TORONTO (AP) - Jim Fanning, the longtime Montreal Expos executive who managed the franchise to its only playoff appearance in Canada, has died. He was 87.
The Toronto Blue Jays confirmed Fanning’s death Saturday.
Fanning was the Expos’ general manager when the team entered the major leagues in 1968 and spent 25 years with the franchise that moved to Washington in 2005 and became the Nationals.
As field manager in the strike-shortened 1981 season, he directed Montreal to playoffs. After beating Philadelphia, the Expos lost to Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series. Fanning was 116-103 as manager in 1981-82 and 1984.
“It is with my deepest condolences to the Fanning family upon hearing of the passing of Jim today,” Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston said in a statement. “He was a longtime friend and not enough can be said of his contributions to the game of baseball, particularly in Canada. Jim impacted many lives and he will be remembered fondly by many inside and outside the game of baseball.”
Fanning was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 and served as a team ambassador for the Blue Jays. He was a backup catcher with the Chicago Cubs from 1954-57, hitting .170 with five RBIs in 64 games.
“He was dedicated to developing baseball in Canada,” said former Blue Jays GM Gord Ash, now vice president and assistant GM of the Milwaukee Brewers. “He was a great ambassador. He made Canada his home. He was available and wanted to participate.
“I think everyone’s favorite memory of Jim is just his demeanor. He had a very welcoming type of personality. Everybody liked him, everybody got along with him easily.”
Fanning was born in Chicago on Sept. 14, 1927, and attended high school in Moneta, Iowa. He played in college at Buena Vista in Iowa and the University of Illinois.
A resident of London, Ontario, he became a Canadian citizen in 2012.
“Jim Fanning was a baseball pioneer in this country,” said Scott Crawford, director of operations for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. “Without his tireless efforts, there may not be Major League Baseball in Canada. He was a tremendous talent evaluator, an astute general manager and a smart field manager.
“We were proud to induct him into our museum in 2000. But most importantly, Jim was a passionate teacher, a loving husband and father, and a wonderfully generous man. He was baseball royalty in Canada who visited our museum regularly.”
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