Tigers in 1953. He went on to a successful three-year minor league career, including a stint with Wilkes-Barre (AA) in 1954 during which he batted .307 and just missed winning the Eastern League batting title. In 1953, the Maine AAU recognized Flemming’s remarkable accomplishments in four sports when they named him Outstanding Athlete of the Year for the state of Maine.

A native of Juniper, New Brunswick, Flemming prepared for Bowdoin at the Rothesay Collegiate School in Rothesay, New Brunswick. At Bowdoin, Flemming majored in government. In 1953, Bowdoin awarded his father, Hugh John Flemming, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Fred Flemming resides in Bellingham, Washington, with his wife, Helen. They have eight children and ten grandchildren.