Oscar Wilde and Todd Frazier have something in common.
Over a century ago, the Irish playwright turned around a long-held gospel and claimed, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”
Wednesday at Greater American Ball Park, the Cincinnati Reds’ slugging third baseman proved that point in the most dramatic fashion.
Every time a big-league ballplayer moves from the batter’s box to the plate, he is accompanied by a song — his “walk-up music,” it’s called — and Frazier’s vocal escort is always Frank Sinatra.
Usually the song is “Fly Me To The Moon,” and that was the case in the sixth inning of the scoreless game with Chicago as he stepped in to hit against the Cubs’ big right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija, the former Notre Dame All-American receiver.
Samardzija got the count to 2-1 and then made a mistake. He threw a fastball that Frazier turned into a moon launch.
The towering blast was still soaring as it cleared the center-field wall and then bounced off the towering river boat Pilot House that stands in the deepest reaches of the ballpark. The home run was estimated to have traveled 480 feet, making it the seventh-longest in GABP history.
It turned out to be the only run in the rain-delayed game that ended up a 1-0 Cincinnati victory.
Frazier admitted he watched the ball take off.
“I took a couple of steps and kind of thought it was out,” he said. “I really didn’t know how far it was going until I looked up and saw it bounce off the boat up there. I wanted to keep it going — it was pretty fun to watch.
“It’s probably one of the top one or two home runs I’ve hit. Between me and you I thought it went a little farther than (480). I thought it might be 5-something. But it doesn’t matter — a home run is a home run.”
In his office afterward, Reds manager Dusty Baker — he of 242 major-league home runs — said all homers are not necessarily equal:
“I lost sight of that one. I thought it went into orbit. That ball was blasted. It just shows you how strong that young man is.”
When asked if he ever hit one that far in his 19 big-league seasons, Baker shook his head and grinned: “Nooo, I come from the Hank Aaron school: It’s not how far, it’s how many. But no, I wasn’t that strong.”
Baker might have lacked that long-ball muscle of his young third baseman, but he does have something Frazier does not.
“I have a letter from Frank Sinatra up on my wall,” Baker said. “My son took a picture of it and I gave it to Frazier. As soon as he saw it he said, ‘Man, I want to get a copy of that.’ ”
Out at his locker, Frazier smiled at mention of Baker’s souvenir. “Yeah, I saw that letter. I wish I had something like that from Sinatra.”
Other Reds players lean to rock or heavy-bass hip hop for the music that accompanies them to the plate or, in a pitcher’s case, to the mound. Cesar Izturis favors Notorious B.I.G. and Homer Bailey goes with Ted Nugent. For Jonathan Broxton, it’s Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” while Joey Votto uses the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” and Brandon Phillips came to the plate Thursday to the “Harlem Shake” by Baauer.
When it was mentioned to Baker that Frazier goes mighty “old school” for a 26-year-old, the manager shrugged: “Old school, but good school. That’s his thing. Every guy has his thing.”
Frazier has most of Sinatra’s music on his iPad. He has learned the words to some of the songs and at Sean Casey’s induction into the Reds Hall of Fame last year, he even was coaxed into standing and singing “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Frazier said his bond to Ol’ Blue Eyes goes back to his childhood.
“I started hearing Sinatra when I was a little boy,” he said Wednesday. “My grandparents listened to him. And my high school coach would put it on before games. When I was real young I thought it was kind of boring, but then I got to appreciate it and it relaxes me. Now it brings back good times to me. I think of my family and where I’m from.”
Sinatra was a Jersey guy, from Hoboken, and Frazier grew up and still lives in Toms River, a half an hour south.
In the offseason Frazier married his longtime girlfriend, Jackie Verdon, who grew up in Freehold, some 20 miles from Toms River. When Hurricane Sandy devastated his town, Frazier returned and gave his money, time and sweat to help rebuild and get people back on their feet. The Little League field now bears his name and he is embraced as a hometown hero.
Actually, he’s stood out there since he was little. As a 9-year-old he won the national Punt, Pass and Kick competition in Kansas City. Three years later he was a star on the Toms River team that won the Little League World Series.
That folk hero status is now growing in Cincinnati, too.
Last season — when he finished third in the Rookie of the Year balloting — he hit a home run against Colorado’s Jamie Moyer even though the bat had slipped out of his hand as he was swinging.
Last Thursday, as ESPN cameras were filming a special segment on Teddy Kremer, the Reds’ effervescent 30-year-old bat boy with Down syndrome, Frazier provided one of the more heart-warming moments of this season.
Before Frazier came to bat in the sixth inning against the Miami Marlins, Kremer asked him to hit a home run. The Reds third baseman promptly crushed a shot over the center-field wall and was met at home plate by the overjoyed bat boy, whom he warmly embraced.
Then Wednesday, Frazier sent his sixth home run of the season into orbit.
“I was trying to hit a fastball, but I haven’t seen many of them lately,” he said. “Then I got one and it’s like the old saying goes: ‘Once you get your pitch, you have to take care of it.’ You’ve got to do something with it.
And that he did.
He turned life into art and nearly flew it to the moon