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Dick Williams

A photo of Dick Williams.

Richard Hirschfeld "Dick" Williams (May 7, 1929 – July 7, 2011) was an American left fielder, third baseman, manager, coach and front office consultant in Major League Baseball. Known especially as a hard-driving, sharp-tongued manager from 1967-69 and 1971-88, he led teams to three American League pennants, one National League pennant, and two World Series triumphs. He is one of seven managers to win pennants in both major leagues, and joined Bill McKechnie in becoming only the second manager to lead three franchises to the Series. He remains the only manager in history to lead four teams to seasons of 90 or more wins. Williams was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 following his election by the Veterans Committee.


Playing career[]

After growing up in St. Louis and Pasadena, California, Williams signed his first professional contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and played his first major league game with Brooklyn in 1951. Initially an outfielder, he injured a shoulder making a diving catch early in his career, and as a result learned to play several positions (he was frequently a first baseman and third baseman) and became a notorious "bench jockey" in order to keep his major league job. He appeared in 1,023 games over 13 seasons with the Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Athletics and Boston Red Sox. A right-handed batter and thrower, Williams had a career batting average of .260 with 70 home runs.

He was a favorite of Paul Richards, who acquired Williams four different times between 1956 and 1962 when Richards was a manager or general manager with Baltimore and the Houston Colt .45s. Williams' stay in Houston during the 1962-63 offseason was brief, because he was soon traded to the Red Sox for another outfielder, Carroll Hardy.

His two-year playing career in Boston was uneventful, except for one occasion. On June 27, 1963, Williams was victimized by one of the greatest catches in Fenway Park history. His long drive to the opposite field was snagged by Cleveland right fielder Al Luplow, who made a leaping catch at the wall and tumbled into the bullpen with the ball in his grasp.

Managerial career[]

An "Impossible Dream" in Boston[]

In October 1964, the Red Sox cut Williams from their roster and named him a player-coach with their AAA farm team, the Seattle Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League. But when a shuffle in affiliations forced Boston to move its top minor league team to Toronto of the International League, the Seattle manager, Edo Vanni, resigned, preferring to remain in his native Pacific Northwest. With the opening, Williams was promoted to manager of the 1965 baseball Maple Leafs. As a novice pilot, Williams adopted a hard-nosed, disciplinarian style and won two consecutive Governors' Cup championships with teams laden with young Red Sox prospects. He then signed a one-year contract to manage the 1967 Red Sox.

Boston had suffered through eight straight seasons of losing baseball, and attendance had fallen to such an extent that owner Tom Yawkey was threatening to move the team. The Red Sox had talented young players, but the team was known as a lazy "country club." Williams decided to risk everything and impose discipline on his players. He vowed that "we will win more ballgames than we lose" — a bold statement for a club that had finished only a half-game from last place in 1966. In spring training he drilled players in fundamentals for hours.

The Red Sox began 1967 playing better baseball and employing the aggressive style of play that Williams had learned with the Dodgers. Williams benched players for lack of effort and poor performance, and battled tooth and nail with umpires. Through the All-Star break, Boston fulfilled Williams' promise and played better than .500 ball, hanging close to the American League's four contending teams — the Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox and California Angels. Outfielder Carl Yastrzemski, in his seventh season with the Red Sox, transformed his hitting style to become a pull-hitter, eventually winning the 1967 AL Triple Crown, leading the league in batting average, home runs (tying Harmon Killebrew of the Twins), and RBI.

In late July, the Red Sox rattled off a ten-game winning streak on the road and came home to a riotous welcome from 10,000 fans at Boston's Logan Airport. The Red Sox inserted themselves into a five-team pennant race, and stayed in the hunt despite the loss of star outfielder Tony Conigliaro to a beanball on August 18. On the closing weekend of the season, led by Yastrzemski and 22-game-winning pitcher Jim Lonborg, Boston defeated the Twins in two head-to-head games, while Detroit split its series with the Angels. The "Impossible Dream" Red Sox had won their first AL pennant since 1946. The Red Sox extended the highly talented and heavily favored St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the 1967 World Series, losing the to the great Bob Gibson three times.

Despite the Series loss, the Red Sox were the toasts of New England; Williams was named Major League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News and signed to a new three-year contract. But he would not serve it out. In 1968, the team fell to fourth place when Williams' two top pitchers — Lonborg and José Santiago — were injured. He began to clash with Yastrzemski, and with owner Yawkey. In September 1969, with his club a distant third in the AL East, Williams was fired with nine games left in the season.

Two titles in a row in Oakland[]

After spending 1970 as the third base coach of the Montreal Expos, Williams returned to the managerial ranks the next year as boss of the Oakland Athletics, owned by Charlie Finley. The iconoclastic Finley had signed some of the finest talent in baseball – including Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi – but his players hated him for his penny-pinching and constant meddling in the team's affairs. During his first decade as the Athletics' owner, 1961-1970, Finley had changed managers a total of ten times.

Inheriting a second-place team from predecessor John McNamara, Williams promptly directed the A's to their first AL West title in 1971 behind another brilliant young player, pitcher Vida Blue. Despite being humbled in the ALCS by the defending World Champion Orioles, Finley brought Williams back for 1972, when the "Oakland Dynasty" began. Off the field, the A's players brawled with each other and defied baseball's tonsorial code. Because long hair, mustaches and beards were now the rage in the "civilian" world, Finley decided on a mid-season promotion encouraging his men to wear their hair long and grow facial hair. Fingers adopted his trademark handlebar mustache (which he still has to this day); Williams himself grew a mustache.

Of course, talent, not hairstyle, truly defined the Oakland Dynasty of the early 1970s. The 1972 A's won their division by 5½ games over the White Sox and led the league in home runs, shutouts and saves. They defeated the Tigers in a bitterly fought ALCS, and found themselves facing the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series. Cincinnati's powerful Big Red Machine was favored to win, but the home run heroics of Oakland catcher Gene Tenace and the managerial maneuvering of Williams resulted in a seven-game World Series victory for the A's, their first championship since 1930, when they played in Philadelphia.

In 1973, with Williams back for an unprecedented (for the Finley era) third straight campaign, the A's again coasted to a division title, then defeated Baltimore in the ALCS and the NL champion New York Mets in the World Series – each hard-fought series going the limit. With their World Series win, Oakland became baseball's first repeat champion since the 1961-62 New York Yankees. But Williams had a surprise for Finley. Tired of his owner's meddling, and upset by Finley's public humiliation of second baseman Mike Andrews for his fielding miscues during the World Series, Williams resigned. George Steinbrenner, then finishing his first season as owner of the Yankees, immediately signed Williams as his manager. However, Finley protested that Williams owed Oakland the final year of his contract and could not manage anywhere else, and so Steinbrenner hired Bill Virdon instead. Williams was the first manager in A's franchise history to leave the team with a winning record after running it for two full seasons.

From Southern California to Montreal and back[]

California Angels[]

Seemingly at the peak of his career, Williams began the 1974 season out of work. But when the Angels struggled under manager Bobby Winkles, team owner Gene Autry received Finley's permission to negotiate with Williams, and in mid-season Williams was back in a big-league dugout. The change in management, though, did not alter the fortunes of the Angels, as they finished in last place, 22 games behind the A's, who would win their third straight World Championship under Williams' replacement, Alvin Dark.

Overall, Williams' Anaheim tenure turned out to be a miserable one. The Angels did not respond to Williams' somewhat authoritarian managing style and finished last in the AL West again in 1975. They were 18 games below .500 (and in the midst of a player revolt) when Williams was fired in July 1976. While managing the Angels, he once held a practice in the lobby of his team's hotel using only wiffle balls and bats; the point was to demonstrate that his hitters were so weak, they could not break anything in the lobby.

Montreal Expos[]

When Williams switched to the National League, however, he regained his winning touch. In 1977, he returned to Montreal as manager of the Expos, who had just come off 107 losses and a last-place finish in the NL East. After cajoling them into improved, but below .500, performances in his first two seasons in Montreal, Williams turned the 1979-80 Expos into pennant contenders. The team won over 90 games both years, but finished second each time to the eventual World Champion (the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979 and the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980). The Expos, with a fruitful farm system and young All-Stars such as outfielder Andre Dawson and catcher Gary Carter, seemed a lock to contend for a long time to come.

But Williams' hard edge alienated his players and ultimately wore out his welcome. He labeled pitcher Steve Rogers a fraud with "king of the mountain syndrome" – meaning that Rogers had been a good pitcher on a bad team for so long that he was unable to "step up" when the team became good. Williams also lost confidence in closer Jeff Reardon, whom the Montreal front office had acquired in a much publicized trade with the Mets. When the 1981 Expos performed below expectations, Williams was fired during the pennant drive. With the arrival of his easy-going successor Jim Fanning, who restored Reardon to the closer's role, the inspired Expos made the playoffs for the only time in their 36-year history in Montreal. However, they fell in heartbreaking fashion to Rick Monday and the eventual World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers in a five-game NLCS.

San Diego Padres[]

In 1982, Williams took over another chronic loser, the San Diego Padres. By 1984, he had guided the Padres to their first NL West Division championship. In the NLCS, the NL East champion Chicago Cubs – making their first postseason appearance since 1945 – won Games 1 and 2, but Williams' Padres took the next three games in a miraculous comeback to win the pennant. In the World Series, however, San Diego was no match for Sparky Anderson's Detroit Tigers, a team that had won 104 games during the regular season (having gone a record 35-5 by late May) and swept the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. Although the Tigers won the Series in five games, both Williams and Anderson joined Dark, Joe McCarthy, and Yogi Berra as managers who had won pennants in both major leagues (Tony La Russa joined this group in 2004 and Jim Leyland followed suit in 2006).

The Padres fell to third in 1985, and Williams was let go as manager just before 1986 spring training. His difficulties with the Padres stemmed from a power struggle with team president Ballard Smith and general manager Jack McKeon. Williams was a hire of team owner (and McDonald's restaurant magnate) Ray Kroc, whose health was failing. McKeon and Smith (who also happened to be Kroc's son-in-law) were posturing to buy the team and viewed Williams as a threat to their plans. With his San Diego tenure at an end, it appeared that Williams' managerial career was finished.

Final seasons in uniform[]

In 1986, the Seattle Mariners, another perennial loser called on Williams to be manager. When the Mariners lost 19 of their first 28 games under Chuck Cottier, Williams came back to the American League West for the first time in almost a decade. The Mariners showed some life that season and almost reached .500 the following season. However, Williams' autocratic managing style no longer played with the new generation of ballplayers. Williams was fired from his last managing job with Seattle 23-33 and in sixth place in June 1988. Williams' career won-loss totals were 1,571 wins and 1,451 losses over 21 seasons.

In 1989, Williams was named manager of the West Palm Beach Tropics of the Senior Professional Baseball Association, a league featuring mostly former major league players 35 years of age and older. The Tropics went 52-20 in the regular season and ran away with the Southern Division title. Despite their regular season dominance, the Tropics lost 12-4 to the St. Petersburg Pelicans in the league's championship game. The Tropics folded at the end of the season, and the rest of the league folded a year later.

He remained in the game, however, as a special consultant to George Steinbrenner and the New York Yankees. In 1990, Williams published his autobiography, No More Mister Nice Guy. His acrimonious departure in 1969 distanced Williams from the Red Sox for the remainder of the Yawkey period (through 2001), but after the change in ownership and management that followed, he was selected to the team's Hall of Fame in 2006.

Williams's number was recently retired by the Fort Worth Cats. The Cats were a popular minor league team in Fort Worth and Williams played there while he was working his way through the Dodgers system. The Cats merged/disbanded around 1960 but in recent years returned as an independent minor league team. The "New" Cats retired Williams' number.

Managerial statistics[]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
BOS 1967 92 70 .568 1st in American League 3 4 .429 Lost to St. Louis Cardinals
BOS 1968 86 76 .531 4th in American League - - - -
BOS 1969 82 71 .536 3rd in AL East - - - -
OAK 1971 101 60 .627 1st in AL West 0 3 .000 Lost to Baltimore Orioles
OAK 1972 93 62 .600 1st in AL West 7 5 .583 Won World Series
OAK 1973 94 68 .580 1st in AL West 7 5 .583 Won World Series
CAL 1974 36 48 .429 6th in AL West - - - -
CAL 1975 72 89 .447 6th in AL West - - - -
CAL 1976 39 57 .406 4th in AL West - - - -
MON 1977 75 87 .463 5th in NL East - - - -
MON 1978 76 86 .469 4th in NL East - - - -
MON 1979 95 65 .594 2nd in NL East - - - -
MON 1980 90 72 .556 2nd in NL East - - - -
MON 1981 44 37 .543 2nd in NL East - - - -
SDP 1982 81 81 .500 4th in NL West - - - -
SDP 1983 81 81 .500 4th in NL West - - - -
SDP 1984 92 70 .568 1st in NL West 4 6 .400 Lost to Detroit Tigers
SDP 1985 83 79 .512 3rd in NL West - - - -
SEA 1986 58 75 .436 7th in AL West - - - -
SEA 1987 78 84 .481 4th in AL West - - - -
SEA 1988 23 33 .411 7th in AL West - - - -
Total 1571 1451 .520 22 23 .489 Won 2 World Series

Induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame[]

Dick Williams was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in December 2007, and was inducted on July 27, 2008.[1]

Personal life[]

His son is Rick Williams who was a former minor league pitcher and Major League pitching coach.

Dick Williams died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm at a hospital near his home in Henderson, Nevada on July 7, 2011.


In January 2000, Williams pleaded no contest to indecent exposure charges in Florida.[2][3] This occurred just weeks before the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee's vote in that year's inductees.

"What happened to me down in Fort Myers when I was arrested evidently hurt me quite a bit," Williams told the New York Times in a telephone interview. "What came out on that in the papers was not true. I was not masturbating on the balcony. I'm going to issue a statement about it so the explanation goes across the country."[4]


  • Cooper, Steve, Red Sox Diehard, 1967 season retrospective. Boston: Dunfey Publishing Co., 1987.
  • Stout, Glenn and Johnson, Richard A., Red Sox Century. Boston and New York: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2000.
  • Williams, Dick, and Plaschke, Bill, No More Mr. Nice Guy: A Life of Hardball. San Diego: Harcourt, Brace & Jovanovitch, 1990.

External links[]

Preceded by:
Pete Runnels
Boston Red Sox manager
Succeeded by:
Eddie Popowski
Preceded by:
John McNamara
Oakland Athletics manager
Succeeded by:
Alvin Dark
Preceded by:
Whitey Herzog
California Angels manager
Succeeded by:
Norm Sherry
Preceded by:
Charlie Fox
Montreal Expos manager
Succeeded by:
Jim Fanning
Preceded by:
Frank Howard
San Diego Padres manager
Succeeded by:
Steve Boros
Preceded by:
Chuck Cottier
Seattle Mariners Manager
Succeeded by:
Jim Snyder

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