Jim Fregosi, a Bay Area native who spent his entire adult life in professional baseball died early Friday morning from complications stemming from multiple strokes, according to the Atlanta Braves official website. He was 71.
Fregosi had been a special assistant to the general manager for the Braves for the last 14 seasons, the final stop in a baseball journey that began when he was signed as an amateur free agent by the Boston Red Sox out of Serra High School in San Mateo, where he was a teammate of former major leaguer Tim Cullen and Gary Hughes, a current special assistant for the Red Sox who has been the scouting director for both the Marlins and Montreal Expos.
Fregosi, just 18 at the time, was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the expansion draft prior to their inaugural season in 1961 and he became the Angels’ first star attraction, earning six All-Star nods, including two starting bids, in his 11 years with the franchise. He is the Angels’ all-time leader in triples and Wins Above Replacement for position players and ranks in the franchise’s top 10 in just about every major offensive category.
Fregosi played in the majors from 1961-78, finishing his career with 1,726 hits, 151 homers, 844 runs, 706 RBI and a career slash line of .265/.338/.398 for a career OPS-plus of 113.
He was traded from the Angels to the Mets—in a deal that famously sent Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to Anaheim—and later played for the Rangers and Pirates.
Fregosi was released by Pittsburgh on June 1, 1978, so he could take on a new job as manager of the California Angels.
Fregosi managed the Angels to their first-ever postseason berth the next season, guiding them to the American League West title, and was fired in late May 1981 with the club at 22-25 and in fourth place. In parts of four seasons with California, Fregosi was 237-248.
His next managerial stop was with the Chicago White Sox, where he took over as the permanent replacement for Tony LaRussa on June 22, 1986, with the team at 27-39 and in fifth place. He was let go after the 1988 season after the White Sox went 193-226 and finished fifth in the AL West all three seasons.
After the Phillies got off to a 4-9 start in 1991, they replaced Nick Leyva with Fregosi and two years later, Fregosi helped engineer a worst-to-first turnaround as Philadelphia went from last in the National League East in 1992 to winning the division title in 1993. The Phillies went on to upset the 104-win Atlanta Braves in the NLCS before falling to the defending World Series champion Blue Jays in the World Series.
Fregosi spent almost six full seasons in Philadelphia, where he was fired after the 1996 season. The Phillies were never able to sustain the success from 1993 and drifted back in the pack, finishing last in Fregosi’s final season there. He was 431-463 while managing the Phillies.
His last managerial stop was with the franchise that beat his club in his only World Series, the Blue Jays, where he stepped in after Tim Johnson was fired during spring training after he admitted to lying about his experience as a veteran in Vietnam.
Fregosi left a position as special assistant for the Giants and stepped into a tough situation midway through spring training, but led the Jays to back-to-back winning seasons in 1999-2000, leading the team to a 167-157 mark.
In 15 seasons as a manager, Fregosi’s teams were 1,028-1,094 and made the postseason twice.
After his contract was not renewed by Toronto, Fregosi went to work for the Braves in the front office, a post he held until his death. He also worked for the Cardinals and Giants during his career.
He is survived by his wife Joni and five children, daughters Nikki, Lexy and Jennifer; and sons Robert and Jim.