Thursday, July 07, 2011

Dick Williams, a man who could breathe life into dead teams

Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams died today... and if you are a fan of the Red Sox, A's or Padres, you should toast him tonight.

Dick Williams was more than a great manager. He was more than someone who took three different teams to the World Series.

He raised teams from the dead.

It's hard to believe this now, but there was a time when the Boston Red Sox were a dead franchise with poor attendance and non contenders.
They had losing seasons every year from 1959 to 1966, including 100 losses in 1965.

Dick Williams took over the club and they went to their first World Series in 19 years. And the Red Sox were revived. You can trace the love for Fenway and the romance of Red Sox Nation to the magical summer of 1967.

When he went to the A's, they hadn't been relevant since Connie Mack was manager. They never had a winning season in Kansas City and the 1971 A's was the franchise's first October since 1931.

He inherited a talented team but he made them an All Time team. The A's won back to back titles under Williams and they went on to win a third title.

In 1977 after a failed turn with the Angels, Williams took over an Expos team that never had a winning season in their first 8 years of existence. By 1979 they were a 95 win club with future Hall of Famers Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez at the core. A non factor franchise became a legit pennant contender and the Expos had their greatest years and drew their most fans.

Then he took over the Padres, another nondescript franchise with no history nor success. Between the Padres first season in 1969 and Williams arrival in 1982, the Padres had a grand total of one winning season and never finished above 4th place.

By his third season, the Padres were a 90 win team and won the 1984 NL West title, then stunned the heavily favored Cubs to give San Diego their first World Series appearance.

Later he took over the Mariners, another hopeless franchise. For a while it looked like he was going to do the same thing there with talented players like Mark Langston, Mike Moore, Jim Presley, Alvin Davis, Harold Reynolds, Danny Tartabull and Phil Bradley on the roster. But alas it didn't work out in the Pacific Northwest.

If only he stuck around for two more seasons in time for the arrival of Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson in 1989!

He was a Hall of Famer and one of the great managers of all time.

And you can certainly NOT say he took easy jobs.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Williams.

On a side note, we both appear in the great movie "Spaceman: A Baseball Odyssey" and in fact we both appear in this trailer for the film.
My vague connection to an All Time great manager.

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