Boston Fires Dick Williams

Filed under Boston Red Sox, Uncategorized
September 23, 1969

Controversial manager Dick Williams who led the Red Sox to contention in his rookie season of 1967 was fired four hours before Boston’s 8-1 loss to New York. Coach Eddie Popowski was named Williams’ replacement. Williams was fired because his players resented his methods. Williams had one year remaining on his three-year contract, and it is strongly suspected that he will join another American League team. Perhaps the most surprising feature of the whole messy business was Williams’ deliberate praise of Boston General Manager Dick O’Connell and his silence when asked about Owner Tom Yawkey. Williams left the unmistakable impression that he believes Yawkey, not O’Connell, fired him. However, Yawkey said later that the decision was agreed to among himself, O’Connell and Player Personnel Director Haywood Sullivan.

Reaction among New England baseball fans was heavily in sympathy with the deposed manager. As a result of that sympathy, Carl Yastrzemski was loudly booed every time he came to bat. Justified or not, blame for the firing landed on Yastrzemski’s shoulders. To the fans, he has become the symbol of rebellion among Boston players who are legendary for their talents at getting managers fired. “Getting fired is a peril of the job,” said Williams. “It’s an occupational hazard. My time simply has come. I’m proud of my record as a manager in Boston. The fans must have liked us because they broke attendance records.” There were signs all summer that Williams might get fired, but most members of the press believed he would remain to live out his contract. However, when he fined Yaz $500 in August for loafing, the tide turned against him. Yawkey was seen several times in conversation with Yaz in the dressing room after the firing, and the significance of the owner’s friendship for the player was not lost on Williams. “I would fine him again if he loafed,” Williams said.

The Red Sox were a torn ball club under Williams. “He didn’t like him and I didn’t like him,” said George Scott. Mike Andrews countered, “He was a winning manager and he always will be a winner. I will always be grateful for what he did for me. This is a terrible thing.” Coach Bobby Doerr announced his retirement in the wake of the firing. “I’m out of baseball now,” Doerr said when he heard the news. “I’m going to Oregon. If Dick had been back, I would have stayed. But this is it for me.”

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