Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
The world of baseball suffered a huge loss this week. Former Philadelphia Phillies manager Jim Fregosi died early Friday morning, at the age of 71. Fregosi was on a Major League Baseball Alumni cruise to the Cayman Islands when he suffered a series of strokes. He was flown to a Miami hospital where he later died.
Mention “Summer of 1993” to any Phillies fan old enough to remember, and you elicit a smile as wide as Broad Street itself. Bright and unvarnished. Just like the personalities that made up the roster that magical summer a generation ago.
He was the man who molded a bunch of retreads and castoffs into a championship team. He allowed the players to police themselves and the team to form it’s own personality. What he got was a team that came within two wins of dethroning the mighty Toronto Blue Jays for the World Series title. What Phillies fans received was one of the most beloved and revered teams in franchise history.
Fregosi managed 15 years in the major leagues with the Angels, White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays. He finished with a career record of 1,028-1,094. In addition to the 1993 Phillies, he led the Angels to the American League West title in 1979. That team would lose to the Orioles in the American League Championship Series.
Fregosi was not only a successful manager, he was an All-Star shortstop during his playing days. He was a six-time All-Star during an 18-year playing career for the Angels, Mets, Rangers and Pirates. He finished his career with a .265 batting average, 151 home runs, and 706 runs batted in.
“Everyone in the Phillies organization is deeply saddened about the news of Jim’s passing. We, and so many others in the game, have lost a dear friend,” Phillies president David Montgomery said in a statement. “He’ll be remembered for his vibrant personality, wisdom and love of the game.”
For as much as he was beloved by Phillies fans everywhere, his former players loved him like a father. The reaction to is death from his players underscores the bond that existed.
He was a player’s manager and the players appreciated that. It was Fregosi who saw the leadership qualities that Darren Daulton possessed. It was Fregosi who saw that Curt Schilling was a future ace. It was Fregosi who set the tone during Spring Training of that magical year by stressing that winning games in Florida would create a ‘winning atmosphere.’ An atmosphere that was nonexistent during the previous decade.
Those that never had the chance to meet the man or hear him talk about the game he loved so much, missed out. The stories he could tell, were only stories that could be told by a man who spent 53 years in the game. Fregosi was one of the most popular speakers on the banquet circuit. He could keep his audience enthralled like no other. His personality was larger-than-life. His raspy laugh had his listeners laughing right along with him.
Jim Fregosi was one-of-a-kind. Anyone who ever came into contact with him, knew it. He was your father or your grandfather or your uncle. He was someone you could meet at a South Philly diner for breakfast, and still be sitting there hours later when the lunch crowd filtered in – talking baseball, and just about anything else.
He will truly be missed.