An Appreciation

March 14, 2014



I was saddened by the passing of Jim Fregosi in February. He’s most noted in baseball history as having been traded for Nolan Ryan. At the time, Fregosi was an All-Star infielder for the Angels while Ryan was a very wild, hard-throwing young pitcher that the Mets didn’t really know what to do with. They vacillated between starting and relieving him and in fact during the 1969 Miracle Mets championship run he was used as both. Anyway, once Ryan arrived in California the Angels decided to let him start despite his wildness, and the rest, as they say, is history. Ryan became one of the most celebrated pitchers ever, and on the force of that Fregosi ostensibly became a footnote, which is a shame because he was one of the best players at his position for half a decade before the trade. After his playing career ended he became a successful manager, twice taking his teams to the playoffs and once, with the 1993 Phillies who personified Fregosi’s larger than life personality, to the World Series. For the last 13 years of his life he had been a scout for the Atlanta Braves.


For much of my life, Fregosi was an afterthought. As a fan of the game, when it comes to its history, it’s only natural to focus on the Hall of Famers and the road they took to get there. Fregosi had been just a name in Nolan Ryan’s bio. That changed for me on a morning in late June of 2004.


I was at Camden Yards preparing to score a day game between the Orioles and Braves. It was a few hours before start time so the pressbox was largely empty. One advantage of being a scorer is that you have one of the best seats in the house, directly behind home plate. So when Fregosi walked in to check out the best places to watch the game, naturally he sat down right next to me. We exchanged pleasantries and since I was basically the only other person there he was curious why I wasn’t downstairs in the clubhouses talking with the players. I explained my job, how I recorded every event that happened in the game and reported it to the Major League offices in New York in real time. During a pause in our conversation I instant messaged the scoring supervisor in New York that I was talking with Jim Fregosi. I won’t say the supervisor’s name, or describe how people felt about working with him… suffice it to say that his name rhymes with “yank”.


Anyway, he IMed back that when he was a kid Jim Fregosi was one of his favorite players and that he had all his baseball cards. I relayed this information to Fregosi thinking that his response would make my supervisor’s day, which in turn would make my day at the office a little less confrontational. “Fuck him! Little bastard trying to make me feel old,” he fired back with a knowing smirk. I laughed. I have no doubt Jim would have been genial and appreciative had this sentiment come from a kid, but from a man in his 40s? Damn straight. I replied to New York that while Jim was appreciative of the sentiment that he likely would not be available to sign any memorabilia. From that moment on Jim was one of my favorite people in the history of the game.


Before their first spring training game against each other this year, the Phillies and Braves held a ceremony celebrating his life and memorializing him with a number of speeches from team mates and friends. Unanimously they spoke of his passion for the game, his joy for life and his openness to share his ideas and unvarnished opinions. I discovered this first hand almost ten years ago. It’s a point in time I treasure because it showed me that straightforwardness and honesty still have value, although perhaps not as much as I’d like. The world needs more Jim Fregosis, especially since the original is now gone.