They Were There: Dick Williams

“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.”

Dick Williams was a player and manager in the majors for 35 years. He began 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. Williams played for 12 more seasons, with the Dodgers, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City A’s, and the Boston Red Sox, primarily in the outfield, although he did fill in at first, second and third base. His best season came in 1959, when he hit .288 with 75 RBIs in 130 games for Kansas City.

As a manager, Williams had a Hall of Fame-caliber career, notching four pennants and two World Series titles—winning it all as skipper of the 1972-73 Oakland A’s while bowing 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. Williams made enemies with his outspoken style, including famous feuds with people like Ted Williams, Jack McKeon and Charles Finley, but his players respected him because he was honest and direct. During his career, Williams managed the Red Sox, A’s, Montreal Expos, Padres and Seattle 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 was finally elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 2007. He died on July 7, 2011.

As told to Ed Attanasio, This Great Game

As Manager of the 1967 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, Carl 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 Tony Conigliaro, who we lost when he got beaned; Norm Seibern, Jim Landis, Jose Tartabull and Kenny Harreslon all played. Rico 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.”

On Bert Campaneris Throwing his Bat at Larrin LaGrow 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, Lerrin 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 LaGrow 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.”

On his Relationships with Umpires: “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.”

On Managing the Oakland 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 Berra 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.”

On 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, so Charlie just flat-out fired him. But, Bowie Kuhn reinstated him, and he rejoined us in New York. Charlie wanted to get Manny Trillo in there, but he wasn’t eligible.”


1967: The Impossible Dream The Boston Red Sox get serious after a decade of living a mediocre, country club-like existence.


The 1960s Page: Welcome to My Strike Zone In a decade where baseball as a tradition is turning stale with America's emerging counter-culturism, major league owners see its biggest problem to be, of all things, an overabundance of offense in the game. The result? An increased strike zone, further contributing to a downward spiral in attendance, but greatly aiding an already talented batch of pitchers.


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They Were There: The TGG Interviews
They Were There: The TGG InterviewsCheck out our growing list of interviews with ex-major leaguers who witnessed and experienced, first-hand, some of the greatest, strangest and craziest moments in baseball history, as told to This Great Game's Ed Attanasio.


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