Former MLB player, manager, executive and scout Jim Fregosi died today of complications of a stroke he sustained last weekend during a MLB Alumni cruise in The Cayman Islands. Fregosi was 71. At the time of his death, Fregosi was the top advance scout for the Atlanta Braves.
Fregosi was originally signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1960, but later that year would be selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the MLB Expansion Draft. He would make his MLB debut with the Angels late in the 1961 season. By 1963, Fregosi was the Angels’ everyday shortstop and would win a Gold Glove for his defensive play in 1967. Between 1964 and 1970, Fregosi was named to the AL All-Star Team six times. Fregosi’s best season was in 1970 when hit .278 with 22 HR and 82 RBI.
However, Fregosi’s offensive production would decline in 1971 after he was diagnosed with a tumor in his foot. Prior to the 1972 season, the Angels traded Fregosi to the New York Mets for a young, flame-throwing right-hander named Nolan Ryan. While Ryan went on to a Hall of Fame career, Fregosi was a bust for the Mets hitting only .232 in 1972. It is arguably the most lopsided trade in the history of MLB. Ironically, six years later, Fregosi would return to Anaheim to become Ryan’s manager.
Halfway through the 1973 season, the Mets sold Fregosi to the Texas Rangers. While the Mets won the NL pennant, Fregosi became a backup player on a last place team. Fregosi remained with the Rangers through the middle of the 1977 season when he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Fregosi began the 1978 season playing with the Pirates, but when it was over he was managing the California Angels. In 1979, Fregosi led the Angels to their first post-season appearance by winning the AL West. However, the Angels would be bested by the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS. Unfortunately, the Angels fell to sixth place in the AL West in 1980 and would be dismissed midway through the 1981 season and was replaced by Gene Mauch.
After spending three seasons managing the Louisville Redbirds (the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A club), Fregosi was named manager of the Chicago White Sox in the middle of the 1986 season replacing Tony La Russa. However, Fregosi could not get the Chisox above fifth place in the AL West and was dismissed following the 1988 season.
Early in the 1991 season, Fregosi was brought in to manage the Philadelphia Phillies. Although the Phillies nearly managed to play .500 ball under Fregosi in 1991, they would finish in last place in the NL East in 1992, 26 games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Phillies were expected to replicate their last place finish in 1993. But Curt Schilling, John Kruk, Darren Daulton and Mitch Williams had other ideas. The Phillies won the NL East, upset the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS but fell to Cito Gaston’s Toronto Blue Jays in six games in the World Series. The Phillies could not repeat their success and Fregosi was fired after the 1996 season and replaced by Terry Francona.
After a stint as a special assistant to San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean, Fregosi was hired to manage the Toronto Blue Jays in 1999. Ironically, Fregosi would hire his one time World Series rival Gaston to be his hitting coach. Despite two winning seasons, the Jays replaced Fregosi with Buck Martinez after the 2000 season.
While Fregosi was nearly given a second chance as Phillies skipper a decade ago and was considered for managerial posts with the Giants and Dodgers, he would never manage in the big leagues again and spent the rest of 50-plus year career in MLB with the Braves front office.
I leave you with a radio interview Fregosi did back in 2011.