“No one is more deserving, he has an important place in Red Sox history, he brought them to prominence,” said Wallach Saturday from Yorba Linda, Calif.
Francona, who resigned Friday, managed Boston to the 2004 World Series at Busch Stadium, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals, giving the Red Sox their first World Series win since 1918, ending the curse of the Great Bambino, Babe Ruth.
And Wednesday in Game 162, closer Jonathan Papelbon couldn’t retire The Great Andino, Baltimore Orioles second baseman Robert Andino, who drove in the winning run. Three minutes later Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria hit a walk-off homer and the Red Sox were eliminated.
General manager Theo Epstein and Francona had their post-season state of the union on Thursday.
“I only saw highlights on TV,” Wallach said. “I had a feeling watching that Tito wasn’t coming back. He didn’t look like Tito. He sat with his arms crossed.”
Wallach might be bias on Francona, since the two have been good pals since their Montreal Expos days in the spring of 1981 at West Palm Beach, Fla. Wallach was a first-round draft in 1979, Francona in 1980.
Three years after breaking the curse, Francona managed the Sox to another title sweep, this over the Colorado Rockies.
Eight World Series games.
Eight World Series wins.
Francona managed Boston eight seasons with a 744-552 record (a .574 winning percentage).
“I sent him a message after he resigned: ‘No one else could have done the job you did,’ ” said Wallach. “I’m not saying any names, but he had some personalities to deal with there over the years.
Like Manny Ramirez being Manny eight days a week, with strong personalities like Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Papelbon.
“Tito was able to communicate, get his message through, as a manager you want your players to play hard for you,” said Wallach, who managed three years in the Dodgers minor-league system and one year with the Anaheim Angels. “They played hard for him.”
What Francona said before Game 162 illustrates the man, with three races, including his own going to the final day: “This is really good for baseball ... not so good for my stomach. If you don’t want to show up to play you have no pulse. My goodness, I can’t remember being that nervous in a long time.”
He displayed humour and got his point across.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro played for Francona with Philadelphia in 1997-98.
“Tito was very cool, calm and collected,” Amaro said before his Phillies opened the National League Division Series against the Cardinals.
“At the time he was learning on the job, we didn’t have a very good team.”
Amaro praised Francona for the job he did in Boston.
“Theo and others got him the players,” Amaro said, “but man he had a lot of tough egos to deal with like Manny.”
Covering the Expos in the early 1980s we thought maybe Larry Parrish, Brad Mills, Pete Rose and Wallach might some day be major-leaguer managers.
Not Francona. He hit a ton of line drives — leading the league when he suffered season-ending knee injuries — but we thought he had too much fun, if there is such a thing.
“He knew the game you could tell by the way he played, coach Jerry Kindall taught him the game at the University of Arizona, his father was a big leaguer,” Wallach said. “Tito had fun. He’d been around the game from a very young age.”
The Sox were 7-20 in September blowing a nine-game lead.
“Sometimes the message to players doesn’t get across,” Wallach said. “He had a pretty good message and got it across for a very long time.”