Sox 67 – Firing of Sal Maglie

In the late fall of 67, there weren’t many positive headlines in the Globe. 500,000 Americans were fighting in Vietnam, with no end in sight. Campuses were exploding everywhere. At Harvard, 245 protesters were placed on probation or given warnings for their part in “imprisoning” a campus recruiter in late October.

On the Red Sox front, the afterglow of the Impossible Dream season was marred by an incident involving Dick Williams and pitching coach Sal Maglie. Maglie, who had a 119-62 lifetime record with 5 teams in a 10-year career, was fired by Williams. Despite a big improvement in the Boston pitching staff, it had not been a good year for Maglie. His wife had died in an auto crash just before spring training. He and Williams had often clashed on pitcher selections. Shortly before his firing, Maglie himself was hospitalized following an accident. While recuperating, he learned from GM Dick O’Connell-with no word from Williams- that he had been replaced by Darrell Johnson, a former catcher.

Speaking of Johnson, Williams explained “He was MY choice.” This suggested that Maglie, who was in the midst of a two-year contract when Dick was hired, was not. Criticism of Williams abounded. Many of the manager’s moves during the season had been controversial, but most had worked out in the end. But there was a harsh and sometimes cruel side to Dick’s personality, and it was apparent here. Maglie, nicknamed “The Barber” because of a reputation for pitching inside, was no shrinking violet either. He blasted Williams for leaving Jim Lonborg in during the seventh game of the Series to absorb all 7 Cardinal runs. “It was obvious that Lonborg didn’t have it, Williams should have gotten him out sooner…it was a crime that he let a man who’d done such a great job for him all season take a pounding like that. It was degrading.” He later was quoted as saying “I’m not bitter toward the Red Sox, but I’m bitter toward Dick Williams. He hasn’t handled the situation like a gentleman.’ In future years, many players and writers would express similar feelings about the manager.

Dick tried to apologize for not talking to Maglie personally, but they did not wash. A Clif Keane column pointed out that it was one more example of front office mistakes regarding “holdover” coaches: “It sort of figured and it was due to the stupidity of Sox management. They’ve made the same mistake too many times, keeping men around who didn’t belong with the new show. Sal and Dick never should have been within miles of each other.

There were questions about whether a former catcher like Johnson would succeed as a pitching coach. His two-year stint with the Sox was not a particularly successful one; by 1969, the team’s ERA would balloon to 3.92, one of the worst in the league. Darrell would return as Sox skipper in the mid-70’s, but that is a story for another day.

Meanwhile, in a piece announcing Lonborg’s near-unanimous AL Cy Young Award selection, the Globe’s Ray Fitzgerald mentioned that Lonny would be spending some time in his native California. While there, Fitzgerald related, the “handsome bachelor” would appear on ABC “The Dating Game”. The piece did not mention any plans to go skiing.

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