When Ruben Amaro Jr. was trying to establish himself as a big league player 22 years ago, it was Jim Fregosi who wrote the current general manager's name in the batting order.
The following season, Amaro watched as Fregosi took a cast of veteran misfits and made them the best team in the National League. Amaro, like everyone else in the Phillies organization, loved Fregosi like a family member.
And like everyone else in baseball, Amaro was devastated with the news that the 71-year-old Fregosi passed away early Friday morning after an apparent stroke.
Amaro choked through tears as he remembered the former Phillies manager.
"These last couple days have been very difficult for the Phillies organization, the Phillies family and me on a personal basis," Amaro said. "Jimmy is a very good friend. ...Baseball lost a great person and a great baseball man today. Prayers go out to the family and Jimmy’s many, many friends. Not many personalities like Jim Fregosi Sr. I’m indebted to him for a number of reasons, personally. Jimmy gave me an opportunity to come back and play here in Philly. ... He’s a special person. He’ll always be in our hearts."
Amaro wasn't the only one to emerge from the Phillies offices to remember his friend early Friday morning. Larry Bowa, the third base coach for Fregosi's '93 National League championship team, also shared fond memories of Fregosi.
"He was an unbelievable baseball guy," Bowa said. "It didn't matter who you were on the roster - the 25th guy or the superstar - he was unbelievable to work for. On that particular team, it was a team that nobody expected to win. That was almost like a miracle that he kept everybody together. He let players police themselves. He picked a couple of players out of the locker room. This is a tough day for me. He was a great person. A great person."
Phillies team president David Montgomery, who will addressthe media shortly, issued a statement through the team this morning:
“Everyone in the Phillies organization is deeply saddened about the news of Jim’s passing. We, and so many others in the game, have lost a dear friend. He’ll be remembered for his vibrant personality, wisdom and love of the game. Our deepest sympathy is extended to his widow, Joni, daughters Nikki, Lexy and Jennifer and sons Robert and Jim.”
Here's more from a number of other members of the Phillies organization:
“Jim Fregosi will be deeply missed in the baseball world. Joni and the rest of the family are in our prayers. Fregos, was the best manager I’ve ever played for. Our relationship was so special….and he was the one that taught me how to be a leader. Fregos and I could relate to each other whether we were in the clubhouse or on the field. In 1993 The City of Brotherly Love changed the world…..Fregos was the driving force!!!”
“Jim Fregosi was not only one of the most respected men in baseball, he was a great man. He was a player’s manager. He had that special gift as a manager that made you want to get to the field and play your ass off for him. Jim Fregosi was the reason that 1993 was one of the most exciting years in Philadelphia sports history.”
“Jimmy was the perfect manager for our team. He knew exactly when to leave us alone and exactly when to jump our asses when it was needed…and along the way he became our friend.”
“Jimmy was the best manger I ever had the honor of playing for. He was a man who was happy every time in ever saw him. My career was less than spectacular, but would have even been more mediocre if not for Jim. The word that defines him best is trust! He trusted everyone to do their jobs. I was a manager’s nightmare, but Jim trusted that I would get the job done. He made all his players better because his trust gave us confidence. He would hand me the ball in the 9th and go up the tunnel and smoke and say let me know when it's over. He trusted me. He once said that ‘Mitch doesn't have an ulcer, but he is definitely a carrier.’ I loved Jimmy and his wife Joni. They both lived to be happy. I can't express the sorrow I feel for Joni, and Jimmy's 5 kids. He was like a father to me, and I was just a player. I can only imagine the kind of father he was to his own kids.”
“I am deeply saddened today about the news of Jim Fregosi. He was a dear friend, and father figure to me throughout my baseball career. He gave me my first opportunity to play in the Major Leagues and taught me how to be a professional baseball player on and off the field. My prayers go out to Joni, Jim, Jr. and the rest of the Fregosi family. He was a great baseball man and he will be missed severely.”
“Playing for Jim Fregosi was like playing for your Dad, except he always claimed I was older than him. He was a tremendous manager and a huge reason the 93 team was as good as it was. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts and prayers go out to Joni and the kids”
“The thing about Jim is he was your friend but there is a line that you don’t cross when he is the manager and everyone knew the line. He was the best manager I had played for! I will never forget him and what he gave me in the short period of time we were together.”
“I don’t know what I can say about Jim Fregosi that anybody in baseball doesn’t already know. WHAT A GREAT AND KIND MAN! I can tell you what he meant to me: He was always honest with me and spoke in a way that made me feel so confident in what I was doing. He always believed in the ability that I had. He made baseball FUN!!!!”
"What a great leader. Jim led a group of guys who weren't supposed to do anything to a National League Championship. He wasn't afraid to tell a player the truth and I respected him for that. He will be missed."
"Jim was a man's man and a player's manager, but most importantly he was a great friend."
“Not only was Jim a great players’ manager to play for, but he was also a father figure to all of his players. He not only cared about you on the field, but he cared more about how you and your family were doing off the field. He was a special man. He will be deeply missed. God Bless his soul and my condolences to his family.”
“I couldn't have asked for a better first manager in the big leagues. Jim was the master at dealing with different clubhouse personalities. From the biggest to the smallest. Even though I was a rookie in 1993, Jim made me feel like a veteran from the first day I was called up. Jim wanted his players to succeed, not only to help the team but he understood that baseball was a career choice and he would have done anything to help you on that path. He will be missed.”
“Jim was a great baseball man and a special friend. He will always be fondly remembered for his handling of the Phillies 1993 team that made it to the World Series.”
“Jim was someone everyone enjoyed being around. He was a very smart man with a good sense of humor and a tremendous love for his family. He will be thought of and missed by his many friends, both in and out of Major League Baseball. My wife, Doris, and I pass along our condolences to his family.”
“Jimmy was a very good friend of mine. I loved talking baseball with him because we shared a lot of the same philosophies about the game, especially when it came to managing, and we both care deeply about the Phillies. I’m going to miss him and our fishing trips together. Missy and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family.”
“Jimmy was a man who loved life, his family and the game of baseball. He had many opinions and loved a good argument. In many ways, he was a larger than life character with a tremendous, self-deprecating sense of humor. When asked how the Mets could have traded a young Nolan Ryan for him, he would bellow, ‘What were they thinking. Didn't they know I was done’! We've lost a good friend. Our game has lost a great ambassador.”
"Lee Thomas brought Jim and I on board in 1989 and it is a friendship that I've valued for the past twenty-plus years. Jim's magnetism and larger that life personality drew people to him. And, along with that outgoing spirit, Jim possessed a genuine sense of kindness and generosity. Today, we remember not only a good baseball man, but also a great human being."
“There are so many memories of Jim. Probably the one that stands out happened in the Executive Dining Room at the Vet years ago. We were having lunch before a trade announcement. I brought up some questions he may get asked. He slid his reading glasses to the end of his nose, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Baron, I don’t need your coaching.’ My response was simple, you’re right.”