His Phillies teams lost 32 more games than they won. In fact, they had only one winning season during his tenure.
But what a season that was. In 1993, Fregosi extracted excellence from an unlikely cast of colorful characters to come within two games of a World Series championship. The Phillies won 97 games that season. What makes their success unlikely is that fact they were 22 games under .500 the previous season and would find themselves seven games under .500 when a players strike ended the following season.
This was a dismal period in Phillies history. They failed to turn in a winning record in any year of the 1990s, except 1993.
The best player on that team was Lenny Dykstra, the highly talented, highly volatile center fielder who had a career year that season, hitting .305 with 19 homers and 143 runs scored. He hit six more homers in 12 postseason games and finished second to Barry Bonds in the National League Most Valuable Player voting. He wouldn't come close to such numbers the rest of his career.
It was a team of key imports. Dykstra had come from the extremely talented and almost unanimously volatile New York Mets in 1990. First baseman John Kruk had come from the San Diego Padres in 1989 and hit .316 while scoring 100 runs in '93. Journeyman outfielder Pete Incaviglia arrived that season from the Houston Astros to hit 24 home runs in just 116 games. Jim Eisenreich arrived that season from the Kansas City Royals to hit .318 and play stellar defense in right field.
The pitching was much better than expected. Tommy Greene had won 20 games in four seasons previously, and won 16 in '93. Curt Schilling had won 18 games in five seasons previously, and won 16 in '93. Danny Jackson had won 21 games the four prior seasons, and won 12 in '93. Ben Rivera won 13 of his 30 wins over five major league seasons in '93. Wild Thing Mitch Williams recorded 43 of his 192 career saves in 11 years in '93.
Homegrown Phillie third baseman Dave Hollins had a great season, hitting .273 with 18 home runs and 104 runs scored. Hollins' home run and home-grown second baseman Mickey Morandini's triple, both off Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, proved to be the pennant-deciding hits in the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves.
And home-grown catcher Darren Daulton emerged from a career as mostly a backup to hit 24 home runs, drive in 105 runs and be the unquestioned team leader who held together this group of quirky personalities.
But it was Fregosi who pushed the buttons in just the right way. He made rookie Kevin Stocker his regular shortstop in July and solidified his infield defense. He masterfully juggled 20 pitchers, mostly unknowns or considered to have already seen their best days, over the course of the season. Their collective earn run average was 3.95, only sixth best of 14 league teams. But they repeatedly found a way in the clutch situations.
In the NLCS, Fregosi's upstarts beat the two-time league champion Braves, who had won a major league-high 104 games that year and boasted Hall of Famers Maddux and Tom Glavine, and probable Hall of Famer John Smoltz in their starting rotation. The Phillies won the pennant in six games, taking two of them in Atlanta.
This team came from baseball nowhere with a group of guys dubbed "Macho Row," a trash-talking, blue-collar bunch who showed the doubters when it counted. They were as signature Philadelphian as any Philadelphia sports team has been. Even falling to the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series on Joe Carter's famous series-ending home run couldn't dent a respect for this team few Philadelphia teams have known.
That's why when Jim Fregosi died Friday at age 71, true Phillies fans of that era felt it. He directed something unique, something special, that we aren't likely to see again in the same way. He'll be missed.
Ted Williams lives in Emmaus, PA and is a lifetime Phillies follower. He spent 20 years in print journalism, winning state and national awards. He covered the 1980 World Series, the first championship in Phillies history.Statistics: Baseballreference.com
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