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updated: 7/7/2011 11:13 PM

Hall of Famer Dick Williams dead at 82

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  • Dick Williams holds out baseball hats of the opposing teams at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Legends Game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y., on June 19.

      Dick Williams holds out baseball hats of the opposing teams at the National Baseball Hall of Fame Legends Game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y., on June 19.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

By taking over a ninth-place team and leading it to the pennant in his first year as a big-league manager in Boston, Dick Williams earned the reputation of being a turnaround artist that he built on later in Montreal and San Diego.

By taking over an emerging powerhouse in Oakland and leading the Athletics to back-to-back World Series titles to start a dynasty in the 1970s, Williams became a Hall of Famer.

Williams, one of only two managers ever to lead three teams to the World Series, died Thursday from a ruptured aortic aneurysm at a hospital near his home in Henderson, Nev., the Hall of Fame said. He was 82.

With his brash style, mustache and public feuds with owner Charlie Finley, Williams was the ideal manager for the A's teams that won it all for him in 1972 and '73 and then again the following year after he resigned.

"He came to us at a very good time in our development and certainly for me as a young player full of talent ... ," Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson said. "We were young and needed to understand how to go about winning and take the final step to become a great team. He was very important in that. He demanded excellence."

He was able to get that out of his players in many of his stops, winning pennants with the Red Sox and San Diego as well as the championships in Oakland to join Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie as the only managers ever to take three franchises to the World Series.

He also helped build the Montreal Expos team that went to the playoffs in the strike-shortened 1981 season as he built on his success turning around struggling franchises with his no-nonsense approach.

"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 Hall of Famers like Jackson, Rollie Fingers and 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.

The final straw between manager and owner came during the '73 World Series. After second baseman Mike Andrews made two errors in a Game 2 loss, Finley publicly berated him and pressured him to sign an affidavit claiming he was hurt so the A's could add another player to the roster.

Williams and the A's players were outraged by the way Andrews was treated and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn blocked the roster move. Williams ended up resigning after the season.

"When Dick left, it was an odd termination," Jackson said. "That was a weird deal, the Mike Andrews situation. We knew Dick was still a heck of a manager. It was really just a disagreement with ownership over the incident in the World Series and Dick stood up for the player."

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.

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.

One of his former players in Montreal, Hall of Famer Andre Dawson was there and said he was shocked when he heard the news Thursday that one of his favorite managers ever had died.

"He was just one of those guys. I respected him, I admired him for the simple reason that as a young player I didn't feel pressure underneath him," Dawson said. "He just said, 'Have fun, go out and play the game to the best of your ability."'

Clemens jurors criticize Congress:

Prospective jurors screened Thursday for the Roger Clemens perjury trial were more critical of Congress for spending time investigating drugs in baseball than they were of the star pitcher on trial for lying to lawmakers about ever using them.

The sports legend watched intently but didn't speak as members of the jury pool faced intense questioning from the judge and lawyers from both sides for a second day. Nearly as many have been turned away as qualified to be considered for the panel that will eventually be seated, including two who were excused after they said they weren't sure they could be fair because of their feelings about Congress.

"Even members of Congress have lied to Congress and they have not been prosecuted," said one of the panelists who was excused.

Clemens faces six felony counts on accusations he lied to Congress under oath when he testified that he never used steroids or human growth hormone. His statements came during a deposition and a hearing at the House Government Reform committee, which took up the issue after a report to Major League Baseball accused Clemens and 85 other current and former players of using performance-enhancing drugs.

Clemens' longtime trainer, Brian McNamee, testified to the committee that he injected the seven-time Cy Young Award winner repeatedly with both substances. And Clemens' former teammate and close friend Andy Pettitte said Clemens once told him he used human growth hormone. Clemens says Pettitte misheard him and that McNamee lied.

Committee leaders asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Clemens committed perjury.

One potential juror said he saw the documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster(asterisk)" that questioned whether steroids should be illegal and suggested the Clemens investigation was a waste of congressional resources. The man, who is chief financial officer at an accounting firm, called the film convincing and said he agreed Congress should have higher priorities than steroids.

"Given all the problems the country faces, it wouldn't have been high on my list," the CFO said.

A woman who works as a federal contracting officer had a similar opinion, although she expressed reluctance to question lawmakers' decisions. Prosecutor Steven Durham pressed her on whether she believes the investigation was a waste of taxpayer money. She paused, smiled and acknowledged, "Honestly, yes." But she said she could still fairly judge the case and was told to return as a possible juror.

Clemens' attorney, Rusty Hardin, pressed potential jurors on their feelings about steroids in baseball. "I've never gotten hate mail as intense as I have than while representing him because baseball fans feel so intensely about the subject," Hardin told one prospective juror who is a fan.

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