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Fregosi remembered for passion, baseball acumen

Former player, manager and scout gave much to the game during his 53-year career

As word of the passing of longtime player, manager and scout Jim Fregosi spread across baseball Spring Training camps Friday morning, teams from both leagues offered their thoughts on the man who spent more than 50 years in the game.

"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," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "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."

Fregosi, who died Friday at the age of 71 following multiple strokes that he suffered during a Major League Baseball alumni cruise six days ago, began his pro baseball career when he was signed by the Red Sox as an amateur free agent in 1960. He spent 11 of his 18 playing years in baseball with the Angels' organization, while also making stops with the Rangers, Mets and Pirates. He was elected to six All-Star teams in seven seasons from 1964-70 while with the Angels.

"His honesty, his loyalty, his passion for the game," former teammate Bobby Knoop said of what made Fregosi stand out. "He didn't have any tattoos, but he'd cover your back."

After retiring from playing following the 1978 season, Fregosi immediately took the helm of the Angels and guided the team to a second-place finish in the American League West. They won the division the following year, and he managed the team through 1981.

"We all take it hard," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He not only put our organization on the map with the [division] championship in '79, but planted a lot of seeds that are still alive and well in our organization about the way the game should be played. He's a great baseball man and an even better person. We're definitely gonna miss him."

Fregosi managed the White Sox from 1986-88, the Phillies from 1991-96 (winning the National League pennant with the memorable 1993 club) and the Blue Jays from 1999-2000.

"Jimmy was the perfect manager for our team," former Phillie John Kruk said in a statement. "He knew exactly when to leave us alone and exactly when to jump our butts when it was needed … and along the way he became our friend."

Another former Phillie, pitcher David West, said he had several fond memories of Fregosi, but one thing in particular stood out.

"He had a look, a look without saying anything. But it said everything. You knew what he expected from you from that look," said West, who played under Fregosi from 1993-96.

Said Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who became emotional while speaking on the subject: "These last couple days have been very difficult for the Phillies' organization, the Phillies' family and me on a personal basis. Baseball lost a great person and a great baseball man today. Prayers go out to the family and Jimmy's many, many friends."

Fregosi interviewed in 2004 for the Phillies' job, but it was ultimately given to Charlie Manuel. By that time, he was working as a special assistant to the general manager with the Braves. He held that role for the last 13 years.

"Jim was one of the most valuable guys for me in that I talked to him all the time," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "He had such a wealth of knowledge and he was such a positive force. He scouted all 30 teams for us. He had great knowledge of putting teams together. He was one of those guys you called and then you felt uplifted and encouraged."

Braves president John Schuerholz said the team intends to "honor him in the most appropriate ways," though the Braves haven't decided what it will be yet.

"He gave a lot to the game no matter what uniform he was in, no matter whether he was a player, a coach or a scout," Schuerholz said. "Some people say he could have managed again right now. He was so smart and knew the game so well. I agree with that. He was just a remarkable man and a dear friend. It's a sad day. He didn't grow into this personality. I think he was born with it. I think he had that personality when he was born. Those of us who had the privilege to get to know him well on a personal basis and a friendship basis, blessed."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.