Chicago Cubs: Remembering former GM and manager Jim Frey

Jim Frey, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Jim Frey, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Jim Frey, the man at the helm of some of the Chicago Cubs’ most successful teams before 2015, has passed away.

Before the 1984 season, the Chicago Cubs hired Jim Frey to manage a team that, the previous season, went only 71 and 91. Under his guidance, the team made it to the doorstep of the World Series, and second baseman Ryne Sandberg became the National League MVP. Though the team would fall to the Padres in the NLCS, it was a huge step forward because of Frey.

Unfortunately, at the age of 88, Frey passed away in his home on Sunday, April 12. No cause of death is known yet, according to ESPN. The Cubs joined various other ball clubs and players in paying tribute to Frey.

Before coming to the North Side, Frey coached under one legendary manager and replaced another. He spent time with Earl Weaver in Baltimore before earning his first managing gig with the Royals, succeeding Whitey Herzog. That didn’t last long, however, and his next management position wouldn’t come until he came to Chicago.

In the 1984 season mentioned above, Frey won N. L. Manager of the Year for turning around the Cubs, but his most important contribution came with coaching Sandberg. Having previously served as Darryl Strawberry and the Mets’ hitting coach, Frey introduced Sandberg to a new hitting philosophy that took his hitting to a whole new level. Sandberg believed that Frey’s guidance made him a Hall of Famer.

“After watching a couple weeks of spring training games, he took me aside and asked me to change my mindset as far as driving the baseball, being aggressive on certain pitches and hitting baseballs in the gaps and hitting home runs,” Sandberg said regarding Frey’s passing. “He thought I had that type of body and that type of ability.”

Frey’s next couple of seasons with the Cubs wouldn’t reach the highs of 1984, and he’d be fired after a rough beginning to 1986. However, he would take over as the team’s GM in 1987, and he brought his friend Don Zimmer along to manage.

By 1989, the team was back in the postseason, aided by Frey’s latest acquisition in Mitch Williams. It did, however, cost them the bat of Rafael Palmeiro and the arm of Jamie Moyer, and the Cubs failed to make it past the NLCS again. Frey would leave the team for good after the 1991 season.

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Though he has a bit of a mixed legacy, Frey is still beloved for completely changing the career of one of the Chicago Cubs’ immortal second baseman and for bringing the team its first pennant in 39 years at the time. He worked with the greats and played a vital role in bringing the Cubs to relevance in the 1980s. He will be dearly missed.