Jim Fanning, longtime Expos GM, dies at 87

Jim Fanning, a longtime Montreal Expos general manager who spent more than 60 years in a variety of roles in professional baseball, has died. He was 87. Fanning was named the Expos' first GM in August 1968 and spent 25 years with the club.

Hall of Famer spent more than 25 years with Montreal

Longtime Expos general manager Jim Fanning has died at the age of 87. He was named the first GM of the Expos in 1968 and spent over 25 years with the team in a variety of roles. Fanning was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. (Canadian Press/File)

Jim Fanning, a longtime Montreal Expos general manager who spent more than 60 years in a variety of roles in professional baseball, has died. He was 87.

A Toronto Blue Jays spokesman confirmed on Saturday that Fanning died, but had no other details. Fanning recently worked as an ambassador for the team.

Fanning was named the Expos' first GM in August 1968 and spent 25 years with the franchise that moved to Washington in 2005 and became the Nationals. He served as vice-president, scout and had two stints as field manager (1981-'82, '84), compiling a 116-103 career record as skipper.

In the strike-shortened 1981 season, Fanning guided Montreal to the playoffs. After beating Philadelphia, the Expos lost to Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series.

The Chicago native was a backup catcher with the Chicago Cubs from 1954-57, hitting .170 in 64 games with five runs batted in. He later moved into management roles at the minor-league level before becoming a special assignment scout for the Milwaukee Braves in 1963.

Fanning was promoted to assistant GM the next year and held that position until 1967.

Fanning was hired to be the first scouting director of Major League Baseball's Scouting Bureau in 1968 but left that position for the GM job in Montreal. In his long run with the Expos, Fanning established himself as a top talent evaluator and signed players such as Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga and Randy Johnson.

He was dedicated to developing baseball in Canada. He was a great ambassador.- Ex-Blue Jays GM Gord Ash on Jim Fanning

He left Montreal in 1993 and was later hired as a special assignment scout with the Colorado Rockies.

Fanning became an ambassador for the Blue Jays in early 2000.

"He was dedicated to developing baseball in Canada," said former Blue Jays GM Gord Ash, now vice president and assistant GM of the Milwaukee Brewers. "He was a great ambassador. He made Canada his home, he was available and wanted to participate.

"I think everyone's favourite memory of Jim is just his demeanour," Ash added. "He had a very welcoming type of personality. Everybody liked him, everybody got along with him easily."

Fanning, a resident of London, Ont., was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000. He became a Canadian citizen in 2012.

"We have lost a baseball legend and one of the nicest people you will ever meet," Hall director Scott Crawford said in an email.

With files from The Associated Press

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