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Sports

August 18, 2008

Old school meets new school: Combative Williams did it his way, easy-going Francona does it another

Mike McMahon

mmcmahon@eagletribune.com

BOSTON — It is hard to believe that Dick Williams, one of the fiercest managers in the history of baseball, was brought to tears by a phone call.

On Dec. 6, Williams was at his Las Vegas home with his wife, Norma, anxiously waiting for the phone to ring. It wasn't the first time that Williams had waited for this call. He had spent a few December mornings waiting for the head of the Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee to inform him he would be enshrined forever in Cooperstown.

"If they call, it's at 7 a.m.," said Williams, the manager of the Red Sox 1967 "Impossible Dream" team. "Of course, I was up at 5:30, and had about 12 cups of coffee. I was sitting with my wife and 7 o'clock came, no call. 7:01, no call. 7:02, no call. Finally, I said to my wife, 'Honey, looks like we missed again.' We had missed for a few years. Then at 7:03 the phone rang and we just both broke down and cried. It was an unbelievable feeling.

"It's hard to describe it. Every time I try to talk about it, I get choked up."

Williams, maybe more than any other manager, had a reputation for being hard-nosed and no-nonsense. It's often forgotten that he had a 13-year Major League career as a utility player, concluding with a two-year stint in Boston in 1963 and 1964.

As he transitioned into the manager's role, Williams pointed to Branch Rickey, the Hall of Fame executive who helped break baseball's color barrier, and the fiery manager and ballplayer Bobby Bragan as having the greatest influence on him.

In 1981, Williams was the manager of the Montreal Expos when 22-year-old rookie Terry Francona was called up from the minors in mid-August.

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