Rox welcome new manager Buckner
January, 22, 2011
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com
BROCKTON, Mass. -- Bill Buckner, still youthful-looking at 61, received a standing ovation from a packed house of 450 guests when introduced as manager at the Brockton Rox Hot Stove Banquet Friday night at the Shaw Convention Center.
Buckner, who has never managed before taking the job with the Rox, a franchise in the independent Can-Am League, also received a glowing endorsement from another well-known figure on the Boston baseball scene, former Red Sox manager Jimy Williams.
“I think Bill Buckner will do a heckuva job,’’ Williams said before adding in classic deadpan fashion, “especially if he listens to the season-ticket holders.’’
The youngest of Williams’ two sons, Shawn, played second base for Brockton last season and is expected to return this season. His older son, Brady, is a manager in the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor league system.
Williams, who managed the Red Sox from 1997 until his firing in 2001 by GM Dan Duquette with just a third of the season left, went on to manage the Houston Astros for two and a half seasons and won a World Series ring in 2008 with the Philadelphia Phillies, where he served as bench coach to Charlie Manuel. He has worked in spring training with the Atlanta Braves for each of the past two seasons and expects to be with the Braves again this spring, assisting new manager Fredi Gonzalez.
Asked by dinner emcee Mike Adams to reflect upon his career, Williams cracked, “First and foremost, I’ve only been fired five times.’’
In a more serious vein, he said his five years in Boston were “tremendous ... it’s by far the best. Talk about getting after it. There’s nothing like it anywhere. These people are inside the players’ uniforms.’’
Williams also paid tribute to independent league baseball, noting that players he had in the big leagues, including Chris Coste of the Phillies and Kerry Ligtenberg of the Braves, came from independent league roots.
“I’m not saying they’re big leaguers,’’ Williams said of independent league players, many of whom were released by big league organizations or were never signed, “But I’m not saying they’re not. Fifty to 75 players every year are picked up by major league organizations, and some of them make it. My God, I tip my cap to them.
" ... Baseball is so much like life because there’s so much failure in baseball. Oh my God, it’s tough.’’
Buckner, who has signed a two-year contract with the Rox, hasn’t been in uniform since serving as White Sox hitting coach in 1996 and 1997.
“Managing, I always wanted to give it a try,’’ Buckner said. “I think I have the ability to do it. I love the game, and with me, there’s only one way to play it: with a lot of passion.’’
Buckner also shared the dais with Bill Lee, the former Red Sox pitcher who last season at age 63 pitched and won one game for the Rox, becoming the oldest pitcher ever to pitch a game. Buckner noted that he first met Lee in northern California when they were both still in high school and faced each other in an American Legion game (Lee: “He was a red-a-- little fricking first baseman.’’)
“And here we both are -- in Brockton, Massachusetts,’’ Buckner said. “Crazy world, isn’t it?’’