Jim Fregosi, an All Star who played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball and was once part of a trade for pitcher Nolan Ryan, passed away at age 71 this morning after his family removed him from a life support system. He was on a Caribbean cruise for retired Major League players over the weekend when he collapsed from a massive stroke and never recovered.
A lifelong baseball man, Fregosi was last in uniform in 2000 as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. He then immediately transitioned to scouting, becoming a legend in that aspect of the game as well, spending the last 13 years of his life and career in Atlanta Braves organization.
“This is really shocking, very sad news,” said Braves General Manager Frank Wren. “Jim was involved in every player decision we made. He had so much insight, so much understanding of players and how to put teams together. He was a real valuable member of the team and just a wonderful guy, one who always brightened up your day because he loved the game, he loved life.”
Jim Fregosi grew up a star athlete in San Mateo, California, where he was a standout not only in baseball, but football and basketball as well. In 1960, the Boston Red Sox signed him out of high school, but the next year the American League expanded for the first time, from eight to 10 teams. One of those new franchises, the Los Angeles Angels selected Jim Fregosi in the expansion draft.
He debuted with the Angels in 1961 and stayed with the team until 1971 when he was traded to the Mets along with several other players for Nolan Ryan, a pitcher who went on to a Hall of Fame career.
But after Jim Fregosi retired as a player in 1978, he became Ryan’s manager with the Angels and guided the team to its first divisional pennant, in 1979.
He later managed the Philadelphia Phillies to a National League pennant in 1993, though the Phillies lost the World Series that year to the Blue Jays. It was Jim Fregosi’s only World Series in 33 seasons of playing and managing.
Fregosi also managed the Chicago White Sox in the 1980s, where he took over from another future Hall of Famer, Tony La Russa. Finally, he managed Toronto in 1999 and 2000.
In addition to the Angels and Mets, Fregosi — who played almost 1,400 games of his 1,778-game career as a shortstop — also spent time as a player for the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates.
From 1966 to 1970, Fregosi was selected to five straight American League All Star teams, but injuries began to take a toll soon after that.
He leaves behind his wife, Joni, and five children including Jim Fregosi Jr., who is a special assistant to the general manager for the Kansas City Royals.