Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams, who led the 1967 Red Sox to the American League pennant, passed away today at the age of 82 at his home in Las Vegas of a brain aneurysm.
Williams was 1,571-1,451 in 21 seasons as a manager. The 1967 Red Sox were the first team he managed. He later led the Oakland Athletics to a pair of World Series titles.
Williams was the first major league manager of current Red Sox manager Terry Francona, with the Montreal Expos in 1981.
“He was rough, to say the least. He was a brilliant manager, also, and everybody knew it,” Francona said. “He was ahead of the game. You knew when you were going to hit, why you were going to hit, who you were going to hit off of. … He was good.”
Williams started his playing career as an 18-year-old in 1947 and went on to play parts of 13 seasons with five teams. He hit .260 with 70 home runs as an outfielder, first baseman, third baseman and second baseman.
Williams ended his playing career with the Red Sox in 1964 and accepted a position as a player-coach with the organization’s Class AAA team in Seattle.
But what that team moved to Toronto, manager Edo Vanni resigned and Williams was named manager despite his lack of experience. Williams led the team to two consecutive International League championships and earned a one-year contract to manage the Red Sox.
The Red Sox were a moribund franchise in the 1960s, regularly finishing near the bottom of the American League. The 1966 team was 72-90 and averaged just over 10,000 fans for games at Fenway Park.
Williams famously predicted, “We will win more ballgames than we lose” during spring training. That seemed like a fanciful notion given the state of the team. But the Sox won 92 games before losing in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Williams managed only two more seasons in Boston, getting fired by owner Tom Yawkey with nine games remaining in the 1969 season.