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November 1, 2007

Francona manages to get Sox to a special place

Dick Williams, the man maybe most responsible for starting the jalopy, later to be known as "Red Sox Nation," Terry Francona is not.

Williams had an open door policy when he took over in 1967. When the door was open, don't come in.

Forty years later, Terry Francona, an anti-Williams if ever there was one, put the finishing touches on the ride initiated by the Impossible Dream Team.

Man, it looks good.

Four seasons and two championships after he was named the manager of the Boston Red Sox, credit is flying around like the leaves in November.

The pitching. The bullpen. The veterans. The kids. The experience. Josh Beckett. David Ortiz. And the ownership.

All are worthy. Take one away, and guess what? The Red Sox annual golf season would be a month old.

But maybe it's time to go where Red Sox fans rarely turn when doling out the accolades | the manager.

Francona did it. He pulled it off. He embraced his players, normally a no-no around here, and they responded.

He was asked at his first press conference if he could handle the scrutiny from fans and especially the media.

"I've been released from six teams. I've been fired as a manager. I've got no hair. I've got a nose that's three sizes too big for my face, and I grew up in a major league clubhouse," said Francona. "My skin's pretty thick. I'll be OK."

Ya, right. Or so we thought.

He jumped into the fire, just two months removed from Grady Little and Game 7 in Yankee Stadium. So close, but yet so far.

Francona joined the Red Sox almost at the same time Curt Schilling did. Both men, who had been together in Philadelphia, said their deals were mutually exclusive though no one believed them.

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