Jim Fregosi: Former Met Who Was Traded for Nolan Ryan in One of the Worst Deals Ever Made (1972 - 1973)

James Louis Fregosi was born on April 4, 1942 in San Francisco, California. His parents Archie & Margaret owned a grocery store in San Mateo. Jim worked there & as a bus boy early in life.

Fregosi played both baseball & football in high school. The six-foot one right hand hitter was originally drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1960. 

He was then drafted away by the newly formed Los Angeles Angels in the 1960 expansion draft.

MLB Career- Angels: In the first decade of the Angels existence, Fregosi was the team’s first star player & the team's most popular figure. 

Fregosi was one of the best all-around short stops of the sixties, in a time where the position had many light hitters.

Fregosi won a Gold Glove in 1967 & was teamed up with second baseman Bobby Koop, to form one of the league’s best double play combos. 

In 1967 they became only the third middle infield duo to both win Gold Glove Awards. They would lead the AL in double plays turned twice. As for Fregosi, he led the league in games played three times & assists once time.

Along with all the good play chances, comes the errors at that position & Fregosi was in the Top three percent of the league in that category five times from 1963-1968.

As mentioned, he was also a good hitter & one of the Angels earliest stars. In 1963, Fregosi hit .287 (ninth in the AL) came in second in the league in triples (12) and was fifth in hits (170) for the ninth-place club.

In 1964 he made the first of six All-Star squads while batting .277 with 18 HRs 22 doubles a 369 on base % & 72 RBIs. That year he received his highest ranking for the MVP Award (13th), it must be noted he was considered in the top 30 votes eight straight years.

On July 28, 1964, he became the first Angels hitter to hit for the cycle, it came in a game against the AL New York team in a 3-1 victory. That game was won by Picher; Dean Chance, the 1964 Cy Young Award Winner, another L.A. Angels early star player. Fregosi would hit for the cycle again four years later.

He remained consistent the next two years driving in over 65 runs, with 15 & 13 HRs respectively. In 1966 he played in every game, hitting 13 HRs with 7 RBIs & a career high 32 doubles. He would hit over thirty doubles twice & have twenty or more doubles seven times in his career.

In 1967 his HR total fell below double figures for the first time since becoming a regular player. But he hit for a career best .290 (seventh in the league) with a .349 on base % 9 HRs 23 doubles & 56 RBIs.

The next year he led the league in triples (13) but his average fell to just .244 as his all around productivity fell off just as moa hitters, in the '"Year of the Pitcher" (9 HRs 21 doubles & 49 RBIs). He also struck out over 100 times (101) for the third time in his career. He would post 1097 Ks in his career.

In 1969 he improved to .260 with 12 HRs, 22 doubles & 47 RBIs while playing in 161 games.

In 1970 he had his best season, with career highs in HRs (22) doubles (33) RBIs (82) & runs scored (95) while batting .278 with a .353 on base%. That

That season the Angels finished third behind the Minnesota Twins & Oakland A's. It was the teams second straight season posting a third place finish, as they went 86-76.

In 1971 Fregosi missed some playing time when he was diagnosed with a tumor in his foot. In 107 games he hit .233 with 5 HRs 15 doubles & 33 RBIs.

The Nolan Ryan Trade: Meanwhile, the New York the Mets were looking for a solution for their third base problems. The team was plagued with issues at the hot corner since their 1962 inaugural season. The organization still wasn’t sold on Wayne Garrett as it's solution., while the acquisitions of Joe Foy (1970) & Bob Aspromonte (1971) never worked out.

The Angels weren’t sure about Fregosi's health and certainly liked what they saw in he Mets young flame thrower Nolan Ryan. Ryan wasn't happy in New York & wasn't Gil Hodges most popular pitcher on a talented staff. Although he had some shining moments, he was still wild & had a lot of walks. 

The Mets needed power in their lineup, Manager Hodges was also perusing Montreal's Rusty Staub. He laid the groundwork for a trade that would also bring him to New York for the 1972 season.

On December 10th 1971 a deal was worked out, Jim Fregosi was sent to the New York Mets in exchange for Nolan Ryan Leroy Stanton, Frank Estrada, & Don Rose.

Fregosi left the California franchise as one of their best players up to that point in the team's history. He eventually had his uniform number retired there & held the franchise record in triples (70) ranking high on the Angels all-time list in games played, hits, doubles, & RBIs.

For the New York Mets it was too become known as one of the worst trades the organization would ever make. Nolan Ryan certainly wasn't happy in the big city of New York & even considered retiring if he wasn't traded. One can only imagine how the staff would have been with Ryan in his prime along with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman & Jon Matlack through the seventies.


Fregosi was excited about the trade to New York. But in Spring Training he injured his thumb & the change of positions from short to third as well as the new surroundings had him struggle from the start.

Quotes- Jim Fregosi: "It's hard to adjust to a new position & when you change leagues there's a whole new set of ballparks & pitchers to contend with. After you've been in one league for ten seasons you know the pitchers as well as you're going to know them. Here I have to learn two or three new things in every game". 

Mets Career-1972: Fregosi made his Mets debut wearing uniform #2 as their 1972 Opening Day third baseman batting in the sixth position. On this somber rainy New York afternoon, the Mets retired Gil Hodges uniform #14 in pre-game ceremony. 

At the end of Spring Training, Hodges suddenly passed away from a fatal heart attack, shocking the organization.

In Fregosi's first Mets a bat he doubled off the Pirates; Doc Ellis driving in Rusty Staub with the season's first run. Tom Seaver led the Mets to a 4-0 rain shortened win. 

On April 23rd, Fregosi hit his first Mets HR, it came off the Cubs Milt Papas in an 8-2 victory over Chicago at Shea Stadium.

On April 26th in San Diego, he helped Tom Seaver to his third straight victory, with a three run
HR off the Padres Bill Grief in a 5-1 Mets win.

In his first month as a Met he hit two HRs with six RBIs but was hitting just .233.

On May 1st the slow-footed Fregosi hit a triple at the vast Candlestick Park in San Francisco, he later collected an RBI single in the Mets 7-4 win. Fregosi would hit four triples on the year.

On May 7th he contributed to a five run Mets home 8th inning, hitting an RBI double & scoring on a Duffy Dyer double. In this game the Mets came from behind 6-0 to beat the Padres 7-6 in ten innings. 

On May 15th, he came to bat in a 2-2 game against the Expos at Shea Stadium facing John Stromayer. He hit a three run HR leading the Mets to a 5-3 win. In the three-game sweep of the Expos, Fregosi had seven hits with six RBIs & was batting .306 in the midst of a seven-game hit streak.

But soon he began to get sidelined by several injuries including a broken thumb later in the season.

Five RBI Game: On June 27th, he had his biggest day as a Met in a 7-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Shea Stadium. In the bottom of the 1st inning, he singled with the bases loaded off Bruce Kison bringing in the first two Mets runs. Fregosi later hit a three run HR off former Met Bob Miller, it was his first HR in six weeks. 

Later in the week he drove in runs in three straight games including drawing a walk with the bases loaded in Tom Seaver 2-0 one hit shut out over the Padres at Shea Stadium in a July 4th double header.

At the All-Star break Fregosi was batting .238 with just five HRs, as the Mets were in second place 5 ½ games back of the Pirates. Between the injuries & batting slumps Fregosi didn't hit any more HRs & drove in just five more runs all year.

On the field he struggled at third base defensively, making 15 errors in 85 games (.935 fielding %). Overall, in 101 games he hit a dismal .232 with 5 HRs 15 doubles 4 triples & 32 RBIs. He struck out 71 times with 38 walks. He posted a .311 on base % & .655 OPS, certainly not what the Met fans were expecting.

He soon heard the Shea boo birds at Shea Stadium & got pounded by the media. The organization was also ridiculed, especially as Nolan Ryan kept throwing no hitters & striking out batters in Southern California.

That off season he realized he was playing out of shape in the 1972 season. He later admitted he was living the good life but paid for it on the field. He didn't drink any alcohol for four months & tried to get back in better shape.

1973 Mets Pennant Season: Fregosi started out 1973 as the opening day third baseman once again, he stared out the year with three hits in the first two games & was batting .226 at the end of April. 

He drove in runs in three straight games in May which were all Mets losses. He began to see less playing time as he was batting under .200 with just eight RBIs at the end of May. Starting on June 13th, he had eight hits in a four-game span, but it was the only time he hit all season with the Mets.
His stay wouldn’t last too much longer & he would be long gone before the Mets won the NL Pennant. 

After playing 45 games in the '73 season, he still didn’t have a HR, was hitting just .238 with 11 RBIs. The Mets had enough, on July 11th, 1973, Fregosi was sold to the Texas Rangers ending his short disastrous stay in New York that went down in history as one of he worst deals ever made. The Fregosi Trade haunted the Mets forever.

Supposedly the trade made the Mets brass to scared to even pull the trigger on a trade for slugger Jimmy Wynn after the 1973 pennant season. They badly needed another power hitter RBI man like "the toy cannon" Jimmy Wynn, but they did nothing. They did not want to part with any of their young pitching talent in fear of what happened with the Ryan trade.

Trivia:  Jimmy Wynn went on to hit 32 HRs (third in the NL) in 1974 with 108 RBIs (4th in the NL) and he led the Los Angeles Dodgers to the World Series.

For the 1973 Mets Wayne Garrett took over third base again, having his best season & getting to his second World Series.

Fregosi was now in his early thirties; he would play third, short & first base with the Rangers from 1973-1977. In 1975 he saw the most action (77 games) batting .262 with 7 HRs 33 RBIs & a .727 OPS for managers Billy Martin & later Frank Lucchesi for a good Rangers team that ended up finishing third. 

In June 1977 Fregosi was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for catcher Ed Kirkpatrick.

By 1980 his old boss, the California Angels owner Gene Aury, "the singing Cowboy" wanted him as the team's manager. The Pirates released him so he could take the opportunity.

Playing Career Stats: In his 18-year playing career, Fregosi batted .265 with 1726 hits 264 doubles 78 triples 151 HRs 706 RBIs & 844 runs scored. He struck out 1097 times with 715 walks a .338 on base % & .736 OPS in 1902 games played.

At short stop he played 1396 games (76th most all time) turning 836 double plays (70th all time) with 4169 assists & 2397 put outs. He also played in 190 games at first base & 183 games at third base.

Retirement- Manager: In 1978 he became the California Angels' manager at just 36 years of age. Fregosi went 62-55 in 117 games at the helm and tied with his old Texas Rangers team for second place behind the Kansas City Royals. 

In 1979 he led the Angels to a 88-74 record, winning the franchise’s first AL West title. They would go on to lose the ALCS to the Baltimore Orioles. 

After Nolan Ryan's departure from California at the end of the season, the club dropped back into sixth place in 1980. In the first half of the 1981 strike shortened season, Fregosi was eventually replaced by Gene Mauch.

In 1986 he got another chance to manage, this time with the Chicago White Sox, replacing Tony LaRussa. Fregosi led the Sox to three straight fifth place finishes & was released there after the 1988 season.

In 1991 he returned to managing, this time in the NL with the Philadelphia Phillies. After a sixth place 1992 season, he led the 1993 Phils to their first World Series berth since 1950. 

That year they won 97 regular season games, shocked the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS but then lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series is six games.

Fregosi was always a target for the Philadelphia media in those days. He was especially criticized for relying too much on veteran players. After posting losing seasons through the next two seasons, he was fired & replaced by Terry Francona in 1997. In 2000 Fregosi had his last managing job with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Post Managerial Career: After that Fregosi became a long-time scout and most recently was special assistant to the GM for the Atlanta Braves.

Family: Jim married his first wife Janet in 1962 together they had two children, Jim Jr. & Jennifer Fregosi. His first marriage ended after his playing career ended.

Jim married his second wife Joni in 1986 & they raised three children in Florida.


Passing: In February 2014 he suffered a series of strokes while on an MLB alumni cruise. He was placed on life support in a Miami hospital. 

On February 13th he was taken off life support & passed away the next day, he was 71.

Honors:  Fregosi is inducted in the Italian /American Sports Hall of Fame.

At Spring Training 2014, in Clearwater, Florida- Jim Fregosi & his family were honored by the Phillies. Former Phillies he managed; Mickey Morandini, John Kruk, Darren Daulton & Milt Thompson were all on hand. 

Ten different baseball people that day wore uniforms to honor the organizations where Fregosi had played or managed.

Lee Thomas wore Fregosi's California Angels jersey jays
while Roger McDowell donned a New York Mets uniform top.

The others were- Pete Mackanin (Texas Rangers) Kent Tekulve (Pittsburgh Pirates), Bobby Knopp (Angels), Terry Pendleton (Louisville Redbirds), Greg Walker (Chicago White Sox), Gary Hughes (San Francisco Giants) and Gordon Ash (Toronto Blue Jays).

Comments

Dan said…
I really enjoy these posts, thanks. Didn't know the Mets had a deal going for the Toy Cannon! Ryan for Fregosi was certainly a terrible trade, based on what Ryan became.

Overall, however I think the Scott Kazmir trade for Victor Zambrano is the worst trade the Mets ever made. A healthy Kazmir in the rotation and the Mets probably get to (and win) the WS in 2006. I'd be willing to wager that those collapses in 07 and 08 would never have occurred either.

I'd put Ryan for Fregosi at #3 overall in terms of worst trade, behind the Kazmir and the Seaver trades.

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