Jim Fregosi Profile: Chewing the Fat
“YOU CATCH ANY fish over at your place yet,” asks Brummer.
“No,” says Cash, whose home abuts a golf course with a series of ponds, “but I saw a nine-foot alligator over there yesterday.”
“Where?” asks Fregosi, whose home also flanks a course.
“At my house.”
“Too close. If I can see him, he’s too close.”
Cash complains that it’s been too cold of late to play golf.
“They allow blacks on your course?” asks Fregosi.
“They allow alligators,” says Cash.
Brummer roots around, looking for another videotape. A suggestion is floated: Game Four of the World Series, the wild, rain-soaked, 15-14 heartbreaker against Toronto.
“No,” says Fregosi.
Nervous smiles are exchanged.
“I don’t want to watch Four,” says the manager. “I’ve never watched that one.” He has only watched games the Phillies won. The tape is found. The manager relents.
The coaches watch casually, leaving the room frequently and talking as much about fish as they do about baseball. But the images are arresting, and they keep coming back. Tommy Greene walks Todd Stottlemyre in the pitcher’s first major-league at bat. “See how he’s coming off the ball?” says Fregosi. “Tommy’s so hyper.”
Stottlemyre slides headfirst into third, bloodying his chin and knocking himself silly. “Who’d Stottlemyre sign with?” asks Fregosi. “He had a pretty good year last year.” No one in the room knows.
Larry Bowa, Fregosi’s third-base coach, is shown stomping up and down the line. “Where’s he at?” asks Brummer. “Where’s Bowa?” There is snickering in the room, but no one answers. Word has it that Bowa—aka Peewee—has decided that since he’s not getting paid extra, he’s not coming to the mini-camp. “He hasn’t changed a bit,” says one of the Phillies.
The camera shoots up the first-base line, and Cash points out the seats where he and Brummer watched the game together.
“Remember that bottle we had?” says Cash.
“We snuck in a fifth,” says Brummer, laughing.
“This is all going in Philadelphia Magazine,” says Fregosi.
“What are you going to have Cash do this year, Skip?” asks Brummer. Cash is replacing the seen-but-not-heard Mel Roberts.
“Pick up the Racing Form for me.”
“What about first base?”
In the second inning, Dykstra hooks a home run down the right-field line.
“Whoot, there it is!” calls Brummer.
Toronto’s Al Leiter starts throwing in the bullpen. “Did you see what he just got?” asks Fregosi incredulously. “Almost $9 million.”
“HEY DUUUUUDE!” CALLS Fregosi.
Lenny Dykstra, who hasn’t seen a manager since last season, walks into the locker room after touring the new weight room. “Awesome,” he says. “It’s big league, man.”
“We just watched your home run off Stottlemyre,” says Fregosi.
“Oh, yeah,” says Dykstra, “a little fucking slider.”
“Forgot to slide, didn’t it?”
“I hear Kruk’s gonna maybe do some TV analysis or something for Fox,” says Dykstra. “He might be good at that shit.”
“Yeah, if he can stop saying fuck,” says Fregosi.
Dykstra catches sight of Paul Molitor on the screen. “That fucker can hit,” he says.
“The strike really hurt him last year.”
“It hurt a lot of us,” says Dykstra. “Who’d he end up with?”
“He went back to Milwaukee,” says Fregosi.
Actually, it was Minnesota. These days, even the pros need a scorecard.
Dykstra leaves. Pete lncaviglia arrives. The outfielder, who spent last year in Japan, looks bigger than ever. He also looks to be in great shape. “Come here!” calls Fregosi, and they exchange a true bear hug. Incaviglia glances at the TV. “Well,” he says, “this brings back some memories.”
“How ’bout this fucking game?” asks Fregosi.
“You talk about a fucking nightmare,” says Incaviglia. “You talk about pain. I’m running up and down the fucking runway. I didn’t know if I was going to have to pinch-hit or not. I’m watching. We go ahead. I go back down. Then they go fucking ahead. Then I go fucking run back up and stretch again. Then they go ahead. Then we go ahead. Holy fuck!”
“About this time,” says Cash, “me and Brummer are so drunk, we don’t know what inning it is.”
“I went through about 12 packs of cigarettes,” says Incaviglia, who never did get into the game.
“How about this guy?” says Fregosi, pointing at Leiter.
“I know! ” says Incaviglia. “How the fuck did he get $9 million?”
“The Marlins signed Kevin Brown, too,” says Fregosi.
“You don’t have to worry about him,” says Incaviglia. “I played with him for three years. He has a great sinker, but he’s a knucklehead. He’ll be throwing a one-hitter in the eighth inning, give up a hit, come in and shatter a finger on the wall, just fall apart.”
They talk about which teams have been spending money. In the National League, the Mets, Cardinals and Marlins may all have passed the Phillies in talent. The Braves, of course, are nowhere in sight.
While Leiter retires three in a row, Incaviglia talks about Japan. “Loneliest year of my life,” he says.
“I bet Bowa $100 you’d hit 25 home runs over there,” says Fregosi, who lost.
“Fuck, I only had 180 at bats,” says Incaviglia. “And I got hit 21 times. The second game of the year, I took two off the kneecap. Missed three weeks. Then I got hit three consecutive games in the fuckin’ elbow. And I didn’t say nothing, and you know I’m getting pissed. They’re telling me, Relax. Don’t do anything. It’s honorable to get hit. I said, Fuck that. I’ve been hit fucking 15 times. That ain’t fuckin’ honorable. I told them, I’m gonna go get somebody. Then he hit me right here, right in the cheekbone. I was lucky, ’cause it kind of clicked off the helmet. I thought it was broken. That was the 21st time I got hit, and I went and got the son-of-a-bitch.” He broke the pitcher’s nose and left the country. “They fined me $77,000.”
Two minutes later, the coaches are still laughing.