Are you a Lefebvre Believer?
All-Star selection (1966)
World Series champion (1965)
1965 NL Rookie of the Year
Like many American boys growing up in 1950’s Jim Lefebvre had a dream of becoming a big league ball player.
Having a rather unique last name growing up in California earned little Jimmy the nickname “Frenchy” that would follow him the rest of his life.
It was a dream come true as Jim signed with his home team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lefebvre debuted for the Dodgers at the beginning of the 1965 season and quickly became a household name. He joined a historical team that boasted of an entire infield made up of switch hitters. His strong defensive efforts and clutch at bats carried the team through that season to such a degree that he was named the 1965 National League Rookie of the year.
He was also a fairly confident and animated young man. These traits combined with his popularity with the California public pushed him to pursue an acting hobby.
During his time as a Dodger he appeared in the Batman TV series and Gilligan’s Island. He would continue to make appearances in popular shows through the years including Knight Rider and M*A*S*H.
As the years rolled by Lefebvre became a staple of the Dodger Infield and he was a part of the two campaigns leading to the World Series (1965 & 1966).
He is one of the few players that can boast of winning the fall classic in his rookie season. In 1972 after appearing in only 70 games and scraping an average of just .201 the LA love affair was over and he was released by the Dodgers.
It looked as though his playing career was over, but in 1973 he played for the Lotte Orions in Japan. At that point he was the highest played baseball player in Japanese history.
He would become the first player to be on a championship team in both the MLB and in Japan.
By the end of the 1976 Lefebvre would retire as a player and move into carious coaching roles.
In 1989 got his first managerial gig with the Seattle Mariners. There was as air of excitement among the Seattle players at that time and when old Frenchy walked into the clubhouse for spring training he was greeted by players sporting t-shirts declaring “I am a Lefebvre believer.”
Despite leading the team to its first winning season, by the end of 1991, the players that had sang his praises were quickly becoming Lefebvre atheists.
Fun loving players such as Jay Buhner and Alvin Davis were becoming noticeably irritated. Lefevbre didn’t have a lot of time for personnel problems and wanted to focus entirely on the field leadership.
He would make reference to running a ball club but the players wanted a country club.
Finally after a blowup with Mariners GM Woody Woodward, Lefebvre was gone.
Jim would go on to manager both the Cubs and the Brewers and eventually move into a managerial role with the Chinese national team.
He would take this team to the Olympics in 2008. His role has lead to more recruitment of Chinese players into the MLB.