x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Dick Williams left no one in doubt who was in charge

When former manager Dick Williams died at his home in Las Vegas last week at the age of 82, it marked the end of an era.

When former manager Dick Williams died at his home in Las Vegas last week at the age of 82, it marked the end of an era.

It's not just that Williams, elected into the Hall of Fame in 2008, was the first manager to take three different teams (Boston Red Sox, Oakland A's and San Diego Padres) to the World Series. Or that Williams was regarded by his players and opponents alike as a master strategist and unmatched competitor.

It was more that Williams was likely the last of the old-school managers, men like Gene Mauch, Walter Alston and Leo Durocher. Somehow, Williams carried his throwback style into the 1980s, taking the Padres to the 1984 World Series.

Managers of Williams's era were never big on communicating with players or patiently explaining their roles. He determined who would play and where, and he felt no need to explain himself.

He ruled like a Marine drill sergeant, stressing discipline, organisation and hard work. He didn't have time for complaints or excuses. No one ever wondered who was in charge.

Over time, as the landscape of the game changed, Williams became an anachronism. Guaranteed contracts and the influence of players' agents arrived and Williams's methods became outdated. Players soon tuned him out.

Then it was time for Williams to retire. But not before he established himself as one of the game's best managers, who, until the very end, did things his way.