Former manager Dick Williams remembered for turning losing teams into winners
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Dick Williams' 13-year major league playing career taught him how to manage.
His 21-year managerial career earned him a place in the Hall of Fame.
Williams died Thursday due to a ruptured aortic aneurysm at the age of 82. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008 by the Veterans Committee – becoming just the 18th manager enshrined in the Hall of Fame at the time of his induction.
Born May 7, 1929, Williams, who was raised in St. Louis and in Southern California, began his big league career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. The next season, Williams injured his shoulder while diving for a fly ball – and injury that affected his ability to throw for the rest of his career.
But as a utility player with the Dodgers, Orioles, Indians, Athletics and Red Sox, Williams learned from managers like Chuck Dressen, Paul Richards and Hall of Famer Walter Alston. After retiring as a player following the 1964 season, Williams accepted the job as the manager of the Red Sox's Triple-A Club in Toronto.
Two International League championships later, Williams was named the manager of the Red Sox. And in 1967, Williams led Boston – which finished ninth in 1966 – to the American League pennant in a season that came to be known as "The Impossible Dream."
"He got rid of all the individuality, made us into a team, gave us an incentive and made us want to win," said Boston's Carl Yastrzemski, who won the American League Triple Crown in 1967 and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989.
The Red Sox let Williams go at the end of the 1969 season, and in 1970 Williams coached under Gene Mauch with the Montreal Expos. Then in 1971, Williams became the manager of the Oakland A's.
Three years later, the A's had won three AL West titles, two AL pennants and two World Series crowns. In the four postseason series in 1972 and 1973, the A's needed the maximum number of games to win each series. Yet each time, Oakland – and Williams – found a way to win.
Williams resigned after leading the A's over the Mets in the 1973 World Series, then became the California Angels manager from 1974-76. In 1977, Williams took over the Expos, leading Montreal to their first winning season in 1979. He was fired during the 1981 season – a year when the Expos reached the National League Championship Series.
In 1982, Williams took over the San Diego Padres – a franchise with one winning season in its 13-year history. Williams led the Padres to .500 records in both 1983 and 1983, then helped San Diego win its first NL pennant in 1984.
After resigning from the Padres' job following the 1985 season, Williams managed the Seattle Mariners from 1986-88.
His final record: 1,571 wins (18th most all-time) against 1,451 losses, 13 of 22 seasons with at least a .500 record, three AL pennants, one NL pennant and two World Series titles.
"It was all business on Dick's side, and that's what I really loved about Dick Williams," said Hall of Fame pitcher Goose Gossage, who pitched for Williams with the Padres and was elected to the Hall of Fame with Williams in 2008. "No nonsense, absolutely no nonsense.
"What you saw is what you got, and that's what I loved about Dick."
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum