The Dick Williams Way--Management style that gets results

>> Friday

With all the pampered pansies in pro sports these days, it was so refreshing for me to read this piece by Jerry Crasnick about soon-to-be Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dick Williams today.

Unyielding, gruff Williams was an innovator

That title says it all. It's about damned time people realized what it really means to be a manager of men. Unyielding and gruff--not like these modern managers always holding the hand of some coddled patsy while he pulls up his Pampers. Dick Williams knew.

"I always respected what Dick did on the field," Hutton said. "But he was a gruff guy. You could get in an elevator with him in the team hotel, and he wouldn't say anything. I could go a couple of weeks and not hear from him."

If I were a major league player, I'd have loved to play for a guy like Williams. That sounds just like something my own manager at work, Fred, would do. I remember one time he called me into his office for a meeting. For twenty minutes, he just sat in silence with his arms folded while I waited for him to say something. Every forty-five seconds or so, he'd shoot me an angry glare and then look back at the corner of his desk and stroke his moustache.

"I consider Dick a friend, but I can remember going months without talking to him," Andrews said. "He would make you so damn mad, but it made me play harder -- like, 'I'll show him.' Other players quit. And when they quit, he got rid of them."

We had someone like that at our office. A total quitter. Not a team player. One day, she showed up ten minutes late to one of our strategic initiative planning meetings. Fred didn't say anything at first, but later that day, he went over to her desk, lit a cigar, and put it out in her purse. The next day, she was gone. Now she runs our biggest competitor and lured away half our client base last quarter. But she was a troublemaker, and we're better off without her.

"I think we caught Dick at the right time," Bando said. "He was very fair and open to the guys who were the nucleus of those teams. But he could be hard on guys on the fringe. He expected you to work hard and be ready, and if he thought your mind was wandering or you were goofing off, he got on you. I remember him having a few drinks and airing guys out on the plane."

That couldn't be more like Fred. Last year at our company holiday party, Fred had a little too much Dewar's and called me a "shit-eating mick bastard," which was hilarious because I'm not even Irish. Then he punched out the ladies' bathroom attendant and puked in the tampon disposal. That was a good time.

The résumé speaks for itself: Williams is one of only seven managers to win pennants in both leagues, and he and Bill McKechnie are the only managers to guide three franchises to the World Series.

Fred may not be the most popular guy in the world, but we're not a subsidy of a subsidy of a Fortune 500 company on accident.

"I'd get fired within a week," Williams said. "My style of play doesn't fit in with all these millionaires now. Listen -- more power to the player. He's getting that money, and they're bigger and they're stronger. But I don't think they know baseball as well as we knew it or still know it."

That's so true. All these people from other companies that fairly compensate their employees and treat them with respect--they just don't know the market like those of us guided by fear and dogma. It's a fact of life.

"Dick was in charge," Andrews said. "I'll never forget what he said when he took the captain's title from Yastrzemski. He said, 'There's only one chief, and that's me. Everybody else is the Indians.' He wasn't going to be intimidated by the big league players. He stuck to his guns."

When you walk through the doorway of Fred's office, you immediately go down a mini staircase so that you have to look up two feet when you address him. It's no wonder why people work so hard for Fred.

He eventually moved on to a budding powerhouse in Oakland, where he compiled a 288-190 record over three seasons before crossing paths one too many times with the Athletics' interventionist, tightwad owner, Charles O. Finley. After the A's beat the New York Mets for their second straight title, Williams took a hike.

"I got along well with all the players," Williams said last week. "They all hated Finley, so they loved me. And it made my job easier."

Fred despises our corporate CEO, and whenever he has his back to Fred, Fred gives him the finger or pantomimes firing a gun at him. That really reassures the rest of us that Fred's in our corner and builds company unity.

Once the program begins, Williams will try to rely on a piece of speechmaking advice he received from Gwynn, who told him that if he wants to maintain his composure and avoid crying like a baby, he should avert his eyes from his family and just "look at the trees."

That's so funny! That's exactly what Fred does every time his wife comes to the office to tell him that their son got booked for soliciting a male prostitute again.

Take it from my own experience--guys like Fred and Dick Williams are a rare find these days. In a society where everyone expects a pat on the back and thinks it's acceptable to dissent from authority, the Freds and Dick Williamses of the world are priceless relics to be preserved in a museum.

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