Francona has earned his lofty spot in Red Sox history
Over dinner, my wife tells me she cannot look at Terry Francona. She believes he has a kind face, and takes me at my word when I explain his welcoming, easy demeanor. But she cannot abide by Francona's dugout manners: wrapping a wad of chewing tobacco in a cocoon of bubble gum before stuffing the acrid combination into his mouth, doubling his Red Sox pullover as a bib.It is the manager's spit quotient alone that every summer forces a channel change from important Red Sox games (thank the stars for the miracle of DVR) to something less offensive, say, like "Law & Order," where a dead body introduces each episode.
Star systemAn hour before Francona will watch the Rays pound his Red Sox 9-1 in Game 3 of the ALCS, the televisions around the park show highlights of the Phillies and Dodgers, and the arriving Fenway crowd erupts in sporadic bursts for Manny Ramirez -- but over the four days that have comprised the ALCS, Terry Francona does not mention the name.
All you're doing most of the time is putting out fires and, sometimes, the most peace you have is when the game starts. Sometimes, that's not the most stressful part of the job. That's the most enjoyable part.
The treeIn football, they talk about coaching trees, the system of mentors and protégés that connects generations, which explains the professional origins of the successful ones. Jim Lee Howell produced Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, and from Landry came Dan Reeves and Mike Ditka. Bill Walsh represented the tree trunk, and his branches included George Seifert, Mike Shanahan, Ray Rhodes and Mike Holmgren, who in turn mentored Andy Reid. They don't talk about trees so much in baseball, even though the game's roots twist and writhe back before the Spanish-American War. Before Game 1, the two Pennsylvanians, Maddon and Francona, embrace and offer mutual congratulations. Maddon's baseball roots can be traced back to around the time of the Great Depression. He is a disciple of Mike Scioscia, the Angels' manager, who coached under Tommy Lasorda, who coached under the professorial Walter Alston, who was a teammate of Leo Durocher, one of the original win-through-constant-pressure managers. Relationships and connections are the lifeblood of the professional side of the sport, determining not only who gets jobs, but once they get them, what tactics they bring to the dugout. Francona can trace his managing roots to another family dynasty, the Bells. Buddy Bell and Francona played together in Cincinnati. When Bell went to Cleveland, he hired Francona. Bell's dad Gus played for the 1953 Cincinnati Reds, who were managed by Rogers Hornsby. Hornsby is part of the richest soil in the game, the original power-hitting second baseman, who played for one of the game's early dynastic managers, Miller Huggins. But with Francona, there is virtually no perceptible stylistic road map linking him to his on-field influences. Instead, the connection to the influences in his life can be seen more with how he deals with people -- for a certain serenity now exists within Francona, a hard-won comfort that did not always exist.
I watch so much of him, and his touch with the players, how he worked hard at making sure he did a lot of talking in a group on the field. Terry's personality adapts very well, with the fans, the front office, the coaching staff, the players.
--Brad Mills, Francona's bench coach
Howard Bryant is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. He is the author of "Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power and the Fight for the Soul of Major League Baseball" and of "Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston." He can be reached at Howard.Bryant@espn3.com.
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