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December 4, 2007
JEFF IDELSON: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Hall of Fame's press conference to introduce the newest Hall of Famer, Dick Williams. On the left we have Dale Petroskey, president of the baseball Hall of Fame; our newest Hall of Famer, Dick Williams. And now I'd like to turn the program over to Hall of Fame chairman, Jane Forbes Clark.
JANE FORBES CLARK: Thank you, Jeff. Good morning. As you know, we announced the results of yesterday's voting by the veterans committee for managers and umpires, and for executives and pioneers, and there are five new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Barney Dreyfuss, Bowie Kuhn, Walter O'Malley, Billy Southworth and Dick Williams.
All five men belong with whomever the baseball writers elect this winter, will be honored as Hall of Fame class of 2008, and inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 28, this coming year in coopers town.
Billy and Dick become the 17th and 18th individuals elected as managers to the Hall of Fame, and the first since Sparky Anderson in 2000. And they become just the second pair of managers to earn election in the same year, joining Earl Weaver and Ned Hanlon in the class of 1996.
Dick managed six different teams over 21 Major League seasons: Boston, Oakland, California, Montréal, San Diego, and Seattle. And wherever he managed, he turned his teams into winners. His teams won 90 or more games seven times, and his lifetime winning percentage is .520. He took three different teams in three different decades to the World Series: Boston in 1967, Oakland in 1972 and 1973 for back-to-back World Series championships, and San Diego in 1984. He and Hall of Fame manager Bill McKechnie are the only managers in history to win pennants with three different teams.
Dick managed six teams, went to four World Series, is retired now, but we're now going to ask him to put on the uniform of his seventh team, his final team, our Hall of Fame team.
Q. What was it like the last 24 hours? Have you been reflective as far as your career in baseball, and what other things have you been thinking about?
DICK WILLIAMS: The last 24 hours or 48 hours or 84 hours, whatever you want to say, have been hectic.
I had no idea. I had hoped I might have the chance, and the way the format is set up now, I found out I did have the chance.
My wife and I just can't believe it. This is the pinnacle of anything in baseball, and I'm so happy and humbled by it; I know a few of you writers might think I'm humble. But it's a great, great feeling, a great happening that I'll always remember and always cherish.
Q. At what point in your career did you think that you might reach this point, or was it only after you retired?
DICK WILLIAMS: Well, I had been successful in Boston my first year managing the Major Leagues, and then worked for Gene Mauch and learned how the game should be played. He was a Branch Rickey protégé, also, and I thought the best manager that had ever been in baseball, and I learned from him after I had already won a pennant. I had one year with him and then had a chance to go to Oakland and Gene says, "Are you sure you want to go with Charlie?" Well, that was a great experience, and I learned quite a bit from Charlie, too, and most of it on the positive side.
As the years progressed, I had some success and I had some failure. I thought I had a big success in Montréal. We turned a club that lost 107 ballgames in '76; in three years, we won 95. It wasn't good enough to win against Pittsburgh or Philadelphia those two years, but it established some great young players that are now in the Hall of Fame; two of them, Gary Carter being one, and a soon-to-be inducted, I hope, Andre Dawson.
But we had success there. And then I was let go and in that strike-shortened year where you had a winner in the first half division and winner in the second half. And John McHale, who I just think the world of, didn't think I would be able to bring the club in, even though I brought two other clubs in. So he had Jim Fanning take the reins the last few weeks of the season, and they end up winning their decision on the second half. And the Dodgers beat them on a home run on Monday, which, believe it or not, I'm a manager that's let go, I'm rooting like the devil for them because it would make my paycheck a little bigger.
I left there. Right away I went to San Diego, and in my third year there with Jack McKeon as the general manager, we won again. So I did prove that I was capable of bringing somebody else in again.
I thought by that time, there's an outside chance. I had my 1,500th win up in Seattle. They give you a nice plaque for it. Seattle had some good up-and-coming ballplayers. One of them, one of the better left-handers I've ever had in all the years that I've had; I don't think I've had a left-handed pitcher like (Mark) Langston. And we didn't see eye-to-eye a few times, and usually the player stays and the manager goes, and that's what happened.
But I thought I had the chance along with the other managers. When I retired I was 13th on the all-time win list, and I think I'm something like 17th or 18th now.
Q. What would it mean to have Andre Dawson on the podium with you this summer?
DICK WILLIAMS: It would be wonderful. Andre Dawson and Warren Cromartie and Ellis Valentine were our three young rookies and we don't know if they would all three make it. In fact, we thought possibly Andre Dawson would have to go out but Ozzie Virgil, my third base coach, worked with him long hours on fielding ground balls, charging ground balls and getting position to throw and getting a jump on a ball. We knew his hitting would be there, and he had the great speed; and he turned into quite a ballplayer, an MVP one year. So that would be an honor.
There's another fellow that might have a pretty good chance to make it, too, and I'd like to have him with me on the induction in July, and I had him in San Diego, which is another one of my meal tickets, Goose Gossage.
Q. What was in your makeup as a manager that you could take teams that had floundered and turned them into winners in such a short period of time?
DICK WILLIAMS: Well, we found that out in Spring Training. I think a manager will know the capabilities of his ballclub, the possibilities of them doing well if everybody is healthy and they apply themselves in Spring Training.
I never believed in having a player do something percentage-wise he wasn't able to do. And this is what I tried to get, I tried to get the most out of my players, sometimes with sarcastic remarks, and at times pats on the rear end. Probably more sarcastic remarks, my wife says, than anything else.
But I believe if you apply yourself, if you work hard, good things will happen, and that goes with the coaches and the manager and the front office, as well as the players, and the trainers.
Q. 1980, Ron LeFlore's 97 stolen bases; Rodney Scott's stolen bases; I think Andre Dawson had 37 stolen bases; going on 200 stolen bases for three players on that team, was that your style of managing? Would you adjust your style for those three players because they ran like the wind all year long?
DICK WILLIAMS: What year was it? I don't know if you recall the situation but LeFlore set the record that year, didn't he? He had a broken hand and I don't know who in the heck we were playing, one of his former teams, might have been -- might have been Philadelphia, I don't know who it was.
But I used him, I kept him active so he could break the stolen base record, and I called for him to pinch-run. So one of them take second, and one of them steals third, and I can't find him. And he finally comes out of the third base dugout on the field; he was visiting with his old teammates.
You use the equipment that you have to the best of your ability. Sometimes, Timmy Raines could fly for me, and a lot of times I had a hard time getting him to go. And we had a go if he would get a jump; and a must-steal, you've got to run; and it turned out to be a lot of times a hit-and-run or a run-and-hit.
So you have to know your personnel, know what they can do and what they are capable of doing and hoping they will do it.
Q. Do you think the players have gotten softer in the last few years? They always say that a guy like you, you know, can't manage these guys because you're too tough. Do you think these guys are softer now than they were when you managed?
DICK WILLIAMS: They are richer. (Laughter.) And if you're richer, O imagine you can do what the heck you want a lot of times. The thing goes, the saying is, 'Manny will be Manny.' 'That's Manny being Manny.'
Francona has done just a fabulous job with the Red Sox, and their won/loss and World Series wins proves that. You let them go to a certain extent. I'm sure he has conversations with his players in his office; that's where it should be.
The game is different now. I don't think -- I'm sure glad they had the voting the other day, because in another two weeks, I'd have been fired as a manager if I took over the job.
They do things differently now, and I'd still be back at the same old basic fundamentals. You've got players that are hitting 30, 40, 50 home runs, you don't put them -- I did, in my situations when I needed a run. That's gone by the wayside now. Here again, you have to know your personnel, what they can do, when they are willing to do, I guess the thing is now. I don't throw things at the TV but my wife chases me out of the room if I make a comment or something. She says, "Go watch on your own, I don't want to be around it."
Q. So does it drive you crazy when you see stuff like that?
DICK WILLIAMS: No, it wasn't the style that I used. I'm not saying it's wrong, because it certainly isn't. And Tito Francona is a big, big example of that. He can roll with the punches.
Q. You managed Tito; right?
DICK WILLIAMS: Yes, and I played with his brother -- his father.
Q. Did you ever think he would become a two-time world champion manager way back?
DICK WILLIAMS: With the club he has and the way he operates it, they are probably not through yet. And he does just a tremendous job. His personality is so much different than mine. I pop off, and I'd even keep writers out of my clubhouse. (Chuckling).
He seems to get along with everybody, and that's one of his greatest attributes.
Q. As Jane said, you're the 18th manager in the Hall of Fame, and among your class, I mean, the people, you know, your contemporaries, you know, you have Earl and Tommy and Sparky, and I don't know if I'm missing anybody, but that's what I can remember off the top of my head. How does that feel to be among that number with the hundreds and hundreds of managers that have managed across Major League Baseball over the last century?
DICK WILLIAMS: It's a huge, huge feeling to be with Sparky. And Sparky and I are 1-1. I beat him when I had Oakland and he had Cincinnati, and he beat me when he had Detroit and I had San Diego, so we are 1-1.
But Sparky did a tremendous job. Earl did a tremendous job with one ballclub. And, of course, Lasorda with one ballclub; he's the ambassador of baseball. You want an after-dinner speaker, Tommy can do it. You want him sitting down there asking questions, Tommy can do that. He can do everything.
We played together and against each other down in Cuba. We sat with one of their commentators who was against Batista at the time, and we went in for an interview, Tommy and I, and the first thing Tommy did was pull out a .45 and lay it on the table. And he's looking out the window there and we're with our backs to the room and we didn't know what was coming off. Lucky Tommy can speak a little Spanish. He says, "We're all right so far."
Q. So being among 18 managers has to be quite a heady experience.
DICK WILLIAMS: Has to be what?
Q. Quite a heady experience to be one of 18 managers in the Hall of Fame.
DICK WILLIAMS: It's a big thrill. Billy Southworth, a lot of people don't know Billy Southworth in this modern age. I was a young kid a member of the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns Knothole Gang. Probably using my brother's pass because he was three years older than me; you had to be ten to get in. When Billy was managing the Cardinals, I got Billy Southworth's autograph. I don't have it now anymore, one of the many robberies; somebody's taken it from me (chuckling).
But Billy Southworth did something that I ended up using in a ballgame. He did the fake intentional walk. I did it in the World Series and both times it worked. He lost his game and I lost my game that day, but it still worked. In fact, Johnny Bench doesn't talk to me till this day, fellow Hall of Famer.
Q. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? Did you actually pick that up from Billy Southworth?
DICK WILLIAMS: Yes, I had read it somewhere that Billy Southworth had done that before this happened, and I told Bill Posedel, who was my manager, he might have been around when Billy Southworth was managing; Sailor Bill. I told him what I was going to do, and I said, "It's been done before. We'll see if it works." And it worked.
Funny thing is, (Gene) Tenace may have gotten behind the plate a little too early. The media asked us afterwards asked me and I explained my situation, asked Fingers; Tenace didn't know what the heck was happening, and I had to repeat it again for him. Used the alarm gestures and that (demonstrating). And they asked Fingers about it, and he said, "Oh, yeah, we used to pull that play in little league."
Q. What was the other time did you it? You said you did it twice, the fake intentional walk.
DICK WILLIAMS: I only did it once. Once was enough. It won't work any more after that. (Smiling).
Q. It was 40 years ago, but can you talk about the transition from being a successful AAA manager to debuting in the Major Leagues with the Red Sox?
DICK WILLIAMS: Well, I think it was probably -- they didn't have anybody else, I don't know.
I happened to be at the right place at the right time. I owe my chance of managing in the Major Leagues or my chance of managing, period, to three people in the Red Sox organization, Neil Mahoney was the farm director, Kenny was the assistant and Dick O'Connell was the general manager. They gave me the chance. I was going to go out and replace Billy Gardner as a player/coach with Seattle, which was the Red Sox top farm club. When Billy Herman got the job, he brought Gardner in, so I was going out there and eyeing oh Van Horny was the manager and he was a local Seattle person. They said, if they move the club, and we may, we'd want you to manage.
Well, they moved it to Toronto. When I found out, they moved it. I got on the phone in the Winter Meetings, they were down in Houston at the Shamrock Hotel and I got ahold of Neil right away. He said, "I was just getting ready to call you." Whether it's true or not, I don't know.
But we met the next Tuesday. This was on a Saturday and we met the next Tuesday in Toronto. Luckily we won the Governor's Cup both years. Earl Weaver was managing Rochester in 1966, Darryl Johnson was there in '65 and we competed against their ballclub.
Q. Of all the places you were and all your accomplishments, what's your top one? And then when you're done with that, what do you want to go in -- I don't know how you guys do it with managers, but what uniform would you want to wear going into the Hall of Fame, what cap?
DICK WILLIAMS: I can answer the first one. This is the pinnacle. I've been fortunate to be on two World Series; this, this is the ultimate goal I would think of any player or manager or baseball executive. It certainly is for me.
The hat, I'll wear this hat when I get on the plane, but we've talked and Hall of Fame has the right to choose the hat. They asked me my opinion, and I said the Oakland A's and that was their thought. I'll let Dale expound on that if you want.
DALE PETROSKEY: Yeah, we think that Oakland is the team that Dick is most associated with, and so we're in agreement on that, and that's what it's going to be.
DICK WILLIAMS: Whatever they say, I'm going to do. I like this and I like this and I've got a lapel pin.
Q. That's got to be like the first time, isn't it; whatever they say, you'll do?
DICK WILLIAMS: Yeah. (Laughter.)
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