Dick Williams fired by Montreal

Picking up where I left off yesterday: In his biography, Williams describes how his demanding ways continued to anger some Expos players. The confrontational skipper’s clashes with Steve Rogers persisted and he rarely saw see eye-to-eye with Ross Grimsley, Jeff Reardon, Warren Cromartie and Ron LeFlore. During the 1980 campaign, he also sensed that support from Expos GM, John McHale, was waning, despite the team’s eventual second place finish (just one game back of the World Series champion Phillies).

Heading in 1981, expectations were high for the club, but players continued to complain about Williams. When a strike shut down Major League Baseball for 50 days, the Expos sat in third place in the National League East. When play resumed, owners agreed to split the season in half, a format that would set up a post-season battle between the team with the best pre-strike record in each division and the club with the top post-strike record. The Expos boasted a combined 44-37 record on September 8, when McHale fired Williams at a hotel suite in Philadelphia. Jim Fanning took over as manager and piloted the club to a second-half division title down the stretch. The Expos would oust the Philllies in the National League Division Series, before losing to the Dodgers on a heartbreaking, ninth-inning homer that Rogers allowed to Rick Monday in the fifth-and-deciding game of the National League Championship Series. Williams watched the Monday home run on TV.

“I watched that homer on television, and I mourned,” he wrote. “Problems aside, this was still the team that I’d damn near raised from childhood. This was a team I’d taught everything I will ever know, so much that when it came to win a big one and I was gone, they could do it with a manager they barely knew.”

Williams was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2008. His managerial resume boasts two World Series titles, five division titles, two pennants and two managerial stints in Canada, including his first bench boss job with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1965.

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