<
>

Farewell to Tito, for now

5/27/2013

The weekend didn’t go the way he would have liked, the Indians losing three straight to the Red Sox after a rousing victory in the series opener, but we can’t let Terry Francona’s return to Boston pass without one final look at what this town meant to him over the years. Tito’s Top 10? Take a look at this list of memorable Boston-related moments for Francona, submitted by special contributor Tyler M. Browne, a 7th-grader of Boston Latin Academy.

* April 16, 1990: Francona, playing for the Milwaukee Brewers and facing Red Sox pitcher John Leister on Patriots Day, flies out to center-fielder Ellis Burks in his final major-league at-bat.

* Dec. 4, 2003: Francona, 44, is hired as the 44th manager in Red Sox history. Hired to be fired, he was asked. “I’ve been released from six teams. I’ve been fired as a manager. I’ve got no hair. I’ve got a nose that’s three times too big for my face, and I grew up in a major-league clubhouse. My skin’s pretty thick. I’ll be OK. ... This is the most exciting day of my baseball life.’’

* Oct. 20, 2004: Red Sox beat the Yankees, 10-3, in Game 7 of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium, completing a comeback from a 3 games to 0 deficit, the only team in major league history to accomplish that feat. After the game, Yankees manager Joe Torre calls Francona, congratulating him.

* Oct. 27, 2004: Red Sox shut out the Cardinals, 3-0, in Game 4 of the World Series in St. Louis, completing a four-game sweep. Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years. “It was when we landed [in Boston] that I realized what we had done and what it meant,’’ Francona said.

* April 5, 2006: Three games into the season, Francona reverses course and replaces closer Keith Foulke, a hero of the 2004 postseason, with a rookie, Jonathan Papelbon. "Believe me, I don't do things like that on a spur of the moment,’’ Francona says. “I try to put a lot of thought behind it. I have a lot of faith in that young man." Papelbon saves 219 games for the Sox in the next six seasons.

* May 2, 2007: Francona ignores public pressure and stands by rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who on May 1 was batting .172 in his first 21 games. Pedroia hits .415 in May, finishes the year batting .317, and is named the American League Rookie of the Year. A year later, Pedroia is the league’s Most Valuable Player.

* Oct. 21, 2007: Francona again leads the Red Sox from the brink of elimination in the ALCS to the World Series, coming back from a 3 games to 1 deficit against the Cleveland Indians. "I think when you're in this kind of pressure cooker, you can either fold or implode or you can relax and be yourself," GM Theo Epstein said. "That's what our guys do. None of the circumstances bother them."

* Oct. 28, 2007: Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies, 4-3, in Coors Field in Colorado, completing a four-game sweep in the World Series and making Francona the only manager ever to win his first eight Series games. “What happened in '04, we'll never forget," Francona said. "I won't ever forget it. But this is '07, and we said that from Day 1. And we accomplished our goal, and it's not easy to do."

* Sept. 28, 2011: The Red Sox, who began September in first place in the AL East and with a 9-game lead in the wild-card race, lose, 4-3, to the Orioles in Baltimore and are eliminated from the playoffs moments later when the Rays beat the Yankees. The Sox went 7-20 in the final month, blowing the biggest lead in the season’s last month in baseball history. "We're not very happy right now," Francona said. "We needed to take care of business and we didn't."

* Sept. 30, 2011: Francona and the Red Sox part ways when the Sox do not exercise the option years on Francona’s contract. In eight seasons under Francona, the Sox went 744-552, a winning percentage of .574 that was the highest of any Sox manager who managed more than two seasons in Boston. "Some of it may be personal," Francona said of leaving. "I thought it was time. And again, to be honest with you, I didn't know, I'm not sure how much support there was from ownership. … And I don't know if I felt real comfortable. You've got to be all-in in this job, and I voiced that today. ... It's got to be, everybody has to be together, and I was questioning some of that a little bit."