Upon his death Friday, however, I learned just how good he was -- an outstanding, gold-glove caliber shortstop on an otherwise average team. A .265 hitter, he also had 151 home runs over an 18-year career. He was anything but a light-hitting shortstop, batting in the middle of the lineup for many years. Heck, the Angels retired his No. 11 jersey.
Mostly I remember him as a manager, first with the Angels and then with the White Sox, Phillies and Blue Jays. And he was pretty decent, leading the Angels to their first playoff appearance in 1979 and the Phillies to the 1993 National League pennant. In 15 years as a manager, his teams won 1,028 games. (Ok, they also lost 1,094 games.)
The Angels were a good match for my favorite team in 1969, the one-year wonders known as the Seattle Pilots. One of the great things about the 1969 APBA reprint set is that it includes a card for every player that year. The Pilots, in all their ineptitude, practically overflow the team card envelope, with 45 marvelous players to choose from. Of course, many of those are for D pitchers and other guys even I've never heard of.
My affinity for this lowly Pilots squad that tallied a 64-98 record during their single season in Seattle is that it allowed car dealer Bud Selig to whisk them away to Milwaukee, where they became the Brewers, my favorite team. Among the players who went on to endure some of those brutal early years in Milwaukee were Tommy Harper, Mike Hegan, Skip Lockwood, and Gene Brabender, a Wisconsin native who suffered 15 loses in the Brew Crew's inaugural season.
As often happens, this week's news about Fregosi made me look up his APBA card and find a game to replay. On Sept. 12, 1969 the Angels and the Pilots managed to tie 1-1 in a 10-inning game that was the second game of a doubleheader at Sick's Field. Perfect!
With Fregosi batting third, as usual that season, the Angels managed to win the replay 4-1. Pitcher Rickey Clark (DW) got the win, which would have been his first and only that season in his lone start. Ken Tatum finished the eighth and retired the Pilots in the ninth for the save.
Fregosi went 0-for-4, getting on base in the first inning on a two-base error by second baseman John Donaldson. Sandy Alomar and Jim Spencer, two other Angels regulars from that era, provided the bulk of the Angels offense in the replay. Alomar, the leadoff hitter, got on base three times, stole three bases and scored three runs, two of them on singles by Spencer, who drove in three runs.
Also noteworthy in the Angels' lineup was Aurelio Rodriguez, one of my favorite APBA players over the years. First, I had no idea Rodriguez played for the Angels. He'll always be the Tigers third baseman to me. Second, though he was never a high-average hitter (.237 lifetime), he always seems to come through in the clutch. And it never hurt that he was a gold-glover at third. In this replay, he contributed as usual, reaching base on an error and scoring.
For the Pilots, Lockwood got the loss, though only allowing a pair of runs in his five innings. First baseman Don "The Mule" Mincher drove in Steve Hovley for the Pilots' lone score. The Pilots totalled only four hits. No wonder only 5,085 turned out for the game!