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But Reardon and Rogers were hardly the only reasons Williams was fired. McHale cited a lack of discipline and communication. In five years in Montreal Williams had closed himself off from virtually everyone in the organization. "His style ranged from extreme noninterference," Rogers says, "to biting, caustic remarks. The result was lackadaisical play."
Third Baseman Larry Parrish, a Florida rancher in the off-season, doesn't recall Williams all that fondly: "Some-where along the line he stung everybody. I remember him telling me after I popped up with a runner on third and less than two out, 'That's not the first time you've done that, Parrish.' I was feeling bad enough as it was. I know from the work on my ranch that when you use the hotshot [cattle prod], some bulls will go right into the pen. Others will just lay down and sulk. Others will turn on you. People are like that, too."
At one point this season Williams even got down on Andre Dawson, who is only the best centerfielder in baseball. Dawson, whose word is as good as his stats (.323, 22 homers, 55 RBIs), had told a reporter, "The whole team is in a slump, from the manager on down." Says McHale, "Dick was a throwback. His idea of solving a problem was to have two guys in a fistfight." The Montreal players say that lately Williams had become, if anything, even more withdrawn. "He would sit in his corner of the dugout, writing things in his little charts, playing ticktacktoe with himself," Lee says.
Williams didn't endear himself to management by making noise about his contract, even though he was among the highest-paid managers in baseball. He had reportedly told people that the Expos wouldn't renew his contract this year even if he won. The reports early last week that Williams was headed for the New York Yankees had nothing to do with McHale's decision. "But they confirmed it," McHale says.
Williams was also wrongly criticized for sticking with Parrish and Second Baseman Rodney Scott. Parrish carried the team in the second half of 1979 and seems to be breaking out of a slump that had plagued him all this year. Scott, whom Williams hailed as the most valuable .224 hitter in baseball last year, is the most valuable .204 hitter this year. "The little guy has karma," Lee says.
But the real reason Williams was wearing golf shoes "and sipping Scotch" was that the Expos have played flat and uninspired baseball. They've done so despite Dawson's magnificent season, Tim Raines's undreamed-of running (69 stolen bases in 81 games), Gary Carter's 56 runs batted in and better pitching than they had last year. Last week the Expos were treading water with the Mets and Cubs, of all people, and unable to catch the Cardinals, who were on a five-game losing streak. "I would've thought we'd be seven or eight games up by now," says Fryman.
McHale made a change after the Expos lost three of four to the Astros. "I felt we had no choice. We just weren't going to win with Dick. It's tough to motivate a club after five years," McHale said. The rumors had been in the air for weeks, and the supposed successors were Coach Steve Boros, Denver Manager Felipe Alou, Broadcaster Duke Snider, former Manager and General Manager Charlie Fox and the equally unlikely Youppi, the team mascot. Nobody but nobody thought of Fanning.
"It wouldn't have been fair to hire somebody for just a month," says McHale. "Besides, what this club needed was a custodian, not an advocate."
As a player Fanning had such an undistinguished career that the first edition of The Baseball Encyclopedia listed him as Bill Fanning (his full name is William James Fanning), even though he says nobody in baseball ever called him Bill. Between 1954 and 1957 he spent a little time with the Cubs, backing up Garagiola, and Walker Cooper and Clyde McCullough, who were then themselves backups. He was a player-coach in the Cubs' system after that, and then a manager, but after his Dallas team finished last in 1960 he knew he was out of a job. So he went to the winter meetings, hooked up with McHale, then a Milwaukee Braves executive, and got the managing job at Eau Claire. He moved into the Milwaukee front office after a few years. In 1966 McHale briefly considered him as a replacement for Braves Manager Bobby Bragan. In 1967 Paul Richards, who took over for McHale as Braves general manager, also talked to him about managing. Fanning actually agreed to be a coach after the '67 season, but then changed his mind when he took the job of starting the Major League Central Scouting Bureau. After a year McHale, who had joined the Expos in 1968. named him Montreal general manager.
Fanning, who looks sort of like a distinguished pixie, is a very pleasant and amiable man and has a master's degree in physical education from the University of Illinois. "As nice as he is, he can be very tough," says McHale. "One spring in West Palm Beach, we were coming out of a restaurant on Worth Avenue when four guys started being very abusive to us. Clint Courtney and Jim started getting into it with them—it was like one of those TV fights, with guys flying over cars. They gave those four more than they could handle."