Monday, July 4, 2011

#196 - Jim Fregosi

Back to the west coast as Jim Fregosi poses in Oakland. Jim was in the midst of the second part of his playing career - that of an infielder reserve - by the time this photo was taken. He will be always remembered as the guy traded for Nolan Ryan. An interesting sidebar to that deal is that Ryan wasn't even the pitcher California initially wanted, but I'll get to that on another post. Here, at least, we get a red, white, and blue color scheme for the Fourth.

Jim Fregosi was born and grew up in San Francisco where he excelled in four sports in high school. He was signed by the Red Sox in '60 and got off to a pretty good start in D ball and then in '61 was grabbed by the LA Angels in the expansion draft. For LA he would be their starting Triple A shortstop the next season-and-a-half. He hit ok, putting up a .283 average in '62, but fielding was a little problematic. Jim had a very strong arm and put up a decent amount of throwing errors. He played a bit late in '61 and then came up for good the second half of '62 and was given the starting job in '63. Through '70 he would be the league's best-hitting shortstop and his defense improved significantly so that by the middle of the '60's he and Bobby Knoop at second were one of the AL's best middle infield combination. During that time he received MVP votes every year, made six All-Star teams, and won a Gold Glove. He was the team's first true star and its most consistent hitter.

'71 was a perfect storm type of year for California. Fregosi, just off the best season in his career, got a tumor on his foot, missed a bunch of time, and was so constricted in his mobility that he put in some time at first base. Then came The Trade. After the crash and burn the Angels wanted to improve their pitching and revamp their outfield. The Mets desperately needed a third baseman and while Jim was damaged goods, they decided to take a shot. Pitcher number one wasn't available but Ryan wanted out of NY (his wife was terrified of the place), he had finished the season 2-10, and had put up nearly as many walks as strikeouts to date. So Jim was traded for Ryan, a couple minor leaguers, and Leroy Stanton, a pretty hot outfield prospect. When the year opened he was the third base starter but his unfamiliarity with the position, being in a new league, and permanent damage from his tumor combined to produce a season as bad as '71's. In July of '73 the Mets decided to put the experience behind them and sold Jim to Texas. Back in the AL his numbers picked up substantially, but nowhere near where they were in his prime. Beginning in '74 Jim would play primarily first and DH a bit, both in supporting roles. In '77 he went to the Pirates for Ed Kirkpatrick and had a good year as a pinch hitter. He was then released in the summer of '78 so that he could pursue his next career. Lifetime Jim hit .265 with 151 homers and 756 RBIs. His OBA was .338 which, while not over-the-top great, was way higher than average at the time for shortstops.

In '78 Jim returned to the Angels as their manager and took a good team to a second place finish. In '79 he led them to their first division title. He would stick in Anaheim through '81 and then move to: Louisville as manager ('82 to '86); the White Sox as manager ('86 to '88); the Phillies as manager ('91 to '96); the Giants as a special assistant/scout ('97 to '99); Toronto as manager ('99 to 2000); and the Braves as a scout ('01 to present). His career record as a manager up top is 1,028-1,095.

Jim gets one star bullet and it's pretty good, He also hit for the cycle twice during his career. I guess he dropped that salesman gig pretty quickly.

We are still on an all-AL swing:

1. Fregosi and Bobby Knoop '64 to '69 Angels;
2. Knoop and Carlos May '69 to '70 White Sox.

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