JUPITER, Fla. -- Grady Little and Terry Francona. They are forever connected in Red Sox history . . . the manager who blew it and the manager who won it. Back to back.
And now we learn that they actually lived together for a month in Arizona back in 1992, light years before their lives intersected a second time in the making of Red Sox history.
''I coached for Grady in the Fall League," Francona said yesterday as he sat in the dugout at Roger Dean Stadium before a 12-1 exhibition loss to the Florida Marlins. ''First year in the Fall League, I was his third-base coach for the Grand Canyon Rafters. We lived together."
Come again? Grady Little and Terry Francona under the same roof? Stop the presses. How could we not have known this? How could there be no chronicle of this collision of worlds? Would we have known if Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll shared an apartment? Ted Williams and Yaz?
Grady and Tito? Carpooling and picking up groceries? Playing cards and watching ESPN late into the night? The ghost of Red Sox past and the man who won it all? This is a little like how we felt when we learned Don Zimmer rented an apartment from Bucky Dent several years after you-know-what. Tormented Zim had to look at a photo of Bucky's playoff homer every night before he went to sleep.
Francona can't tell you the last time he saw Little, but it might have been before the fifth and final game of the first round of the playoffs in 2003, when Francona was a coach with the Oakland A's and Little was managing the Red Sox. The Sox won that fifth game, went on to play the Yankees, and Little got himself fired when he failed to take Pedro Martínez out in the fateful eighth inning of Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. Grady's demise resurrected Francona's baseball career in a big way.
They'll finally see one another again today when the Red Sox East-Coast-of-Florida Reunion Tour moves north to Vero Beach. Grady Little has resurfaced as manager of the Dodgers and today the Sox are scheduled to face old friend Derek Lowe at Holman Stadium in Dodgertown. They also hope to see Nomar Garciaparra, Bill Mueller, coach Dave Jauss, and, of course, Grady. ''I hadn't thought about it," Francona said. ''But I look forward to saying hello to everybody. It'll be great."
Francona's memories of living with Grady are a little fuzzy. It's been 14 years and he'd only been retired as a player for two years. He'd managed the South Bend White Sox (Single A) in the summer of '92 before taking the job with Little in the Arizona Fall League.
Thinking back to the days with Little, Francona said, ''The thing I remember most is that you couldn't go by a Circle K without stopping and getting a lottery ticket. We had a lot of fun."
Did they talk baseball strategy? ''Grady doesn't talk a lot of strategy," said Francona. ''He had just come off a year in Greenville where I think he won something like 100 games with Ryan Klesko and all those guys. I was 33 years old and I'd just started so it was a new experience for me. I just tried to keep my eyes open and watch."
Did Francona learn from the man who preceded him in the corner office at Fenway? ''I'm sure I did," said Francona. ''I try to learn from everybody. But I can't sit here and tell you one thing that he did different. But if nothing else, I loved the way he treated the players. He gave them a lot of room and he was folksy. Players like playing for him."
What about their differences? Little was known as a hunch guy, which got him in trouble with the Red Sox' numbers-crunching owner, John Henry. In the aftermath of Grady Little, Francona became the first Sox manager to put a personal computer on his desk. ''In the Arizona Fall League, we had no stats," recalled Francona. ''I didn't even know who the hell the other guys were."
Francona said he wasn't paying much attention when Little made the non-move that would dramatically change both of their lives. ''After we lost to the Red Sox I drove from Oakland to Philadelphia," said Francona. ''And I think I was at my daughter's volleyball game on the night."
Life changed for both men that night. And today the former roommates will shake hands at Dodgertown. Maybe Francona will stop at Circle K and pick up a scratch ticket. For old times' sake.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is email@example.com.