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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Talking to the Oldtimers: My Interview with Dick Williams

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I met Kathy, the daughter of Dick Williams, at KFOG’s KABOOM in San Francisco several years ago. When I learned who her dad was, I started to try and talk baseball with her, and although she was really nice about it, I could tell she wasn’t a huge baseball fan. A few months later, I persuaded her to give me her father’s phone number at his house in Henderson, NV. I could tell why some reporters found him tough to talk to. I asked him several questions that he thought were stupid and he had no problem telling me so.

Dick Williams was a player and manager in the major leagues for a total of 35 years. He entered the big leagues with the 1951 Brooklyn Dodgers, and although he didn’t play much as a rookie, he was on hand to witness Bobby Thomson’s shot-heard-round-the-world. He then played for 12 more seasons, with the Dodgers, Orioles, Indians, Kansas City A’s, Indians and Red Sox, primarily in the outfield, although he did fill in at first base, second and third. His best season was probably in 1959, when he hit .288 with 75 RBI while playing in 130 games for Kansas City. As a manager, Williams had a HOF career, winning a total of two world championships and two league championships, winning it all while the skipper of the ’72 and ’73 Oakland A’s and losing in the World Series in 1967 at the helm of the Red Sox and in 1984 with the San Diego Padres. He was known as a fiery competitor and a great manager who loathed mediocrity and stressed fundamentals. He made enemies with his outspoken style; including famous feuds with people like Ted Williams, Jack McKeon and Charlie Finley, but his players respected him because he was honest and direct. During his career, he managed the Red Sox, A’s, Expos, Padres and Mariners, for a total of 22 seasons, with 1,571 wins and 1,451 losses. He is considered by many to be one of the most successful managers in the history of the game, and yet the Hall of Fame has not included him into their coveted club.

As manager of the 1967 Boston Red Sox, his first managing job: “The team had finished a half of a game out of the cellar the year before, so I had to start from scratch, on fundamentals. And I was pretty tough with them. Jim Lonborg was the Cy Young winner that year, Yaztremski was the MVP and won the triple crown; I was the Manager of the Year and Dick O’Connell was the Executive of the Year, so that’s four spots right there. But, we played good, fundamental solid baseball. The way you’re supposed to do it. The role players were Conigliaro, who we lost him when he got beaned; Norm Seibern, Jim Landis, Jose Tartabull and Kenny Harreslon all played. Petrocelli got hurt, so I had to play a guy at shortstop who was normally a second baseman, he was one of my backup infielders, Jerry Adair. Everybody contributed on that club.”

On his relationship with Ted Williams: “Ted Williams and I didn’t see eye-to eye. My first spring training with the Red Sox he was there to supposedly work with the hitters. Usually during spring training you’ve got a lot of extra players around. So, for a lot of the pitchers, when they they weren’t on the field, I set up a volleyball net down the third-base line. I got all the pitchers tennis shoes, and we had a little volleyball tournament, with four or five different teams playing each other. Well, Ted didn’t like that. He thought it was stupid. So, he walked out of my spring training camp. But, somehow he showed up when we were in the World Series.”

Bert Campaneris throwing the bat at the pitcher during the 1972 AL playoffs: “Campy was having a great game that day, I think he had two or three hits, including a home run, I’m not sure. But, Larren LaGrow was the pitcher for Detroit, and he hit Campy in the shins, but this was on orders from the manager, Billy Martin, I know darn well it was. Because Campy could beat you a number of ways – with his bat, with his glove or with his legs. And he hit him in the shins. He could have put him out of the series permanently. He’s Latin, Campy is, so his first reaction is to get revenge, and he fired the bat at LaGrow, and he got suspended for the rest of the playoffs. But, it was always tough managing against Billy Martin. He was a great manager. All he tried to do was win, any which way he could.”

Relationships with umps: “I got along with most of the umpires, but there were a few I
didn’t always see eye to eye with. Usually whenever a manager gets tossed out of a game it’s for cussing. But, sometimes you can look at an umpire a certain way, and if he didn’t like you and you didn’t care for him, he’d run you. I don’t know how many games I got thrown out of -- I know it wasn’t as many as Earl Weaver, but I was probably next in line.”

Managing the A’s: I got a three-year contract from Charlie Finley in 1971. And we won 101 games that year. Then, we lost three games in the playoffs against the Orioles. Then, the next year, we won everything, including beating the Reds in the World Series without Reggie Jackson. Jackson was hurt sliding into the plate in the playoffs against Detroit. And then the next year we were down three games to two to the Mets going back to Oakland, and Yogi was managing that club, and he decides to pitch Tom Seaver against us one day ahead of time and we knocked him out in the fifth inning, and that forced Matlack to pitch one day early, and we won the last two and won it.”

The Mike Andrews controversy in the 1973 World Series: “Sure, Andrews let a ball go through his legs, but that can happen to anybody. Charlie (Finley) wanted him out of there and tried to get him to say his back was hurting him. And he wouldn’t do it, was Charlie just flat-out fired him. But, Bowie Kuhn reinstated him, and he re-joined us in New York. He wanted to get Trillo in there, but he wasn’t eligible.”


About the Writer

Ed Attanasio is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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