John Patsy "Tito" Francona, a former Cleveland Indians outfielder and the father of current Indians manager Terry Francona, has passed away at 84, the team confirmed on Wednesday.
“Our hearts ache as truly one of the special men in Cleveland Indians history passed away last night,” said Indians Senior VP of Public Affairs Bob DiBiaso 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 private funeral for Francona will be on Saturday in New Brighton, PA. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Tito Francona’s memory to Cleveland Indians Charities. Funds will be directed to youth baseball-oriented programs in both Cleveland and Tito’s hometown of New Brighton, PA.
A 15-year Major League outfielder, the elder Francona spent six seasons with the Indians, from 1954-1964. In his time with the Tribe, he batted .284 to go along with 85 home runs and 378 RBIs.
Debuting as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, Francona burst onto the baseball scene in 1956, tying with Indians outfielder Rocky Colavito for second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Chicago White Sox shortstop Luis Aparicio. In his first season with the Indians in 1956, he earned a fifth-place American League MVP finish after hitting career-highs with a .363 batting average and 20 home runs.
In 1961, the Aliquippa, Pa., native earned the only All-Star appearance of his career as he batted .301 to go along with 16 home runs and a career-best 85 RBIs. In addition to Baltimore and Cleveland, he spent time with Atlanta, St. Louis, Oakland, Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and the Chicago White Sox throughout his Major League career.
After his playing days were over, Francona served as the director of parks and recreation in New Brighton, Pa. He was visible throughout his son's managerial career, particularly in Cleveland, where he threw out the first pitch at both Terry's Indians debut and the team's Game 1 matchup against the Boston Red Sox in the 2016 American League Division Series.
In 2001, he was named to the Top 100 Indians roster.