Williams Benches Yaz

Filed under Boston Red Sox
August 1, 1969
Carl Yastrzemski (right) in happier times with Manager Dick Williams.
Carl Yastrzemski (right) in happier times with Manager Dick Williams.

Will the Red Sox have a new manager next year or a new left fielder? Or will the serious breach between Manager Dick Williams and outfielder Carl Yastrzemski be healed enough doe both of them to survive their difficulties? New England baseball fans – and perhaps those across the nation – were thinking along the same lines as the Red Sox arrived from their West Coast trip. Williams’ Red Sox were winners of eight in a row as the team took the field in Oakland yet Williams decided it was a curious time to show his troops who is boss.

A two-run home run by Sal Bando, his first of two on the evening, gave the home team an early advantage. Oakland doubled its’ lead in the third on a RBI double by Reggie Jackson and a RBI safety by Bando. A’s starter Blue Moon Odom was shutting down the Boston lineup. Yastrzemski, the Bosox leading hitter and hottest during the month of July (.315, 13 HR for the month), had struck out feebly in his first two plate appearances. In the top of the sixth with one out, Yaz hit a weak comebacker to the mound and was easily disposed by Odom. In the bottom of the frame, Joe Lahoud replaced Yaz in left field. Then, Williams explained by phone to the press box that Yaz had been benched for not hustling. “He’s been dogging it and every player on this team knows it,” Williams later said.

“I never loafed when it was important,” Yaz replied without explaining how he determines when it is important. Rico Petrocelli, in describing the dugout argument, said, “The man (Williams) was screaming. he just stood there and screamed at Carl. I don’t want to say any more. I don’t want to get in trouble with the man. I never heard a man scream like that.”

Two nights before the incident, Williams called a brief squad meeting in Anaheim and warned the entire team he would tolerate no more loafing. He told the players they would be fined, if necessary. The challenge to his authority was not long in coming, and it came from the biggest star on the team. “I don’t care who the player is, from now on, loafing will cost money,” Williams said. “That’s the way it is going to be on this team from now on.” Yastrzemski has had serious difficulties with other managers, notably Johnny Pesky and Billy Herman. Just before being fired, Herman warned Yaz that he could be traded. According to Herman, he told the outfielder, “If you get traded away from Fenway Park, you’ll be a very ordinary hitter.” Herman was fired a month later. Yaz went into a rigorous training routine and had a Triple Crown season in 1967 under freshman manager Williams. Yaz is in the first season of a rich two-year pact which some people say calls for $135,000 per season. Williams has one more year to go on a three-year contract, the longest ever given any Boston manager under Tom Yawkey’s regime.

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