Al Frost was 18 months old and toddled after his father throughout the house. On Easter Sunday morning, his dad was shaving and Al was observing. The tyke tried to pull himself up for a better view, and a loose blade fell off the counter and sliced his left eye.
“That was it,” Frost said. “They rushed me to the hospital, sewed up the eye, but the vision was gone. I was so young, I never really thought about seeing with only one eye when competing in athletics.”
Frost was 5-foot-9 and under 150 pounds, and yet in a Minneapolis City Conference full of exceptional athletes in the 1960s, he was among the best — as a deadly shooter for the Pioneers of Central High School. He also was the backup quarterback in football and a track standout.
“Those were tremendous days,” Frost said. “I had a chance to be a teammate of so many great athletes and people.”
He was a Central senior in 1962-63, the same year Lou Hudson, Archie Clark and Don Yates had arrived as freshmen to integrate (and enliven) the University of Minnesota basketball program.
“My mother worked at the university and I had gotten to know Lou, Archie and the other guys,” Frost said.
He considered trying to join the Gophers, but then Joe Hutton Sr., the legendary Hamline coach, came to the Frost house on a recruiting visit. This was extra notable, since Frost would wind up integrating Pipers basketball in Hutton’s 34th season.
Al was averaging 17 points and the Pipers were early MIAC contenders in 1963-64, and then Frost blew out a knee in January. “I don’t want to brag, but that hurt us,” he said. “We finished third.”
The next season the Pipers were without size and overmatched. They finished 3-22 and Hutton resigned.
“I felt bad for him,” Frost said. “He had been such a fantastic coach.”
Frost went on to a fantastic individual career. And Saturday, on Super Bowl eve, there will be a ceremony at Hutton Fieldhouse to add Frost to Hamline’s Row of Honor, with Vern Mikkelsen, Hal Haskins and other all-time greats from Joe Hutton’s glory decades of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
PATRICK'S PLUS THREE
Al Frost with the Pipers:
• As a senior for coach Howie Schultz in 1966-67, Frost averaged a school-record 26.2 points (29.1 in MIAC games).
• Best memory: “We were down five at St. Mary’s with 30 seconds left, we had three steals, I scored three baskets, and we won the game.’’
• He is the all-time leader in scoring average at 19.8. He is fourth with 1,704 career points. No. 1: “Sleepy Hal’’ Haskins with 1,985.