Jim Frenchy Lefebvre – 1965 NL ROY

Jim Lefebvre did it all, major league baseball player, Japanese League baseball player, major league coach, major league three team manager, Chinese National team Manager but before he did all that, he was the second LAD to win the NL ROY award, with the first being Frank Howard.

Jim Lefebvre was a local kid who went to Morningside High School in Inglewood. His father was an American Legion coach and is credited with creating the hitting tee. Jim was used as a LAD batboy in 1961 and must of have been to sign with his local team in 1962. He clubbed 39 home runs in his first season in the minors and by 1964  was already in AAA and ready to start his major league career.

Coming into 1965 it was uncertain if Jim Lefebvre would make the team but according to Jon Weisman, it was his defense that helped make the decision.

“Our defense was horrible last year, but John Kennedy and Jim Lefebvre will help to correct that situation,” he said. “If Lefebvre doesn’t stay with the club, shame on us. There was a rumor he might be farmed out for another year of experience.”

Lefebvre not only made the team he ended up playing in 157 games and led the team in home runs with a measly twelve.  Jim Lefebvre probably didn’t deserve to win the 1965 NL ROY over Joe Morgan but he did win the award and became the second LAD to win the NL ROY award.

Lefebvre and Morgan were both 2nd baseman, but one guy played on the best team in the NL and the other played on the worst team in the NL. One guy looked like a baseball player, the other guy looked like he should be riding horses for a living.  One guy was a cool switch hitter (forming the first all switch hitting infield in baseball history), the other guy flapped his arm like a chicken from the left side. One guy one played on a team behind Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale,  the other guy walked stole bases and scored runs. One guy had a bWAR of 4.6. the other guy had a bWAR of 5.6.

Hmmm, not as big a difference as I would have expected. What does fWAR think? Jimmy clocked in at 4.0 and Joe at 5.1. Joe is still clearly the leader but I have to admit I always thought the margin was larger. Jim Lefebvre had some sweet defensive numbers in 1965 and Joe Morgan, not so much.  This makes me sad because by the time I saw Lefebvre play it was 1970 and I don’t remember him dazzling on defense. I guess the back injuries had taken their toll.

One final 1965 note about Frenchy and his 12 home runs in 1965. Frenchy tied with Lou Johnson to lead the Dodgers team in home runs with those 12.  Let that sink in. The Dodgers won the World Series in 1965 and the top two home run hitters had 12 each.  Willie Mays hit 52 by himself that year. Let’s try that again for dramatic effect. The 1965 World Champion LAD hit 78 home runs as a team. Willie Mays hit 52 by himself.

Lefebvre not only won the ROY award he  even got 7 MVP voter points. 7 Dodgers received MVP voter points in 1965, which makes sense for a team that won the World Series.

Frenchy followed up his ROY season by being even better in 1966. He rocked 24 home runs while playing half his games at Dodger Stadium in 1966. Fifty years later that does not seem like a big deal, but back in 1966, it was a very big deal. Very few 2nd baseman had ever hit 24 home runs in a season and that short list was filled with HOF 2nd baseman.

and in 1966, Jim Lefebvre joined that select group. Granted there wasn’t much else that equated Lefebvre to those three HOF 2nd baseman, but just wanted to show at age 24 Jimmy Lefebvre looked to be on a solid career path. After two years in the majors and just 24 years old,  Jimmy had hit more home runs by the age of 24, than any NL 2nd baseman in baseball history except HOF Bill Mazeroski , even if that total was just 36.

Other notable items from that 1966 season per baseball savvy

  • First LAD to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same game on May 7th, 1966
  • Hit a home run off of Dave McNally in the World Series. It would be only one of two runs the Dodgers would score in the whole series

Much like Bill Grabarkewitz, his career would be sidelined by injury after injury and as his playing time diminished the Dodgers released him in 1972. What had once been a very promising Dodger career had come to an end. He would never come close to reaching the height of 1966 again.

Frenchy went to Japan to continue his playing career and had quite a run while in Japan.When you read his story you almost wonder if the Tom Sellick movie Mr. Baseball wasn’t based on his time there. He had one great season but that was it and after four seasons he retired to start an odyssey that eventually had him coaching and managing for three different teams.  In 2004 he was approached by Sandy Alderson to help the Chinese National team prepare for the Olympics. That three-month project turned into five years. This link has a plethora of Jim Lefebvre information if your interested in reading more about one of the more fascinating Los Angeles Dodgers. 

 

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. 68elcamino427

    Jim Lefebvre

    The way that he burst on the scene, I thought he would be a Dodger mainstay.
    But it didn’t last. Kinda like Hollandsworth.

    When Lefebvre finally made it back to the Dodgers as a coach, that didn’t last either.
    Lefebvre mounted a camera on the Centerfield fence to tape the hitters (he was the batting coach).
    No one had ever tried this and Lefebvre took action without Lasorda’s permission.
    When LaSorda learned about what Lefebvre had done, Lasorda fired Lefebvre on the spot.

    Like

Trackbacks

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