SOMERSET, N.J. – Jim Frey, who managed the Kansas City Royals to the 1980 AL pennant and the Chicago Cubs within one win of the 1984 World Series, has died. He was 88.
Frey died Sunday at his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, according to the Atlantic League's Somerset Patriots, the minor league team he had been affiliated with since its launch in 1998. The Patriots did not announce a cause of death.
"He was a great baseball mind and the person who gave me my first chance in the game," former pitcher Sparky Lyle said in a statement about his early minor league manager. "He saw the opportunity for me to be a relief pitcher back then and set me on that path. We remained good friends all this time."
Born in Cleveland on May 26, 1931, Frey became friends with future major leaguer Don Zimmer at Western Hills High School in Cincinnati.
An outfielder, Frey spent 14 seasons in the minor league organizations of the Boston and Milwaukee Braves, and the St. Louis Cardinals without reaching the majors.
He scouted and managed in the minor leagues for Baltimore and coached for the Orioles under manager Earl Weaver from 1970-79.
Frey replaced Whitey Herzog as the Royals' manager after the 1979 season. They won the AL West with a 97-65 record in 1980, finishing 14 games ahead of Oakland.
That Royals team rode an offense led by MVP George Brett, Willie Wilson, Hal McRae, Frank White and Willie Aikens, and a pitching staff headed by Dennis Leonard, Larry Gura, Paul Splittorff and Dan Quisenberry, and they swept the New York Yankees 3-0 in the AL Championship Series for their first pennant. Kansas City lost the World Series to Philadelphia in six games.
Kansas City was 20-30 when the 1981 season was interrupted by a players' strike and 10-10 when Frey was fired with the Royals in first place of the second-half divisions standings. He was replaced by Dick Howser, who had been jettisoned by the Yankees after losing to the Royals.
Frey coached for the New York Mets in 1982 and '83, then was hired by the Cubs to replace Charlie Fox. Seeking its first World Series title since 1908, Chicago went 96-65 and won the NL East, reaching the postseason for the first time since 1945.
A celebrated group of Cubs that included Ryne Sandberg, Ron Cey, Gary Matthews, Keith Moreland, Leon Durham and Rick Sutcliffe won the first two games in the best-of-five NL Championship Series at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs lost the next two games at San Diego.
Chicago led 3-0 in Game 5, then allowed two runs in the sixth inning and four in the seventh in a 6-3 defeat. They did not reach the World Series until 2016, when they beat Cleveland in seven games.
Frey was voted NL Manager of the Year after leading the Cubs to their first winning record since 1972.
Chicago slumped to 77-85 in 1985 and Frey was replaced by John Vukovich after a 22-33 start in 1986. His managerial record was 323-287, including 196-182 with the Cubs.
After spending 1987 as a commentator on Cubs' radio broadcasts, he was hired as the Cubs' GM that December and brought in Zimmer as manager. Chicago won the division in 1989 only to lose to San Francisco in the playoffs.
Frey's moves included signing George Bell and Danny Jackson, trading Lee Smith to Boston for Calvin Schiraldi and Al Nipper; dealing Keith Moreland to the Padres for Rich Gossage; and shipping Rafael Palmeiro and Jamie Moyer to Texas for Mitch Williams.
Frey remained as GM through the 1991 season, when he was replaced by Larry Himes after Frey's power eroded under team president Don Grenesko.
He became vice chairman of the Patriots, owned by friend Steve Kalafer, and shifted to an adviser role in later years.
Frey is survived by his wife of 68 years, the former Joan Miller; son James; daughters Mary Maenner, Jennifer Stangl and Cindy Sullivan; six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
A memorial will be held at a later date.