With Terry Francona‘s departure from the Red Sox, a gaping hole is left in the dugout as arguably the best manager in Boston’s history leaves town. Francona will most be remembered for leading Boston to its first World Series title in 86 years during his first year as manager of the team in 2004.
Francona managed the Red Sox for eight years, posting a 744-552 record and winning the World Series in 2004 and again in 2007. He finishes second all-time in wins for the Red Sox, and his five playoff appearances are the most for any Boston manager. But September’s collapse may be a stain upon Francona’s otherwise admirable legacy.
Here are Francona’s most memorable moments as manager of the Red Sox, both good and bad.
Red Sox hire Francona — After the Red Sox were ousted in the 2003 ALCS by the Yankees, Grady Little was sent packing and Francona got the job. Francona was relatively unproven, as his only experience was managing the Phillies for four seasons (1997-2000), posting a mediocre 285-363 record with Philadelphia. While the first half of the season was a struggle, the Sox got hot in the second half, finishing with a 98-64 overall record, setting up an epic postseason run …
Boston’s run to a World Series title — After sweeping the Angels in the 2004 ALDS, Francona and the Red Sox ran into the rival Yankees in the ALCS. Down 3-0 and with no conceivable hope left, Boston put together the greatest comeback in MLB history and won four straight to beat the Yankees and advance to the World Series. With the momentum behind them, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to win its first World Series title since 1918, breaking the most-storied title drought in professional sports. In the process, Francona outmanaged Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, Yankees manager Joe Torre and Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, considered three of the game’s best.
Health issues in 2005 — During the 2005 season, Francona was hospitalized with severe chest pains at the start of the year during a series in New York. While he did not suffer a heart attack, tests showed that Francona had clogged arteries. He was determined to have circulation issues, which is why Francona wears his pullover during games.
Struggle to quit dipping — Before the 2007 season, Francona made a bet with team president Larry Lucchino that he could quit chewing tobacco that season. Whoever lost the bet would donate $20,000 to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Francona could not kick the habit and resumed chewing during the season. While he still has yet to quit, Francona claims that he only chews during games and does not do it at all in the offseason.
Sox win World Series again — After finishing first in the AL East in 2007, Boston swept the Angels in the ALDS before dropping three out of the first four games against the Indians in the ALCS. Just like in ’04, though, the Red Sox clawed their way back into the series and won the last three games of the series to advance to the World Series. Boston once again swept its World Series opponent, the Rockies, to win another title. Francona became the only manager in MLB history to win his first eight World Series games and one of two Red Sox managers to win multiple championships (Bill Carrigan, 1915 and 1916).
Boston trades Manny — Always a bastion of controversy, slugger Manny Ramirez’s situation came to a head during the 2008 season. Among other incidents during the season, Ramirez got into a scuffle with Kevin Youkilis in the dugout during a game, shoved an elderly traveling secretary out of frustration and often failed to run out ground balls in late July, supposedly out of anger with his contract situation. The outfielder’s antics became too much for Boston to handle and the team traded him to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. A star during Boston’s 2004 World Series run, Manny would struggle after being traded and has since retired after violating the league’s substance policy.
The collapse of 2011 — In the worst September collapse in MLB history, the Red Sox went 7-20 in the month, losing a nine-game lead over the Rays in the wild card standings. On the final day of the season on Sept. 28, the Rays and the Red Sox were tied in the standings. In a matter of five minutes, closer Jonathan Papelbon surrendered the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Boston’s game against the Orioles, while Tampa’s Evan Longoria hit a home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to beat the Yankees and win the wild card for the Rays. As manager of the talented-but-troubled Red Sox, Francona received a lot of blame for the collapse and was fired two days after the season ended, amidst revelations that he’d overseen a fractured clubhouse that had become unresponsive to his messages.