Categorised in: Sports
John Patsy Francona, father of Indians manager Terry Francona, passed away on Feb. 13 at age 84.
The elder Francona, nicknamed “Tito” by his own father, played for the Indians from 1959-64. He was in his first year with the Indians when Terry was born and batted .363 that season. He was 34 at-bats shy of qualifying for the batting title and still managed to finish fifth in the American League MVP voting.
“Our hearts ache as truly one of the special men in Cleveland Indians history passed away last night,” Indians Senior VP of Public Affairs Bob DiBiasio said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire Indians organization, our thoughts and prayers are with Terry and the entire Francona family. For a generation of Cleveland fans, Tito was one of the all-time favorites to wear an Indians uniform. It was certainly a joy the past five years watching Tito and Terry be together around the ballpark. He will be missed.”
The real name of the Indians manager is Terrance Jon Francona, but he is addressed as Tito more often than as Terry by friends, players and the media because of the affection felt for his father.
Often, the elder Francona would attend Indians games and sit on a stool in the clubhouse hallway before games and greet players and reporters. He threw out the first pitch in Terry Francona’s first game as manager of the Indians in 2013 and threw out the first pitch in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox in 2016.
In 1960 Tito Francona led the AL with 36 doubles, and in 1961 he was an AL All-Star and led the league with 124 singles.
Francona began his major league career in 1956 with Baltimore and tied for second with Indians Hall of Famer Rocky Colavito for AL Rookie of the Year.
Francona ended his career with Milwaukee in 1970. After retiring from baseball, he was named director of parks and recreation in New Brighton. He was named to the Top 100 greatest Indians Roster in 2001.
Last summer, the Franconas teamed up on a line of Tito Francona and Son Pasta Sauce, which “celebrates Tito and Terry’s love of Italian food and Northeast Ohio.”