CLEARWATER -- It seems like everybody has a story about Jim Fregosi.
The former All-Star shortstop and long-time big-league manager was a big man with a larger-than-life personality. So when Fregosi died Friday morning at age 71 following multiple strokes, he left a sizable hole in the hearts of those who knew him best in the Phillies organization.
"It's tough," said Larry Bowa, who was the third-base coach on the 1993 Phillies team Fregosi managed. "This one caught a lot of people off guard."
The Phillies boast World Series titles in 1980 and 2008, but team chairman Bill Giles said his "fondest memory" in his 75 years in baseball is Fregosi sparking their surprising run to the 1993 pennant. Nobody expected the Phillies to pull it off, with Bowa calling it a "miracle."
"I'll never forget that team," Giles said.
Several members of that 1993 Phillies team, including relievers Mitch Williams and Larry Andersen, labeled Fregosi as a father figure. They said he was a great teacher and leader who was always honest, and never shy of an argument. John Kruk said he was a "perfect manager" for the team's colorful roster, knowing when to leave them alone and when to "jump on our asses."
"In 1993 The City of Brotherly Love changed the world," former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton said. Fregos was the driving force!!!"
Fregosi played 18 seasons in the majors, including six All-Star game appearances. He managed the White Sox, Angels, Phillies and Blue Jays, with Giles admitting he considered bringing him back in 2007, when Philadelphia hired Charlie Manuel. Fregosi spent the past 14 seasons as a special assistant to the general manager with the Braves.
Fregosi's wife Joni, daughters Nikki, Lexy and Jennifer and sons Robert and Jim were at his bedside when he died.
"I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jim Fregosi, who contributed to the success of our Clubs for 53 years as an All-Star player with the Angels, a pennant-winning manager with the Phillies, a trusted scout with the Braves and many other capacities," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said. "The outpouring of support in recent days illustrates the vast respect that Jim earned in a great baseball life. The many Clubs that he touched are in mourning today."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TBTimes_JSmith.