- 2B, 3B, 1B, LF, OF
- January 7, 1942
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-12-1965 with LAN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1965 ROOK
Jim Lefebvre won a Rookie of the Year Award and was an All-Star in the big leagues. After spending several years in Japan, he returned to the majors as a coach and manager. In recent years he has managed several Chinese teams.
With the Dodgers
Primarily a second baseman, Lefebvre was named National League Rookie of the Year with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965, when the club won the World Series. He hit .250 and tied Lou Johnson for the team lead with 12 home runs. The next year, Lefebvre again led the team with 24 homers and was on the All-Star team. However, after that, his power numbers dropped, and he had at least ten homers only one more time in the majors. He played his entire eight year career with the Dodgers, playing primarily second base and third base, with a few appearances at first and the outfield.
With Wes Parker (first base), Maury Wills (shortstop) and Jim Gilliam (third base), Lefebvre was part of perhaps baseball's only all switch-hitting infield.
During his time with the Dodgers, he appeared in a number of television shows in the 1960s, sometimes along with teammate Al Ferrara. He played a headhunter in an episode of Gilligan's Island. Also, his home run in Game 1 of the 1966 World Series was shown in an episode of The Brady Bunch.
Lefebvre played in Japan with the Lotte Orions from 1973 to 1976. Hand-picked by Lotte manager Masaichi Kaneda, he had high goals set when Kaneda predicted a Triple Crown for his prize import. Lefebvre hit .265/.318/.523 in his first season in Japan and delivered 29 homers. However, he was 72 points behind Hideji Kato in the batting title race, 14 homers behind Atsushi Nagaike, and 46 RBI behind Nagaike, and was a failure to fulfill his manager's predictions.
Lefebvre did not improve as his Japanese career progressed. He hit .283/.349/.491 in 82 games in 1974 as a leg injury limited his time. Kaneda became openly critical of his gaijin signee and briefly sent him to the minors. Despite this, Lefebvre was the starting first baseman in five of the Orions Nippon Series games, which they won 4-2 over the Chunichi Dragons. With this championship, Lefebvre became the first person to win both a World Series (1965 Dodgers) and Nippon Series title. Johnny Logan had been the only prior player to appear in both Series. He slipped to .258/.315/.470 in 47 games the next year, though he became the second man in Nippon Pro Baseball history to homer from both sides of the plate during a game (Richie Scheinblum had been the first). That year he was removed from the roster for half of the year as Kaneda made him a minor league coach to get him off the field. He fell to .243/.304/.362 in 1976. Lefebvre did introduce the batting tee to practice in Japan.
Lefebvre became the subject of the biggest fine in Japanese baseball history up to that point when he threw his glove into the team dugout when removed from a game. Kaneda assumed Lefebvre had thrown the glove at him and challenged him to a fight; Lefebvre agreed but coaches broke the two up. Kaneda fined Lefebvre $10,000 and suspended him. Lefebvre said he hadn't thrown the glove at his manager; Kaneda said that others may have interpreted it that way and followed suit. When Kaneda refused to meet with his former top choice, Lefebvre called a press conference to contest the size of the fine and said he wasn't guilty as charged. He argued that Kaneda may have been retaliating for Lefebvre's not living up to the manager's predictions or that Kaneda was singling him out as the gaijin target of abuse. Kaneda followed suit with his own press conference and said Lefebvre would never wear an Orions uniform again. The club offered to not fine Lefebvre if he publicly said that he had paid it, but Lefebvre refused. He then called a US baseball official who arranged for the fine to be removed. Lefebvre finished the year and his playing career. He amazingly stuck on with the Lotte organization as a coach in 1977 and helped recruit Leron Lee to play in Japan.
Coaching and Managing Career
In 1978, Lefebvre returned from Japan and, after managing the Dodgers' rookie-level affiliate in the Pioneer League, was appointed as the Dodgers first base coach on September 24, 1978, staying on for the 1979 season. He was the San Francisco Giants hitting coach from 1980 to 1982. He worked as San Francisco's Director of Player Development in 1983 and 1984, then took over as manager of their AAA farm team, the Phoenix Giants in 1985 and 1986. He then moved across the Bay as a member of the Oakland Athletics staff in 1987 and 1988.
Lefebvre got his first chance to manage in the majors with the Seattle Mariners in 1989. The club's record improved in each of his three seasons at the helm, but they never finished above fifth place under his guidance. He then took over as the Chicago Cubs skipper, and the team's performance also improved in his two seasons there.
Lefebvre returned to Oakland as hitting coach in 1994 and 1994. He moved on to the Milwaukee Brewers in the same role in 1999 and became interim manager of the team at the end of that season, replacing Phil Garner. After spending the next two years conducting hitting clinics in Europe, he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds staff in 2002.
Beginning in 2003, Lefebvre managed Chinese teams in the Baseball World Cup, Asian Championship and Asian Games and he led the Chinese team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Since 2006, he has been a minor league hitting instructor with the San Diego Padres. Lefebvre was China's manager in the 2008 Olympics, when they went 1-6, with a stunning upset of Taiwan. Lefebvre was ejected from the USA-China game after his complaints over Matt LaPorta's collision with catcher Wei Wang, injuring Wang.
Following the Olympics, Terry Collins took over as China's manager.
Lefebvre's son Ryan is currently a Kansas City Royals broadcaster.
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