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Three more strikes from 'Francona'

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 22, 2013 11:52 AM

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I'm an accomplished Manny Ramirez apologist and I always will be, but man, to read "Francona: The Red Sox Years" and to see all of his exasperating antics collected in one place is to realize that managing him would have caused Tito to yank out every follicle of his own hair had he not already lost it.

My look at some of the most interesting insights and revelations in the book can be found here or in Tuesday's Globe. Much of my piece was Manny-centric, but there was a lot more that I wanted to mention. Hopefully it's not overkill and I can share a couple of more from his book co-authored with Dan Shaughnessy without seeming like I'm the one collecting royalties, because while Francona doesn't unload on the beer-and-chicken perpetrators like you'd hope (he seems mildly disappointed in Jon Lester and all but absolves Josh Beckett), he more than makes up for it by sharing several truly hilarious stories.

Here are three condensed anecdotes I wanted to mention, leading off with one that might have fit well in Joe Torre's "The Yankee Years.''

By 2009, [Derek Jeter's] routine in Red Sox games involved acknowledging Francona before his first at-bat of each game. Approaching home plate, Jeter would look over into the Boston dugout and gesture toward the Sox manager with his hand or bat. If Francona was momentarily distracted, Jeter would step back and wait for a response before proceeding with his work.

"A couple of times somebody in our dugout would have to nudge me and say, 'Hey, look over at him! He's waiting for you to wave back,'' said Francona.

... Once Jeter established the ritual, coaches in the Red Sox dugout noticed A-Rod started to mime the gesture. Francona never noticed. He wouldn't intentionally ignore Rodriguez, but he had too much to do and there were usually runners on base by the time A-Rod came to the plate.

Ah, the ol' I'm-too-busy-to-wave-Jeter-and-Damon-are-already-on excuse. Suurrre. Kind of surprised A-Rod didn't stand there until he was acknowledged, no matter how long it took. I waved! I waved! Did you see me, Tito? I waved! Hi! HI! Why won't you wave? Derek always gets a wave!

Meanwhile, we learn that Dustin Pedroia is a chip off the ol' ... mom.

The American League MVP was in the middle of a wrecking ball weekend against the Royals ... [going] 8-19 with four doubles, a triple, and a homer. He also struck out swinging once, flailing at a curveball and leaving the bases loaded. The unfortunate at-bat was the focus of conversation when Francona and Dr. [Larry] Ronan tiptoed into [pregnant wife] Kelli Pedroia's hospital room after a game.

"It was unbelievable," Francona said. "We walked into the room and poor Kelli was laying there and Pedey and his mom were going at it over him swinging at that breaking ball in the dirt. I looked at Larry and said, 'This is like a reality TV show.'"

"All true,'' confirmed Pedroia. "My mom just blew me up for swinging at that ball in the dirt. We're all in the hospital room with Kelli and my mom was [hassling] me, saying, 'What the [expletive] is wrong with you?' and Kelli's mom was there and then Tito and Dr. Roman walked in. If I play bad and the media gets on me, that's a piece of [expletive] cake compared to my mom and what I have to go home to. I never hear the end of it. So when Tito and Doc walked in and heard all that, I was like, 'Welcome to my world.' "

And here's one more quick one on another Francona favorite, Curt Schilling:

Schilling's ego and outsized personality never bothered the manager. ... "He knows he talks too much, but he's always prepared. The things that irritate other people -- his face on TV and his politics -- I didn't care. I respected him a lot and have as much affection for him as any player I've ever had."

Schilling also protected his teammates. Francona never forgot a game in Philadelphia in which Schilling three a 100-mile-per-hour fastball at Deion Sanders, then asked, "What is he going to do about it, arm-tackle me?"

There's lots more, and if you're a Red Sox fan, I'll say this: the book, perhaps by design but effectively and honestly so, will make you appreciate Francona and all he went through, even if you didn't while he was here.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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