Ex-Wildcat Francona lands Phillies job

By Staff and wire reports
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 31, 1996

The Associated Press
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Terry Francona was named the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday, replacing Jim Fregosi.


PHILADELPHIA - Terry Francona, an All-American at Arizona in 1980, was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday.

Francona, who won the 1980 Golden Spikes award as the nation's top college baseball player, said he wants his team to overachieve next season, which is probably the only way it will be any better than the past three seasons.

The Phillies, 190-231 since winning an unexpected NL pennant in 1993, will go with prospects in 1997, and aren't expected to spend large sums on veteran free agents who could provide immediate help.

''It's not starting over. It's a different direction,'' Francona said after general manager Lee Thomas announced the selection in the Phillies clubhouse. ''There are going to be a lot of young faces. There's going to be some rough spots.''

Thomas chose Francona over former Phillies shortstop Larry Bowa, who will not return as third-base coach, and former Kansas City Royals manager Hal McRae, who may become the Phillies' hitting coach.

''I started looking at Terry three or four years ago when he was managing in the Arizona Fall League,'' Thomas said. ''In the end, I just felt Terry Francona was the brightest guy, the guy who could have the (most) patience.''

Thomas said a number of baseball people - and one basketball player - endorsed Francona. Michael Jordan played under Francona during a brief flirtation with minor-league baseball.

''He was very high on Terry Francona,'' said Thomas, who added that Jordan called to offer his opinion unsolicited. ''He said, 'You've got a guy who can communicate with the players (and) who's organized and I'm giving you my vote.'''

Francona, 37, brings a lifetime of baseball knowledge but no major-league managerial experience to the job.

The son of former major leaguer Tito Francona, he was the first overall pick in the 1980 draft by the Montreal Expos.

But a serious knee injury during his rookie season with the Expos in 1982 made Francona a role player throughout the rest of a 10-year career that included stints with the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Cleveland.

''I wasn't playing, and at an early age, I started watching,'' he said. ''I watched, I kept my eyes open and I listened.''

The fact that Francona spent so much of his time in the majors on the bench will help him relate to marginal players, he said.

''I didn't play, and when you're 24, 25, it's devastating when all of a sudden you're not playing,'' he said. ''I think it also helps me to handle some players that are going through the same thing.''

Former UA head baseball coach Jerry Kindall said that Francona would have made good manager material regardless if he were on the bench.

"Even if he were an everyday player, he still would have picked up all the intricacies and nuances of managing," Kindall said. "He knows baseball."

After Francona ended his playing career, he was a hitting instructor for the Chicago White Sox farm system before being named manager of Chicago's Class A team at South Bend, Ind., in 1992, where he guided the team to a 73-64 record.

In 1993, he moved up to Class AA Birmingham, where he managed the team to the Southern League title. Francona, who coached Jordan at Birmingham in 1994, went 223-203 in three seasons with the Barons.

He also won several awards: Southern League and Baseball America's minor league manager of the year awards in 1993 and Baseball America's top managerial prospect in1994.

"Terry has been such an attentive student of the game," Kindall said. "He certainly was when he was here. Obviously, he has made a very big impression."