ATLANTA — Jim Fregosi’s big-league career got off to a real quiet start. His first three at-bats, as a teenager for the expansion Los Angeles Angels, he hit grounders back to perennial Gold Glove pitcher Jim Kaat.
Over the next half-century, Fregosi made a lot more noise in the majors.
Fregosi, a six-time All-Star shortstop who went on to manage the Angels to their first playoff appearance and guide the rowdy 1993 Philadelphia Phillies into the World Series, died Friday after an apparent stroke. He was 71.
Popular on and off the field, full of opinions and an outsized personality, Fregosi could argue with the best of them. He could also laugh at himself, and would poke fun at his part in one of baseball’s most-lopsided trades — the deal that sent him to the New York Mets for a young, wild pitcher named Nolan Ryan.
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The Atlanta Braves said they were notified by a family member that Fregosi died early Friday in Miami, where he was hospitalized after an apparent stroke while on a cruise with baseball alumni.
Fregosi ended more than 50 years in baseball as a special assistant to Braves general manager Frank Wren, who said Fregosi “lit up a room and had just great relationships throughout the game.”
Along with the Phillies and Angels — where he was reunited with Ryan and made the playoffs in 1979 — Fregosi managed the Chicago White Sox and Toronto. He took over the White Sox in the middle of the 1986 season after Tony La Russa was fired, and was hired by the Blue Jays after manager Tim Johnson was dismissed during spring training in 1999 for lying about his military service record.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig spoke of Fregosi’s widespread relationships in the game.
“The outpouring of support in recent days illustrates the vast respect that Jim earned in a great baseball life,” Selig said.
Fregosi was an infielder in the majors from 1961 to 1978, hitting .265 with 151 homers and 706 runs batted in. His best seasons came with the Angels.
The Angels retired Fregosi’s No. 11 in 1988 and said he was a personal favorite of former owner Gene Autry.
In 15 seasons as a manager, he posted a 1,028-1,094 record.
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