Friends remember Jim Fanning
By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network
Former Montreal Expos great Andre Dawson is in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. St. Marys too.
Ditto for Gary Carter.
While they racked up hits and homers and threw out base runners there was another man one thinks of when you think of the Expos.
And when you think of him you will think of the team with the tricolor hats.
A group of Jim Fanning’s family and friends gathered at the Compass Community Church in London to say one final goodbye to Gentleman Jim on the weekend. Fanning passed away last month at age 87.
Some of the guests included former Expos owner Charles Bronfman, Angels general manager Bill Stoneman, one-time Expos GM Murray Cook, now a scout with the Detroit Tigers, former Expo Wallace Johnson, who made the drive from Gary, Ind., Red Sox scout Gary Hughes, John McHale, Jr. from the commissioner's office, Bob Gebhardt of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pat Daughtery of the Colorado Rockies, Tom Valcke formerly of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, George Springate, who swore in Fanning when he took his Canadian citizenship, president Paul Beeston, Howard Starkman and Kevin Brian of the Blue Jays plus Scott Crawford of the Canadian Hall in St. Marys.
“He was the heart and soul of the Montreal Expos,” said Steve Rogers, the Expos ace under Gene Mauch, Dick Williams, Fanning and Bill Virdon.
“If there was ever someone who could be known as Mr. Expo it would have to be Jim,” Rogers said. “As much as John McHale and Charles Bronfman were the financial custodians of the team, Jim was the heart of the franchise.
“Jim lived and breathed baseball you can’t be a baseball lifer and not love the game. Then he got a chance to complete him life with Marie, Frank andCynthia.”
Fanning married Marie, who gave birth to two children 25 years ago. As Rogers said “the exact same dedication he showed to baseball is what he showed his family.”
“Jim was from the old school but he never shoved it down your throat,” said Rogers who works for the Players Association in New York. “One thing I can say is that in every negotiation I ever had with him he was fair — even though he had the upper hand. He was always straight up.”
Rogers and Fanning played key roles in the saddest day in Expos history for loyal Montreal fans.
The deciding Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers was rained out on the Sunday in 1981 and the game was pushed back to Monday.
The game which decided who went on to New York to play the Yankees in the World Series was tied 1-1 after eight innings.
Tim Wallach pinch hit for starter Ray Burris in the bottom of the eighth at the same time a drama was unfolding in the Expos bullpen. Rogers, who had started and pitched a complete game to win as Game 3 and Jerry White hit a three-run homer, had volunteered to pitch if needed. He was warming when regular closer Jeff Reardon arrived in the bullpen.
“When Jeff camme down to pitch before they made a decision, I was warm, he said ‘I got it,’ but that was with the adrenalin flowing,” Rogers said.
Tim Raines flew out to end the eighth on came “No. 45 … le lanceur Steve Rogers.”
Steve Garvey popped up and then Ron Cey flew out to the track in left.
Rick Monday then tagged a 3-1 pitch for a solo homer and the lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, with two out both Carter and Larry Parrish walked to put the tying run at second and the winning run at first. Tommy Lasordalifted Fernando Valenzuela for Bob Welch.
White bounced out on the first pitch to second baseman Davey Lopes to end the Expos’ World Series hopes.
Downstairs Fanning was asked repeatedly “why go to Rogers?”
“Why not Reardon?”
Reardon meanwhile said “ask the manager.”
Again and again the same question was asked of Fanning.
Again and again Fanning said “I went with my best pitcher.”
“I went with my best pitcher,” said Fanning again and again.
The next spring in West Palm Beach at training camp, Reardon revealed his bad back was acting up.
Gentlemen Jim took the hit for his reliever.
Some memories from his legion of friends …
In your time of sorrow we would like to extend our heartfelt sympathy.
Jim was definitely a gentleman of the game of baseball. He truly impacted the lives of the players he came into contact with. He was one of the pillars that played an instrumental part in the success of the Montreal Expos during their early years. We were privileged to have known Jim Fanning for many years.
Our thought and prayers are with the family during this time of loss.
May you have eternal Rest and Peace.
R.I.P. Diamond Jim
Vanessa and Andre Dawson
Hall of Fame 2010
Jim Fanning was one of the most important people in my baseball career, early on he taught me the importance of patience, it is something that has helped me not only in baseball, but in life. Jim was so important to the Montreal Expo organization. He was a scout, a coach and a manager, but most important, a good friend to all. My family and I were able to spend time with Jim, Marie and their children last summer in St. Mary’s, what a blessing! He will be greatly missed.
Los Angeles Dodgers coach
Jim Fanning wore many different hats with the Expos but the one constant he was a gentleman and a nice person. Being around him proved to me that you could be a nice person in this game and still get your point across to players or people.
Manager, Cleveland Indians
Jim Fanning was the foundational piece of the Montreal Expos in the glory days.
When I ended my playing days (in 1986) Jim was one of my early calls, He said to me at that difficult time “When you hang up this phone do not call anybody you are going to remain an Expo.” He found me a job with the organization and my off the field career begin.
He was a gentle and creative GIANT not only for Montreal but baseball as well.
My deepest sympathy for the family.
Former Chicago White Sox manager
Jim Fanning was always fair and supportive and there would be no triple if anyone else was the manager. I hope I didn’t let him down to much. There really aren’t to many genuine folks in baseball or the world.
Whose triple at Shea Stadium put the Expos in the post season for the first time in 1981
Jim Fanning really helped me develop into a good player. I was young, but Jim always showed an interest in him. We stayed in touch over the years and remained good friends.
Jim was a great teacher and always very fair to all the players.
Who played for manager Fanning at 1961 in Class-D Davenport
I have known Jim since the early 1960s, when he came to work with the Milwaukee Braves. He became a close friend of my parents, and each of the six of us McHale children. It seemed as though he spent about 18 hours a day with or on the phone with my dad – my Mother used to speculate that Jim’s observations of my Dad’s paternal trials had something to do with his extended bachelorhood.
In a profession for which creative profanity is the lingua franca and its most colorful practitioners are celebrated, I do not think any one of us ever heard anything stronger from Jim than an extended “Gosh darn.” In addition to demonstrating his excellent upbringing and the modesty and respect that marked his personality, I think this also demonstrated the essential charity and care for the feelings of others that was always at the heart of his character. He was a good, good man.
John McHale, Jr.
Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Executive Vice President of Administration
Major League Baseball
Was crushed when heard the news of Jim Fanning’s passing. I may never have played the game without his watchful eye and knowledge of the game! Was honored when I was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, was honored more that Jim was the person that did it!!
He was the backbone of the Montreal Expos organization for years. Jim was as well respected an individual as I have ever met in the game. He was knowledgeable, hard working, and honest as anyone. He was true class and was a regal figure in Montreal.
Jim will be missed by all.
Former Expos GM
Detroit Tigers president
From the very first time I met Jim I was so impressed by his dignity and always friendly demeanor. If ever there was a perfect example of someone constantly and consistently displaying class and consideration to others with whom he was competing, Jim did that best.
In this my 50th year as a major league executive, I have been so fortunate to have met many wonderful people whose class, dignity and kindness was always on display every single moment and Jim Fanning would be the captain of that team.
God blessed us all who knew him and could call him friend.
President, Atlanta Braves
He was one of the finest people in the game. I learned a lot from him about how to run a club, especially how to develop the team from the ground up.
Former Montreal Expos GM, Angels GM
Jim was the reliable constant face of baseball in Canada during the late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. He did everything from GM to manager to broadcaster to scout but what stood out the most to me was his demeanor. He always had a kind word, he was passionate about the game and enjoyed retelling of the many experiences he had enjoyed in his multiple roles.
I was very pleased to add Jim to our baseball staff in Toronto. I appreciated his encouragement when things got tough. It was never about Jim, he had time for everyone .
Former Blue Jays GM
Assistant GM, Milwaukee Brewers
Even minus a World Series, the Montreal franchise was one of the most consistently productive and winning organizations for a long time. They had generations of good to great players in the organization. The city of Montreal was becoming a vibrant baseball city in large part because of the success and the talent those players exhibited. Jim Fanning was a major leader of that foundation and staff which developed the culture and selected who would be an Expo, which made it a success.
Former GM, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jim Fanning was the Montreal Expos. When he moved up from being the scouting director I became the next in line. Before moving up he made a large number of deletions from the staff which gave me the opportunity to bring in new blood. There was one more change that I told Jim I was going to make. He replied, “No I’ll do that also. I want you to start with a clean slate.”
He and General Manager Murray Cook said that they did want me to acquire three people from player development that they felt would be great additions to the Scouting Department. I of course said “Sure” (but knew I was getting stuck. Taking one for the team.) I got “stuck” with great baseball men like Pat Daugherty, Ed Creech and Frank Wren. Nobody got a better chance to succeed thanks to Jim Fanning. I’ve been forever grateful.
Former Expos scouting director
Boston Red Sox scout
I never worked for Jim Fanning but simply admired his leadership and that his finger prints were all over the respected player development and scouting staffs of the Expos. They drafted, signed and developed as many talented players in the game. He was very professional in dealings.
GM, Milwaukee Brewers
Jim Fanning was a baseball guy who wore many hats: player, scout, manager general manager. He was a shaker and a mover but most of all he was a great gentleman.
Sad day for baseball in Canada.
New York Yankees
First saw Jim Fanning when I was 15 and I was a fan of Los Angeles Angels in the Pacific Coast league. He was hurt and could only pinch hit. He hit a home run and had to walk around the bases at Wrigley Field in 1955. I brought that up to him years later when I got to know him. He was always very pleasant and very cordial, and I never went to Montreal without Jim Fanning at the park.
Former Arizona Diamondbacks GM
Spending eight summers in Montreal with the Expos as a player, head of the Bus Squad and then beginning my broadcasting career, I’ll always remember the joy and positive attitude that always surrounded Jim Fanning. He always treated me with class and respect and would encourage me in my early years broadcasting. Thank you and God bless,
Miami Marlins broadcaster
Mr. Fanning was the quintessential gentleman and a tremendous baseball ambassador throughout Canada. He was a vital contributor to the Expos early years and the role he served in the club’s successful transition into MLB helped put Canada on the baseball map.
He was one of only two baseball people to ever send me a hand-written “thank you” note (when I was working with Ottawa Lynx). Mel Didier was the other.
Sr. VP, Communications & Broadcasting
Every time I heard him speak he exuded class.
He was a gentleman, pure class. And a great baseball person obviously, who touched our markets. There isn’t a team in Toronto without what he did in Montreal.
God love him. And he will.
This one kind of stings. He was very good to me. We worked together on some things when I was with the Blue Jays.
A true gentleman, and a person we all perhaps would like to be like.
Thank you Jim, for allowing me the pleasure of knowing you.
Former president of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame
Gentleman Jim came to Canada and thankfully never left.
Baseball in Canada is much better for him never leaving!!!
He was a good man!
Am sure Gentleman Jim holds the major league record for most banquets attended in Canada!!!
Baseball and Canada have lost a great coach, manager and all round human being.
So sad to hear about this. He meant so much to baseball in Canada. May he rest in peace.