Jim Fregosi died last night. There has been an outpouring of emotion for the former, player and manager over the last few days that seem to confirm what people have been saying for years: Few people in baseball were as well liked and respected as Fregosi.
There was not much that Jim Fregosi did not do in his baseball life. For 53 years, he was either a player, a manager, a scout and was a special assistant to the general manager in Atlanta when a stroke took his life this week.
By all accounts, the San Francisco native had an infectious personality and enthusiasm that made him a favorite teammate or manager wherever he went.
Along the way he had great successes and set backs. In a way, it is impossible to remember the highlights of Jim Fregosi without the lowlights.
He was an All Star with the Angels and had his number retired by the organization. But he flopped with the Mets as part of the notorious deal that sent Nolan Ryan from New York to California.
He had success with the Angels as a young manager, leading them to the 1979 AL West title. But could not match the success with the White Sox later.
As the manager of the Phillies, he took a scrappy and unkempt group to the post season in 1993 and pulled off one of the greatest upsets in baseball history when they toppled the mighty Braves for the pennant.
He never matched that success again, but left a legacy of class, intelligence and love for baseball behind him.
Fregosi showed loyalty to his players that sometimes paid off. Remember Kim Batiste made a critical error in Game 1 of the 1993 NLCS that tied the game in the 9th? Fregosi stuck with him and he hit the walk off single to end the game.
Sometimes it backfired as he stayed with Mitch Williams too long in the playoffs and World Series. But he never waivered in the post game interview in his loyalty to his players.
And maybe that is his main appeal and why is was loved. He was not a baseball God who walked on water. Jim Fregosi was someone we can all relate to. A man with peaks and valleys. He was a man with highlights we can only dream of and lowlights that were heart breaking, yet he handled himself the way we hope we all would.
Gracious in both victory and defeat, he was clearly a man who loved the game and what he gave to the game. And the game loved him back, even if that loved looked cruel.
Jim Fregosi lived a full life in baseball with dignity, humor and in a manner that did not make enemies but left many 25 man rosters in his wake respecting him to the end.
Baseball needs more Jim Fregosis. May he rest in peace.
In his honor, let’s all watch the pinnacle of his career: The clinching of the 1993 National League Pennant.