Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams, who won two World Series titles with Oakland and led two other franchises to pennants, has died. He was 82.
Williams died from a ruptured aortic aneurysm at a hospital near his home in Henderson, Nev., the Hall of Fame said.
”I admired the man,” said Athletics broadcaster Ray Fosse, who was Williams’ starting catcher in Oakland. ”I played for a lot of managers, and I can’t say there was one I respected more than Dick Williams, as a person and a manager. He was a good man.”
Williams won pennants with Boston and San Diego as well as the championships in Oakland, joining Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie as the only managers ever to take three franchises to the World Series.
He also took the Montreal Expos to their only playoff berth in the strike-shortened 1981 season as he had much success turning around struggling franchises with his hard-nosed disciplinarian style.
”I owe Dick a lot,” said Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who played for Williams in San Diego. ”The city and the Padres owe him a lot. I think a lot of fans bought right into it like the players did, like in `82, when he first took over, then `84 when we went to the World Series. I think the fans realized that his style of play, the way he wanted us to play, could be successful if we bought in, and we did.”
But he had his biggest success during three tumultuous seasons in Oakland in the 1970s. Williams led the Athletics to 101 wins and a division title his first year in 1971 before being swept by Baltimore in the AL championship series.
He then won World Series titles the next two years with Charley Finley’s brash team led by Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter as the A’s became the first team to repeat since the 1961-62 Yankees.
But fed up with Finley’s meddling style of ownership, Williams resigned after the 1973 title instead of sticking around for what turned out to be a third straight championship season.
”He was a brilliant and feisty leader, and universally recognized as one of the greatest managers in Major League history,” A’s owner Lew Wolff said. ”Beyond his status as a Hall of Famer, Dick’s name will forever be associated with the Oakland Athletics, as he led the team to back-to-back World Series titles in 1972 and 1973, and played a key role in bringing the Bay Area its first ever team World Championship.”
Before coming to Oakland, Williams was part of Boston’s memorable ”Impossible Dream” team in 1967 that won the pennant for the first time since 1946 before losing the World Series in seven games to St. Louis.
The Red Sox had finished ninth in the 10-team American League the previous year, helping form Williams’ reputation as a master of the turnaround.
Williams also took the Expos to the NL championship series in 1981 and led the Padres to their first playoff berth and first NL pennant in 1984. San Diego lost to Detroit in five games in the Series that year.
”He knew how to win,” said Rangers pitching coach Andy Hawkins, who pitched for Williams on the Padres. ”He got the most out of his people, he demanded the most out of his people and he got it. He handled his pitching staff real well, I ended up throwing real well for him. I liked him as a manager, I sure did. He was a tough man to break in for, but as a veteran, he was great to play for.”
Williams had an overall record of 1,571-1,451 in 21 seasons, also spending time with the Angels and Seattle Mariners. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008 after being elected by the Veterans Committee.
”Well, he wasn’t like they are today. He could raise some hell,” said baseball lifer Don Zimmer, who played with Williams in Brooklyn in the 1950s. ”Great manager. He really knew what he was doing.”
Williams was back in Cooperstown, N.Y., last month when he managed both teams at the Hall of Fame Classic at Doubleday Field in a legends contest featuring six Hall of Famers and 20 former major league stars.
”Dick Williams’ lasting legacy will be his innate ability to lead, turning franchises into winners wherever he managed,” Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson said. ”No one wore the mantle of `Hall of Famer’ more proudly than Dick. We will miss him in Cooperstown.”
Williams also played 13 years in the majors for the Dodgers, Orioles, Indians, A’s and Red Sox. He had a .260 career average with 70 homers and 331 RBIs as mostly a part-time player. He retired after the 1964 season and soon began his career as a manager. There will be no funeral services held.