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September 23, 2008

Impossible Dream manager sees similarites with Rays

From where Dick Williams was sitting — he really was resting in a chair at his Henderson, Nev., home — the 1967 Boston Red Sox had two things the playoff-bound 2008 Tampa Bay Rays didn't have.

"Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Lonborg," said Williams.

"We had two guys that had career seasons at the same time. You could always count on either one of them. (Triple crown winner) Yaz had one of the greatest seasons ever for a player. He was special. And Lonborg (22-9, 3.16 ERA) was our ace. Tampa is very good. But it doesn't have anybody like those two."

Other than that, says Williams, the two Cinderella teams are like looking in a mirror. Or an old movie.

"I look at Tampa's club and they have a bunch of kids who are gung-ho about playing the game," said Williams, who this summer was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after being voted in by the Veterans Committee.

"We had some kids, too, other than Yaz. I had managed some of them in Toronto (the Sox AAA farm team) the previous two seasons."

Williams also sees a similarity in styles.

"They do the little things to win. The go for one run. They move runners over," said the 79-year-old Williams. "They are about pitching and defense. So were we. I have to say I'm impressed."

There are other similarities. The Red Sox finished ninth, 26 games out of first place in 1966, and the Rays were a last-place team, 30 games out of first, in 2007.

But Boston had some young talent.

"I told everyone in spring training that we would win more than we lose," said Williams, repeating a phrase that has long since become famous. "I saw we had some good, young talent like Tony Conigliaro, Rico Petrocelli, Mike Andrews, Reggie Smith and George Scott to go with Yaz, who was only 27. I wasn't sure about our pitching, but with Lonborg and Jose Santiago we had something to work with."

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