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Terry Francona, Nolan Ryan and bowties

Posted by Julian Benbow, Globe Staff  July 26, 2009 11:46 AM

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A conversation about Jon Lester’s stuff being deceptively powerful led to another conversation about the hardest thrower Terry Francona had ever seen.

“Nolan, hands down,” Francona said. “It’s not even close.”

Francona faced Nolan Ryan 42 times—more than any other pitcher he’d faced in his career.

“I played so much against him because I was a left handed contact hitter,” Francona said. “Somebody always got the flu, you know.”

Francona got nine hits off the legendary flame-thrower, and, of course, he still has war stories.

There was the intimidation.

“He would always walk over and test the grass, you know near the third base line, and then look in the dugout, like ‘Go ahead.’”

There were the bowties

“He said something to me like, ‘Nice game’ or something. I had gotten a couple hits. Then he goes. ‘It’s bowtie time.’”

There was the time in Montreal.

“Remember Montreal had all those shadows,” Francona said. “He threw a ball that I thought was going to hit me in the ribs, and it didn’t, but I kind of like whimpered. And I got in the box and then got back out of the box. I said, ‘You know what, I’m not ready to do this.’ I’ve never felt like that before. I thought that ball would hit me and it would kill me. And I never remember feeling that way about anybody else.”
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With John Smoltz back on the mound after giving up three home runs in a single inning in Monday's loss to Texas, Francona continued to repeat the idea that patience is important.

“I think he’s had some frustrations,” Francona said. “It’s so easy to have the big picture get lost here. I sat for the last six months and kid of laid out Smoltz thing and then he gives up runs and it all goes out the window. He’s either going to be enshrined in the hall of fame or he’s be released depending on a couple starts and that’s not how it can work. That’s not a good way to make it work.”

When it’s hard to have patience, that’s when you really need to have it.
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The Pawsox are at 46-51, fifth out of six teams in the International League north, but Terry Francona complemented manager Ron Johnson’s been doing even though the record might not show it.

“It’s really an interesting dynamic and RJ has a great perspective on it,” Francona said. “He knows if we’re winning everybody’s winning. I do think for a young manager that’s not an easy concept.”

Francona said young managers tend to want to prove that they know how to manage sometimes at the expense of developing players.

“You want to see if a guy can hit with a runner on third,” Francona said.

Johnson, he said, was good about preparing players for the next level.

“He’s been through it for a while and he understands,” Francona said. “So organizationally, he does a great job.”

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