When Tito Francona was playing for the Cleveland Indians back in the 1960s, his son Terry would often come to the ballpark with him. It was there that Terry first earned the nickname “Little Tito” because he’d follow his dad around and soak up all that went into being a big leaguer.
Terry became a professional baseball player himself, then a manager and now the manager of those same Cleveland Indians and a lot of people still call him Tito. Just like his dad. The bond between the two was unbreakable. Tito would watch all the games Terry managed. When Terry made the postseason again with the Indians in 2016, Tito got to throw out the first pitch before a game.
Father and son were separated Wednesday, as John Patsy “Tito” Francona — a 15-year big leaguer, former All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up — died at age 84. The news came from Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com and then verified by the Indians:
— Anthony Castrovince (@castrovince) February 14, 2018
It's with a heavy heart that we announce the passing of former Tribe great John Patsy "Tito" Francona, father of our current manager Terry Francona. Our thoughts are with the entire Francona family during this time. pic.twitter.com/www63kiltB
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) February 14, 2018
A few years ago, around Father’s Day, Terry Francona was asked about his bond with his father and told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian:
“Until I was about 12, my dad was always gone,” Francona said. “For the most part, he was probably two or three thousand miles away, and he had a really wonderful way of making feel like he wasn’t. And this was before cell phones. He always knew when I had a game and he’d call home. He’d ask if I hustled or if I tried hard, and then at the end he’d ask if i got any hits. But, I never once felt like my dad wasn’t around, which was a pretty big compliment to him.”
Tito won’t be around now, but given the bond he shared with Little Tito — baseball and beyond it — his memory will certainly live on.
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