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Francona: The Red Sox Years Hardcover – January 22, 2013
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"This is the best book looking inside the mind of a big-league manager I have ever read, because Francona is sharp and loves the game, because Shaughnessy is eloquent and a dazzling storyteller." - Philadelphia Inquirer
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Terry is the son of a major league baseball player, he grew up with the game, loved it always. His dad, John was called Tito. In Italian families, Tito was the name given to small boys. As Terry grew up he was called 'Little Tito'. Big Tito was rarely home, always on the road, so it was his mother who fostered his love of baseball. As his father's career was phasing out in baseball, Terry had a week with his dad on the road . Terry listened to all the conversations among the ball players and took it all in and remembered every word. It was during these years he learned how to interact with people, be good to everyone, cordial and friendly, and he learned the rules of the road which helped him as he sought his own career.
After college, Tito started his Minor and Major League Baseball career. He was a first baseman and outfielder in the majors from 1981 to 1990. After retiring as a player, he managed several minor league teams in the 1990s before managing the Philadelphia Phillies for four seasons. .Ups and downs, marriage, children, moving, and then his last game as a major leaguer was played at Fenway Park. Little did Terry Francona know that Boston would be the place of his dreams. The Red Sox organization has a reputation like no other. The fans love everything Red Sox, when you are in favor, the noise at Fenway can be heard for miles, it seems. If you have left the Red Sox to join the dreadful Yankees, the boos will follow you forever. The journalists are unforgiving in their interest in everything and everyone. Boston is a sports town, and it is the best place to be. In November of 2003, Terry became the manager of the Boston Red Sox, brought in by Theo Epstein. The management, Lucchino, Werner and Henry all said he was the best interview they had ever had. In 2004 he led the team to it's first World Series since 1918. He won another World Series with Boston in 2007, and continued to manage the team until the end of the 2011 season. In between he had multiple surgeries for injuries incurred playing baseball. Complications of blood clotting, overwhelming sepsis, joint infections and day in and day out wearing of his body, played havoc with his life, but he managed and kept most of it to himself.
Three chapters are devoted to the last two years of Francona's management of the Red Sox and the dreadful 2011 season. Theo Epstein, his relationship with Tito, and his time with the Red Sox is examined. Of note, Theo`s grandfather, Philip, wrote the film, Casablanca. The owners, except for John Henry who never responded to Tito's request to be interviewed for this book, players, and many others have all had extensive interviews to discuss their perspective and examine what actually happened the last year. This is an integral part of the book in my opinion in garnering an understanding of the way the year went down, and how Terry Francona dealt with and reacted with the owners. Terry Francona is an honest man, wanting the best for his team, and trying to find the most effective method to manage the team. He accepts his responsibilities and his foibles. He has bared his life, reluctantly, since he is a private man. But, this book was necessary for him. He is now the Manager of the Cleveland Indians. Miss you Tito, you gave us your best!
Highly Recommended prisrob
They played the hell out of a really good manager and did him dirty. It wasn’t so much the fans, but the media and the owners. Like Tito said, that’s why they gotg Bobby Valentine as karma and the other bozo the clown that came after him and that’s why they haven’t won any World Series’ after him and Theo left. I bet you now the three owners are salty as hell he’s with the Indians and got them to their first World Series since 1997 and nearly won it. Now we’re trying to get back. I think Boston saw ownership’s screw up because when we played them last year in the playoffs, he got a standing ovation. Tito flat out won’t come back.
Now, I love Terry Francona and I don't mean any disrespect. He's an outstanding MLB manager who brought 2 World Series championships to us Red Sox fans in his first 4 years with the team--he was with the club for 8. He's engaging, funny, and has a great story to tell. I just think this could have been much, much more than it is.
Despite the subtitle, the first six chapter of the book have basically nothing to do with the Red Sox. That's okay--they deal with Terry's childhood during his father's MLB career, Terry's own journey through high school, college, the minors, MLB, and into his coaching and managerial experience leading right up to, of course, how he was hired on as the Red Sox skipper. Mostly fairly interesting but then just call the book FRANCONA without the subtitle because from that point on there essentially was just one chapter per year for each year of his 8-year term at the helm and then a couple chapters post-Boston.
Perhaps I'm splitting hairs but as I said initially, it was not what I expected. Much of the book has nothing to do with the Red Sox--it is Terry's life story. I was expecting extensive and previously unheard behind the scenes anecdotes regarding key players throughout the years. There is a bit of that but mostly we're getting Terry's take on incidents we already heard about. In the lengthy back story there's more about Michael Jordan's foray into minor league baseball (Terry managed him) than there was about key Red Sox players, some of whom get barely a mention with just a sentence or two. Even Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick gets more ink than most of the players. Calvin Hill, the father of NBA star Grant Hill gets a big write up just for being in the front office of the Orioles at one point--something about hiring Theo down in Baltimore.
There are a few tidbits we have forgotten, or perhaps never knew such as Terry's last major league at bat was in Fenway Park and he flew out to Ellis Burks who he later managed in 2004. Terry was a coach with the 2003 A's and after Game 4 in Boston Jack McCormick used his contacts with the Boston PD to delay the A's at the airport so the Sox could get back to Oakland before them for Game 5--the Johnny Damon concussion game. Within weeks Terry was interviewing for the Red Sox skippership. I always thought a guy went in for an interview or two or three and then got the job or not. They had Terry basically hanging out at Fenway for most of the winter playing simulated baseball games with guys from Baseball Ops while he was still employed by the A's. For his entire term with the Sox the team had this computer (program) which they created and named Carmine which they used to help manage the team.
There were a couple of poignant moments with Terry sharing how he broke down in tears--not because of game play but following high-stress situations which had weighed heavily on him for some time and had finally come to a positive resolution.
Here's an excerpt (sorry--not related to him crying) regarding Pedroia when he won the 2008 MVP Award: "It was unbelievable...Tim Lincecum was the Cy Young winner and he had the whole Giants front office there from San Francisco...I was there with just Pam Ganley...Brian Cashman--the GM of the Yankees!--had to give me my MVP Award!...Our owners gave David a car or truck for doing I'm not sure what, and I've got nobody there when I get the MVP. All I got was a handshake."
Francona decided the best response was a gag gift for his second baseman...Pedroia found an electrically charged blue mini-scooter in front of his locker...a pink "AL MVP" helmet hung from the handlebar with a phony note from Lucchino..."Sorry we couldn't make it to the MVP presentation...Congratulations, Dustin."
See, the book should have been full of anecdotes like that but sadly it wasn't.
Sure, there were many interesting tidbits like dissecting the ill-fated trip to Japan in 2008, what went on in various meetings and on team flights and how toxic the clubhouse was at times. Also interesting is how intertwined the histories of so many players and coaches are, "I knew Nomar already from when I coached him in the Arizona Fall League," etc.
And I never knew his health was this bad: "The most recent knee replacement followed the 2006 knee replacement, knee scopes, knee reconstructions, cervical disk surgery, and numerous wrist, elbow, and shoulder surgeries. He'd cheated death during the Christmas season of 2002, surviving a pulmonary embolism on each side of his lungs, as well as subsequent blood clots, staph infections, massive internal bleeding, and the near-amputation of his right leg. He had a small metal device implanted into his vena cava vein to prevent clotting. He was unable to jog and would be on blood-thinning medication for the rest of his life. He wore sleeves on both his legs, and still got cold easily. Anytime he sat too long his legs swelled and needed to be elevated....Blood-level maintenance and pain management would be part of his life for as long as he lived."
Anyway, here's a few of my takeaways: The ownership group of Henry, Werner, and Lucchino is a despicable and dysfunctional bunch of weasels. Theo Epstein is a supremely talented and likable GM. Manny is a lowlife dirt bag.
Overall, a worthy read for a Red Sox fan but nothing more. If not a Red Sox fan, you probably won't care a lick.
"When people ask me if I left the Red Sox on my own or if I was fired, I don't even know how to answer that. I really don't." --Terry "Tito" Francona