I am saddened to learn the news of former Red Sox manager Dick Williams who passed away last night at his Nevada home. He was 82 years old.
Although he was arguably most successful in Oakland guiding the A's to back-to-back World Series titles in 1972 and '73, Dick Williams began his career with one of the most storied - but hapless - franchises in baseball: the Boston Red Sox.
After a 1966 season that saw the Red Sox finish as they so often have, at the bottom of the standings, owner Tom Yawkey was looking for a new direction and prior to the 1967 season, he hired Dick Williams, who had never managed a big-league club before.
In what will be forever known in Red Sox Nation as "The Impossible Dream", 1967 brought new hope to the city of Boston. Carl Yastrzemski was having a career-year, which saw him when the American League Triple Crown (the last player to accomplish the feat from either league). 'Yaz', though, could not do everything by himself. He had great offensive support from the likes of George Scott, Reggie Smith, Rico Petrocelli and even Tony Conigliaro. Red Sox ace Jim Lonborg even helped out in a big way as he earned 22 wins that campaign.
As great a team effort as the Red Sox had that season, it was the 37-year-old Williams who guided this young team, especially Yastrzemski, who picked his team up on his back and carried them to the finish in those last weeks of the season. Finding themselves in a four-horse race for the AL Pennant, Yaz hit over .500, surging his Sox ahead of the Twins, Tigers and White Sos earning his team their first World Series berth in 21 years.
Although the Red Sox lost in a grueling seven-game series to the St. Louis Cardinals, Dick Williams had put himself on the map as a bona fide big-league skipper, so much so that his efforts that season earned him the American League Manager of the Year.
After two more seasons in Boston, Williams moved on to Oakland, where, in three seasons, he would guide the A's to a 100-win season and two World Series titles.
After three years managing the California Angels, Williams moved on to Montreal, where he would guide to their first division title in franchise history during the strike-shortened 1981 season only to fall short to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.
From there, Williams managed the hapless San Diego Padres where he guided them to their first NL Pennant in franchise history. Williams would then spend three years as the Seattle Mariners' skipper before retiring in 1988.
After 21 seasons and 3,023 games, Dick Williams compiled a 1571-1451 (.520) managerial record winning four league pennants and two World Series. Williams was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2008.
I can safely that the Boston Red Sox are grateful for what Dick Williams did for their organization as well as the fans who were around in 1967. He will be sorely missed.
Richard Hirschfield Williams (May 7, 1929 - July 7, 2011)