Former manager Williams fed up with today's game


He once conducted practice for the California Angels in a hotel ballroom using Wiffle Balls and bats.

"Bill Lee of the Red Sox said they couldn't hit their way out of the hotel, so I said, 'Let's see if they can,'" said former manager Dick Williams, a color analyst for 51s' Sunday home games on KENO-AM (1460). "He was right. We couldn't hit the damn Wiffle Ball."

A strict disciplinarian as a manager, Williams wore out his welcome with many players and owners with a demanding, no-nonsense style that probably cost him a spot in baseball's Hall of Fame.

But that hard-core approach helped Williams become one of two managers to guide three franchises to the World Series and one of seven to win pennants in both leagues.

Williams, who managed 21 years (1967 to 1969, 1971 to 1988) in the majors, guided the Red Sox to the American League pennant in his first season, in Boston's "Impossible Dream" season of 1967.

He led the Oakland Athletics to World Series titles in 1972 and 1973, helped turn around the Montreal Expos in the late 1970s and pushed the San Diego Padres to their first National League pennant in 1984.

Williams retired as manager of the Seattle Mariners in 1988, when his approach failed to work with modern players.

"I couldn't manage these days. I wouldn't last a week. I'd blow my crock," said Williams, 78. "I yell at my TV and walk out of the room now, I see such terrible things going on. They don't play the game the way it should be played.

"You have 145-pound players trying to hit it 400 feet. It's ridiculous. They're all rich, though. It doesn't mean they're good, but they're rich."

Williams, who moved to Las Vegas 17 years ago to be closer to his wife's family, said today's game bothers him so much he doesn't enjoy going to the ballpark anymore.

"No, not really. Not the way they play now," he said. "I don't even know why I'm doing color because I'm so negative, and I don't want to be that way. I shouldn't be (that way)."

51s play-by-play announcer Russ Langer said Williams isn't negative, just "very direct."

"You can see why he had a reputation as a manager for being very blunt," said Langer, a two-time Nevada sportscaster of the year. "He's often that way on the air. He is very straightforward, and he will say things other people might sugarcoat."

Langer said there's "no question" Williams deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but his abrasive personality probably has hurt his chances.

"Sometimes people look at an individual's credentials and sometimes it gets personal," Langer said.

Williams missed election by a small margin in 1999, but a 2000 arrest for indecent exposure probably has ruined his chances.

Williams, who led his teams to a 1,571-1,451 record, said he "absolutely" deserves to be enshrined in the Hall.

"I have no qualms about what I've done," he said.

Estranged from the Red Sox under the Yawkey family ownership, Williams was enshrined into the Red Sox Hall of Fame last year and returned to Fenway Park this season on Opening Day, when he was honored alongside other members of the 1967 squad.

Williams also had a 13-year playing career, signing his first professional contract in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

He was on the bench in 1951 when the New York Giants' Bobby Thomson hit his "shot heard 'round the world" and was in the dreary Dodgers clubhouse afterward, when manager Charlie Dressen uttered the famous phrase, "wait till next year."

"I learned my baseball from the Dodgers -- (Branch) Rickey baseball," Williams said. "That's what I demanded my players do, and if it wasn't done, then I'd make changes."

After guiding the colorful A's to their second straight World Series crown in 1973, the fiery Williams resigned -- on live television, no less, minutes after Game 7 ended. He had grown weary of owner Charlie Finley's meddlesome ways.

Williams left with his players' respect.

"Reggie (Hall of Famer Jackson's) statement was 'we learned how to win,' " Williams said.

 

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