TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jim Fregosi wore many uniforms during 18 seasons as a major league player and 15 as a major league manager, but Don Baylor believes that one meant more than the rest.
"He had Angels written on his chest, on his forehead, everywhere," Baylor said. "He was an Angel."
Baylor, who has returned to the Angels as the hitting coach, played for the team during Fregosi's four-year tenure as manager. Baylor joined with the rest of baseball in mourning Fregosi's death early Friday morning after suffering multiple strokes. He was 71.
The Angels, who retired Fregosi's No. 11 in recognition of his work as a manager and a six-time All-Star shortstop, released a statement praising him for his contributions.
"His personality was infectious, his love of the game legendary, and his knowledge endless," the statement read in part.
Jackie Autry, the widow of longtime Angels owner Gene Autry, said in a statement that Fregosi was one of her husband's favorite players.
"In many ways the Cowboy considered him like his son," Jackie Autry said. "It was Jim who inspired the team to win its first divisional title in 1979 and for that Gene and I will be forever grateful. Like Gene, Jim was passionate about the game, played hard, was always a leader and was well respected by his teammates."
Baylor, who was a member of the 1979 team, said Fregosi's style played a significant role in leading the team to the playoffs.
"I never like to use the word 'player's manager, but he was,'" Baylor said. "He knew when you needed a day off, which I didn't want to take. He had the pulse of the club right away."
Bobby Knoop said he knew years earlier that Fregosi would make a good manager. Knoop and Fregosi teamed up in the middle of the Angels infield through the 1960s.
"I don't think there was a doubt in anyone's mind (he'd manage)," said Knoop, now the Angels' infield coordinator. "He would have played as long as he could play on an everyday basis, but if that career would have ended at 23, he could have managed then. He had a tremendous passion for the game. He understood the game. He loved the game. He loved the Angels."
Manager Mike Scioscia, who led the Angels to their first World Series title 23 years after Fregosi got them to the playoffs for the first time, said Fregosi "put our organization on the map."
"He planted a lot of seeds that are still alive and well in our organization about the way the game should be played," Scioscia said. "He was a great baseball man and an even better person. We're definitely going to miss him."
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