Earlier this week, I wrote about Walter Alston’s successful tenure as manager of the Montreal Royals, before he became a legendary skipper with the Dodgers. “The Quiet Man,” as he was sometimes dubbed, would pilot the Dodgers for 23 seasons, leading them to four World Series titles and seven National League pennants. But Alston isn’t the only Hall of Fame manager with links to Canada. Here are three other dugout bosses who honed their skills in the Great White North:
Best known as the beloved manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda spent the bulk of his professional playing career in Canada. Originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies, the fiery southpaw landed with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1948. Starting in 1950, he pitched a record nine seasons with the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate. In 1953, he recorded 17 wins and led the Royals, managed by Alston, to a Junior World Series title. After brief major league stops with Brooklyn and Kansas City and a stint in the New York Yankees organization, Lasorda returned to Montreal in 1958 to win 18 games and earn the circuit’s most valuable pitcher honours. After a final season with the Royals in 1960, Lasorda retired as the all-time franchise leader in wins (107), games pitched (251) and innings pitched (1,461). He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953, Sparky Anderson advanced to the Triple-A Montreal Royals in 1956, where he hit .298 and recorded 135 hits. After toiling with the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels for one season, the fiery second baseman returned to Montreal to sock 35 doubles and team with Lasorda to lead the Royals to a league title in 1958. His sole big league season came with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, before he came back to Canada to man second base for the Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasons. In all, the heady infielder played six of 10 minor league seasons north of the border. In 1964, Anderson accepted his first managerial post with the Toronto Maple Leafs and guided Toronto to a 80-72 record. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
After 13 seasons as a player, Dick Williams was approached by Neil Mahoney, the Red Sox minor league director, and offered the opportunity to manage the club’s Triple-A affiliate Toronto Maple Leafs in 1965. Leafs players responded to his crusty, old school style by winning championships in 1965 and 1966. After a successful tenure managing the Red Sox, Williams spent the 1970 season as Gene Mauch’s third-base coach with the Montreal Expos. So when he was hired as the Expos manager in 1977, Williams already knew that he loved the city. During Williams’ reign, the Expos would taste success (they won 95 games in 1979 but finished second), but the fiery bench boss wasn’t able to lead them to a division title. He was fired by the Expos in September 1981, the same season that the team would make its only post-season appearance. Williams was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.