Friday, July 8, 2011

Dick Williams

Dick Williams, who managed the Padres to their first World Series, viewed baseball statistics from a bare bones perspective, judged baseball talent with a sharp eye, intimidated several Padres players and San Diego press members and lived as hard off the field as he did on it. Without Williams, a Hall of Famer who died Thursday at age 82, a talented collection of Padres may not have won the franchise's first National League West title and the NL pennant in 1984.

"He kind of turned around the franchise, that's what I thought," said Bob Chandler, the team's public relations director when Williams arrived in 1982 and a full-time broadcaster in 1984. "He taught 'em how to win."

* Statistics. "Part of my job was to do the statistics," Chandler said. "Dick came by one day and said, 'The only stats that count to me are advancing a runner from second to third with nobody out and getting a guy in from third with less than two out, and if you can't do that, you can't play for me -- I've got a spot for you next me on the bench.' " (If Williams managed the 2011 Padres, the bench wouldn't be long enough).

* Talent evaluation. Williams approved moving Carmelo Martinez from first base to left field and Alan Wiggins from left field to second base because he figured the big puzzle would fit better, which it did. "He had a great eye for talent," Chandler said.

* Intimidation. "He's the only manager I've seen do this -- he'd stand at the end of the dugout with a rolled up program and he made notes on it during the game," Chandler said, adding that the players sensed that Williams was critiquing their work. "He was no-nonsense. He wasn't an easy guy to like, personally. He was tough, real tough." With the press, too, Williams could be curt and manipulative, especially during his postgame sessions. "He's sitting there in his drawers," Chandler said, "and he's got a big plate of Whitey Wietelmann' chili, and he opens up the bottom of his drawer and pulls out a plug of scotch -- and he's in his drawers, eating his chili, drinking his scotch, and just waiting for someone to ask him a question. He intimidated a lot of the media here." An exception was Padres beat writer Phil Collier (also a friend and mentor to this blog). "He didn't intimidate Phil Collier and he didn't try to intimidate Collier," Chandler said, adding that another veteran beat writer, Barry Bloom, now with, also stood his ground.

* A taste for scotch. "There were times when we closed the bar at 2 o'clock," Chandler said, "and Dick would say the suite is open in his room -- he'd have a lot of goodies up there and he loved his scotch."

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