Fregosi had the ego of a man who was an excellent major league infielder, six times an All-Star, and he had an unfailing affection for anyone who understood the business and respected the people who worked in it. You did not have to pretend or cover for people, though - the truth was fine, provided it was delivered without malice. Because Fregosi was like most old-time baseball people - he liked the truth.
He was an imposing figure, physically and conversationally. If he did not deem you to be serious, his responses to even harmless questions could be disparaging if they were not intimidating. But it was complicated.
Mostly, Fregosi would sit behind the desk in his office before games, glasses perched on the end of his nose, wearing a T-shirt and baseball pants that might or might not have been buttoned up, fiddling with a lineup or a newspaper, and talking baseball. It was different from today, when most interactions with a manager involve audio recorders and interrogations. Those days were more about notepads and conversations - and Fregosi would be beyond candid when he was surrounded by people who were in his circle of trust. That was pretty much the beat guys covering the team and a couple of others.
Off-the-record and on-the-record were a tricky navigation sometimes - except when it was obvious, such as when he profanely disparaged one of his players. (Then there was the time he got caught profanely disparaging WIP Radio and the people who listened to it during one of those sessions, which resulted in insincere apologies all around.)
Anyway, the sessions were less for news than they were for insight - again, because Fregosi was comfortable with the truth, and wanted people sincerely trying to understand what was going on to have the benefit of his experience.
I was a young columnist then, well behind Stan Hochman and Bill Conlin in the baseball pecking order at the Daily News. On a good day, I might have been on the periphery of the circle of trust. But I heard a lot of the stories later on and envied the relationship. For a reporter, there is nothing like being on the inside of a big story - and the 1993 Phillies were the biggest story around, a one-shot wonder that took off in the first weeks of April and never re-entered the atmosphere until late on an October Saturday night in Toronto.
The truth about that 1993 team was that talent mattered but that chemistry mattered, too. That was Fregosi's quadratic equation. He knew he had the ability to win if the wild personalities on his team could stay focused, and in Darren Daulton and a couple of others, he had players who could insist upon that focus in a way a manager never could. Because he played, Fregosi knew a manager's limitations. Even though he had an outsized personality of his own, and could kick ass when called upon, Fregosi was secure enough to know that the best way to handle the taming of this wild bunch was for Daulton and a few others to do the taming. And so it happened, the whole Macho Row persona and everything that followed.
Everything: division title; upset win over Atlanta in the NLCS; World Series against Toronto. Game 4 was the killer, a 15-14 bullpen implosion that filled a long, drizzly night Veterans Stadium. That was the game in which a guy in the 700 level had a sign that read, "Will pitch middle relief for food."
Curt Schilling was the Game 5 starter the next night. Fregosi was asked whether he would stick with Schilling "until his arm fell off." Fregosi paused, laughed, and answered with one word: "Probably." And he did, and the series was extended another day.
Game 6, as we all know, ended with Joe Carter's home run into the leftfield seats. The criticism of how Fregosi handled the bullpen would come later, and persist - not that he ever wavered. But after that game, after the brave interviews and all of the rest, a few members of the circle of trust were in his office when Fregosi opened a bottle and consoled whoever came in and maybe cried a little himself.
Try to picture the scene. It sums up the man.
On Twitter: @theidlerich