Early this morning Jim Fregosi, a six time All Star infielder who went on to have a long and successful managerial career died at the age of 71 after suffering a series of strokes.
As a member of the California Angels, Fregosi was one of the better shortstops in the American League during the 1960′s to early ’70′s. He won the Gold Glove Award for his defense in 1967 and still holds the Angels franchise record for triples (70).
Fregosi will always infamously be known in the annals of Mets history as the player the Mets received in return for Nolan Ryan on December 10th 1971. At the time Fregosi was still considered one of the better infielders in the game – even though he missed most of the ’71 season with a tumor in his foot.
In Peter Golenbock’s book Amazin – The Miraculous History of New York’s Most Beloved Baseball Team, Bob Scheffing, the then Mets General Manager said of the Ryan/Fregosi deal, “We really thought we had a chance to win the pennant if we could get a third baseman. Fregosi had been one of the outstanding shortstops in the American League for years. We didn’t think he would have any trouble shifting to third.”
But the word trouble and Fregosi would go hand in hand. When Fregosi came into Spring Training in ’72 he was overweight and out of shape. Mets manager, Gil Hodges helped Jim try to acclimate himself to third base with some fielding exercises. Gil would hit balls to Jim everyday – but on one fateful crack of Gil’s fungo bat – a ball took a bad bounce and hit Fregosi’s thumb and broke it. Jim would be sidelined for the rest of Spring Training with a cast on his thumb.
Fregosi rushed back to play even though his thumb hadn’t fully healed. He ended up batting a paltry .232 with 5 homers and 32 RBI in 101 games for the season. The Mets would end up selling Fregosi to the Texas Rangers that offseason where he ended his career as a backup… and that pitcher, Nolan Ryan, became one of the most dominant pitchers of his era.
Jim Fregosi may never have panned out the way that the Mets fans or the front office would have hoped, but when you read the tributes and testimonials that have been bestowed upon him by his peers as well as the players that he has managed and scouted later in his career, you could see he was a very special man. My condolences go out to his family.
And with that said…. HERE COMES THE INFAMY!!!
Mets alumni celebrating a birthday today include:
Reserve catcher from ’94-’95 ( and briefly in ’06), Kelly Stinnett is 44 (1970).
Other notable transactions include:
The New York Mets signed free agent spot starter/roster filler José Lima on February 14, 2006. And so the term “LIMA TIME!” was officially coined.
The Baltimore Orioles signed starting pitcher, Steve Trachsel of the New York Mets as a free agent on February 14, 2007.
The New York Mets signed free agent starting pitcher, Livan Hernandez of the Colorado Rockies on February 14, 2009. Hernandez pitched mediocre for a bad Mets team. He finished the season with a record of 7-8 and a 5.47 ERA. The Mets released him on August 20th because the bonuses that the club worked into his contract were about to vest. ( Even though ownership and the front office denied it at the time.)
(Photo: Main Line Autographs)