New Brighton’s baseball leg­end

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - News obituaries -

CLEVELAND — Terry Fran­cona loves to talk about his dad. Their re­la­tion­ship went way be­yond baseball.

One was a Cleveland In­di­ans player, the other the team’s adored man­ager.

Father and son. Tito and the kid who be­came Tito.

John Patsy “Tito” Fran­cona, who proudly watched his son, Terry, fol­low his foot­steps to the ma­jor leagues, died Tues­day night at his home in New Brighton.

The Aliquippa na­tive was 84 and had been re­cre­ation di­rec­tor in New Brighton un­til re­tir­ing in 1997.

Mr. Fran­cona’s death cast a pall over Cleveland’s train­ing camp in Goodyear, Ariz., as pitch­ers and catch­ers re­ported Wed­nes­day. Terry Fran­cona, who has been af­fec­tion­ately called “Tito” for years in a re­spect­ful bow to his dad, will leave the team for sev­eral days to be with fam­ily. Ser­vices will be pri­vate. “We’re all in­cred­i­bly sad­dened by Tito’s pass­ing,” In­di­ans pres­i­dent Chris An­tonetti said. “Not only was he a re­ally good player in our fran­chise his­tory, but he was a friend to so many of us. … Hav­ing Terry here for the last five years, one of the most mean­ing­ful things for me was to get to know his dad and build a friend­ship­with him.

“He was such a warm, thought­ful, ex­u­ber­ant per­son that bright­ened ev­ery room he walked into. To have the op­por­tu­nity to visit with him when he’d come into town, to hear his stories, to see how he and Terry con­nected was re­ally mean­ing­ful. He will be missed by so many of us.”

Af­ter Terry Fran­cona was fired in Bos­ton fol­low­ing the 2011 sea­son, he spent a year in broad­cast­ing be­fore he was hired by the In­di­ans. In Cleveland, he was closer to his dad, who would oc­ca­sion­ally drive in for games.

“It was such a deep bond and hav­ing a chance to talk to [Terry] to­day, he was able to re­flect back and talk about so many great mem­o­ries he shared with his dad that showed how deep that bond was,” Mr. An­tonetti said. “He said, ‘I had the best mom and dad in the world and to have the chance over the past hand­ful of sea­sons to share a lot of those mo­ments with my dad, for him to come to Cleveland and watch ev­ery game on TV, with a chance to talk about them with him af­ter­ward, were mem­o­ries that he will con­tinue to cher­ish.”

Terry Fran­cona was born dur­ing the first year his dad played in Cleveland. An out­fielder, Mr. Fran­cona that sea­son bat­ted .359 and fin­ished fifth in Amer­i­can League MVP vot­ing. He led the AL in dou­bles the fol­low­ing year, and in 1961 he was an AL All-Star and led the league in sin­gles.

He made his de­but in 1956 with the Bal­ti­more Ori­oles and re­tired as a player af­ter the 1970 sea­son with Mil­wau­kee.

The In­di­ans ask that do­na­tions in Mr. Fran­cona’s mem­ory be made to Cleveland In­di­ans Char­i­ties at com­mu­nity/do­na­tion_­form.jsp.

Funds will be di­rected to youth baseball-ori­ented pro­grams in Cleveland and New Brighton.

John Patsy “Tito” Fran­cona in 2007

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