Dick O'Connell

Richard Henry O'Connell (September 19, 1914 – August 18, 2002) was an American front office executive in Major League Baseball. He was executive vice president of the Boston Red Sox from 1961 through 1977 and served as general manager of the team from September 16, 1965, through October 24, 1977, a period during which he played a pivotal role in restoring the Red Sox to contending status, won two American League pennants, and helped make the team a flagship MLB franchise.

Dick O'Connell
BornSeptember 19, 1914
DiedAugust 18, 2002 (aged 87)
OccupationBaseball executive
Years active1947–1977

Early life

A native of Winthrop, Massachusetts, O'Connell attended Boston College, earning a bachelor's degree in 1937 and a master's degree the following year. He worked in private business and taught and coached athletics at Sanborn Academy, Kingston, New Hampshire, until the outbreak of World War II. While serving in the U.S. Navy, he befriended a fellow officer, Jim Britt, the radio play-by-play announcer for the Red Sox and Boston's National League team, the Braves. After the war, Britt put O'Connell in touch with the Red Sox front office, and he entered baseball in 1947 as business manager of the Lynn Red Sox, the Bosox' Class B New England League farm club.

Rising through the Red Sox' ranks

Two years later, O'Connell joined Boston's front office in an administrative capacity. He rose through the ranks, serving as "home secretary"[1] and director of stadium operations,[2] then became the Red Sox' business manager during the late 1950s.[3] It appeared that he would rise no further. Tom Yawkey, the team's owner since 1933, wanted famous former players to head his organization, and through 1960 his three general managers—Eddie Collins, Joe Cronin and Bucky Harris—were all current or future members of the Baseball Hall of Fame; Collins and Cronin were standout players, while Harris had won three American League pennants and two World Series as a field manager. With the Red Sox' great left fielder, Ted Williams, about to retire, and with the team's fortunes at a low ebb, Yawkey fired Harris in September 1960 and informally offered the GM post to Williams.[4] But the future Hall-of-Fame hitter was not interested in an office job; he preferred to fish and teach hitting in spring training.

As the GM seat lay vacant—but perhaps being kept warm for Williams, who was named an "executive assistant" to Yawkey—O'Connell was promoted to executive vice president; meanwhile, field manager Pinky Higgins, who had become a friend of Yawkey's, staked out a position as the top "baseball man" in the Red Sox organization. The New York Times reported on October 1, 1960, that Higgins would assume responsibility for all player personnel decisions, Major and minor league, in the Boston organization, a role typically performed by a GM. Indeed, the club spent the 1961 and 1962 seasons without a full-time general manager. Although O'Connell is listed by the Red Sox media guide as de facto GM, he retained the title of business manager[5] and likely focused only on the administrative aspect of the job; it is unclear (and doubtful) that he had any baseball operations role. Higgins shed his on-field responsibilities and formally became executive vice president/GM at the close of the 1962 season.

During the early 1960s, Boston overhauled its farm system and scouting operation and was beginning to produce outstanding talent, but the big league Red Sox continued to struggle and attendance dwindled. Finally, during the closing days of a dispiriting 100-loss 1965 season, Yawkey fired Higgins and offered the general manager position to O'Connell on September 16.

Architect of 'The Impossible Dream' and 1975 AL champs

Still seen as inexperienced in baseball operations and talent evaluation, O'Connell initially shared power with vice president, player personnel Haywood Sullivan, a former Major League catcher and manager recruited from the Kansas City Athletics in November 1965. They worked together to replace fading veterans with young players during another losing campaign in 1966.

Mayor John F. Collins reads an official proclamation declaring last Tuesday as Boston Red Sox Day (13847869194)
From left: Coach Bobby Doerr, Dalton Jones, Rico Petrocelli, Manager Dick Williams, O'Connell, and Mayor of Boston John F. Collins in October 1967

But by 1967 O'Connell was in full command as general manager of the Red Sox. He promoted Dick Williams to manager and traded for players such as pitcher Gary Bell, infielder Jerry Adair and catcher Elston Howard. The Red Sox, led by Most Valuable Player Carl Yastrzemski and AL Cy Young Award winning pitcher Jim Lonborg, stunned the sporting world by winning the AL pennant and pushing the powerful St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the 1967 World Series. The team's home attendance rose by 113 percent, from 811,172 in 1966 to 1,727,832. In recognition of the dramatic turnaround, O'Connell was named Executive of the Year by The Sporting News.

The Red Sox posted winning seasons from 1968 to 1974 and continued to rank among the AL leaders in home attendance, but could not match the success of the league's dominant teams of the era, the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics. Nonetheless, Boston continued to harvest great talent from its farm system, including Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, Cecil Cooper, Bill Lee, John Curtis, Lynn McGlothen, Ben Oglivie, Juan Beníquez, Rogelio Moret, Rick Burleson, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn. The team also somewhat overcame its reputation for racial prejudice by increasing the number of African Americans and Latin Americans on its playing roster.

In 1975, led by rookies Lynn and Rice, the Red Sox won the AL East title, swept defending world champion Oakland in the ALCS, and battled another NL powerhouse, the Cincinnati Reds, to the limit in a thrilling World Series. Once again, O'Connell was hailed as Executive of the Year in Major League Baseball.

Abrupt dismissal during ownership change

But O'Connell's tenure with the Red Sox and his baseball career were about to come to an end.

Tom Yawkey had developed a close friendship with Sullivan—by 1975 playing a reduced role for the Red Sox as director of amateur scouting—but trusted O'Connell to be his top baseball and business executive. The 73-year-old owner died from leukemia on July 9, 1976, nine months after the 1975 pennant. His widow and heir, Jean, was both a strong ally of Sullivan's and an adversary of O'Connell's. She criticized O'Connell's player transactions, his willingness to negotiate with (and ultimately sign to new contracts) potential free agents Fisk, Lynn and Burleson, his signing of free agent relief pitcher Bill Campbell, and his attempted big-money purchase of Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi from the Oakland A's in June 1976 (vetoed within hours by Commissioner of Baseball Bowie Kuhn).

When Mrs. Yawkey put the club up for sale in 1977, she chose—and ultimately joined—Sullivan's ownership group, and then, on October 24, 1977, fired O'Connell as GM in favor of Sullivan, after the Red Sox won 97 games but finished 2½ games behind the New York Yankees in the pennant race.

The firing ended O'Connell's baseball career, although almost six years later, on June 6, 1983, a bizarre postscript was added. A power struggle broke out among the Red Sox owners, and one of the general partners, Edward "Buddy" LeRoux, staged a coup d'état. LeRoux announced a takeover of the Red Sox, and fired Sullivan, his fellow general partner, from the GM role. Surprisingly, he unveiled O'Connell, then 68, as his choice to lead the team — the first time O'Connell set foot inside Fenway Park since his 1977 dismissal. But LeRoux' "coup" was halted by court order, and Sullivan remained in power. LeRoux eventually sold his share of the club in 1987, Mrs. Yawkey died in 1992, and Sullivan sold his general partnership late in 1993.

Over time, O'Connell and the Red Sox mended fences and he was admitted to the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1997. Pundits hailed him as the architect who most helped to create Red Sox Nation by bringing the team back from near-irrelevance in 1967.

By the time of his death, at age 87 on August 18, 2002, in Lexington, Massachusetts, O'Connell was recognized as one of the most important men in Red Sox annals. He was praised by Howard Bryant who stated in a 2004 interview with The Hardball Times, "To me, Dick O'Connell is the most underrated person in Red Sox history. He was the first Red Sox executive to look at the club and make baseball decisions and not crony decisions."[6]

References

  1. ^ The Official 1951 Baseball Guide, St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1951
  2. ^ The 1955 Baseball Dope Book, St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1955
  3. ^ The 1960 Baseball Dope Book, St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1960
  4. ^ Bradlee, Ben Jr. (2013). The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams. New York: Little, Brown. pp. 444–445. ISBN 978-0-316-61435-1.
  5. ^ Spink, J.G. Taylor, Rickart, Paul A., and Kachline, Clifford, eds., The Sporting News Official 1962 Baseball Guide and Record Book. St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1962, page 48
  6. ^ Belth, Alex. "Hardball Questions: Howard Bryant," The Hardball Times, Thursday, March 18, 2004.
  • Biography on Fenway Fanatics website
  • The New York Times obituary
  • The Associated Press, Higgins Gets Pact: Red Sox Manager, Signed for Three Years, Has 'Free Hand', The New York Times, October 1, 1960.
  • Bryant, Howard, Shut Out: A Story of Race and Baseball in Boston. Boston: The Beacon Press, 2002.
  • Gammons, Peter, Beyond the Sixth Game. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1985.
  • The Sporting News, 1951 Official Baseball Guide, 1955 Baseball Dope Book, 1960 Baseball Dope Book, 1966 Official Baseball Guide, 1967 Official Baseball Guide.
  • Stout, Glenn and Johnson, Richard A., Red Sox Century. Boston and New York: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 2000.
1965 Boston Red Sox season

The 1965 Boston Red Sox season was the 65th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished ninth in the American League (AL) with a record of 62 wins and 100 losses, 40 games behind the AL champion Minnesota Twins, against whom the 1965 Red Sox lost 17 of 18 games. The team drew only 652,201 fans to Fenway Park, seventh in the ten-team league but the Red Sox' lowest turnstile count since 1945, the last year of World War II.

1966 Boston Red Sox season

The 1966 Boston Red Sox season was the 66th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished ninth in the American League (AL) with a record of 72 wins and 90 losses, 26 games behind the AL and World Series champion Baltimore Orioles. After this season, the Red Sox would not lose 90 games again until 2012.

1968 Boston Red Sox season

The 1968 Boston Red Sox season was the 68th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished fourth in the American League (AL) with a record of 86 wins and 76 losses, 17 games behind the AL and World Series champion Detroit Tigers.

1969 Boston Red Sox season

The 1969 Boston Red Sox season was the 69th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. With the American League (AL) now split into two divisions, the Red Sox finished third in the newly established American League East with a record of 87 wins and 75 losses, 22 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, who went on to win the AL championship.

1970 Boston Red Sox season

The 1970 Boston Red Sox season was the 70th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished third in the American League East with a record of 87 wins and 75 losses, 21 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, who went on to win the AL championship and the 1970 World Series.

1971 Boston Red Sox season

The 1971 Boston Red Sox season was the 71st season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished third in the American League East with a record of 85 wins and 77 losses, 18 games behind the Baltimore Orioles, who went on to win the AL championship.

1972 Boston Red Sox season

The 1972 Boston Red Sox season was the 72nd season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished second in the American League East with a record of 85 wins and 70 losses, ½ game behind the Detroit Tigers. Due to the cancellation of games missed during the 1972 Major League Baseball strike, Detroit played (and won) one more game than Boston, allowing them to finish with a record of 86–70, winning the division by ½ game.

1973 Boston Red Sox season

The 1973 Boston Red Sox season was the 73rd season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished second in the American League East with a record of 89 wins and 73 losses, eight games behind the Baltimore Orioles.

1974 Boston Red Sox season

The 1974 Boston Red Sox season was the 74th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished third in the American League East with a record of 84 wins and 78 losses, seven games behind the Baltimore Orioles.

1976 Boston Red Sox season

The 1976 Boston Red Sox season was the 76th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished third in the American League East with a record of 83 wins and 79 losses, 15½ games behind the New York Yankees.

The Red Sox did not come close to repeating the previous year's success. An off-season contract dispute with Fred Lynn was a distraction. In early May, a brawl with the New York Yankees led to a shoulder injury for Bill Lee, one of their best pitchers and a 17-game winner in 1975; Lee would be out until mid-1977, and his loss was keenly felt. The Red Sox' beloved owner, Tom Yawkey, died of leukemia in July. Manager Darrell Johnson was fired shortly thereafter, and replaced by coach Don Zimmer. Overall, it was a disappointing season for a talented but underachieving team.

1976 in baseball

The following are the baseball events of the year 1976 throughout the world.

1977 Boston Red Sox season

The 1977 Boston Red Sox season was the 77th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished tied for second in the American League East with a record of 97 wins and 64 losses, 2½ games behind the New York Yankees.

Lack of pitching depth might have been a hindrance, but the team was helped by a league-leading offense, which during one ten-game span hit 33 home runs. With that kind of scoring, Boston managed to compete with the Yankees and Orioles – leading the division as late as August 22 – but at season's end, not even 97 wins would be enough.

Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame

The Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame was instituted in 1995 to recognize the careers of former Boston Red Sox baseball players. A 15-member selection committee of Red Sox broadcasters and executives, past and present media personnel, and representatives from The Sports Museum of New England and the BoSox Club are responsible for nominating candidates.

Jean R. Yawkey

Jean Remington Yawkey (January 24, 1909 – February 26, 1992) was the wife of Tom Yawkey and owner of the Boston Red Sox from 1976 to her death in 1992.

She was born Jean Hollander in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in Freeport, Long Island, and was a New York City fashion model for ten years before marrying Yawkey in 1944, in Georgetown, South Carolina.

John Claiborne (baseball executive)

John W. Claiborne III (born 1939) is a former front-office executive in American Major League Baseball who also was an early president of the New England Sports Network (NESN), a regional cable television network primarily (80 percent) owned by the Boston Red Sox that telecasts Red Sox baseball and Boston Bruins National Hockey League games.

Claiborne's baseball career began with the New York Mets and ended with the St. Louis Cardinals. After starting out in New York's farm system, he was the Cards' administrative assistant for minor leagues and scouting in 1970–72, and the general manager and chief operating officer of the Redbirds in 1978–80. In between, he was the farm system director of the Oakland Athletics in 1972–75 and the assistant general manager of the Red Sox in 1975–77.

Claiborne ran the A's farm system during the height of the A's dynasty under owner Charlie Finley. Finley served as his own general manager and had a phenomenal degree of success at the major league level with a roster that he had signed and groomed through the player development system. But by the mid-1970s, the talent pipeline began to dry up as Finley economised through slashing the number of scouts and minor league affiliates working on Oakland's behalf.

In August 1975, Claiborne resigned his Oakland post. He then joined the Red Sox as a special assignment scout, evaluating West Coast-based teams at the major league level. When Boston won the American League East Division and faced the three-time defending world champion Athletics in the 1975 American League Championship Series, Claiborne's scouting report was a critical factor in Boston's stunning three-game sweep. At season's end, he was promoted to chief aide to Bosox general manager Dick O'Connell.

Claiborne drew positive notices for his work in the Boston front office, but when longtime owner Tom Yawkey's death forced a sale of the team in 1977, O'Connell and his top assistants, including Claiborne, were fired by Yawkey's widow, Jean, to make way for a new ownership/management team. Reportedly, some of the unsuccessful bidders for the Boston franchise were considering hiring Claiborne as O'Connell's successor.

Less than a year later, however, Claiborne returned to St. Louis to take over the Cardinals' front office. He ran the Redbirds from the end of the 1978 campaign to the middle of 1980, a period of transition during which the Cardinals hired Whitey Herzog as field manager. When Herzog's hiring on June 9, 1980, did not produce immediate results, he was given additional duties as general manager and Claiborne was fired on August 18 of the same year. Eventually, Herzog would make trades for players such as Ozzie Smith who would lead to St. Louis' three National League pennants during the 1980s.

Claiborne eventually returned to Boston to serve as president of the fledgling NESN, which has grown to become a powerful regional sports network.

In 2002, Claiborne was hired by the Baltimore Orioles as the first ever employee of, and to start "Orioles Television", which was the group that produced over-the-air broadcasts of Orioles games, and was the precursor to the current Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN)

Lynn Red Sox

The Lynn Red Sox, based in Lynn, Massachusetts, were a Class B farm system affiliate of the Boston Red Sox from 1946 to 1948 in American minor league baseball. The club played at Fraser Field and was a member of the New England League (NEL).

The Lynn Red Sox finished in first place during the regular seasons of 1946–47–48, but each year faltered during the playoffs, as the Nashua Dodgers won the NEL playoff championship for three consecutive seasons. Nashua was the first NEL team to break the baseball color line and, in 1946, ugly confrontations were reported between the Nashua and Lynn clubs. Future Brooklyn Dodger star starting pitcher Don Newcombe integrated the NEL in 1946, along with eventual Hall of Fame catcher Roy Campanella.

"I remember one game against the Lynn Red Sox", Newcombe recalled in 2007. "Their manager, ‘Pip’ Kennedy, was all over us, yelling all kinds of [racial] things at us, and Mr. [Buzzie] Bavasi [the Nashua general manager and future Dodger executive] got him into the office and said, ‘They can’t fight you, but I can. If you have any guts, you’ll say to me what you said to them.’ Of course, he didn’t say a word."In 1947, Lynn received an upgraded management team when future Bosox general manager Dick O'Connell took over the front office, and former Major League pitcher Mike Ryba became manager. After one season, Ryba was succeeded as pilot by Eddie Popowski in 1948.

But the Red Sox pulled out of Lynn after a 1948 season in which only 49,000 fans turned out at Fraser Field, despite another first-place ballclub. The Essex County city fielded a Detroit Tigers farm club—the Lynn Tigers—for the first three months of 1949 but withdrew from the league July 19. The NEL itself shut down at the end of the season.

Richard O'Connell

Richard O'Connell may refer to:

Richard O'Connell (politician) (1892–1964), Irish politician

Dick O'Connell (Richard Henry O'Connell, 1914–2002), American businessperson

Richard O'Connell (fictional character), the central protagonist of The Mummy series

Richard O'Connell (racehorse trainer) (1949–2004), American Thoroughbred racehorse trainer

Richard J. O'Connell (1941–2015), American geophysicist

Richard O'Connell, Bishop of Ardfert in 1649

Sporting News Executive of the Year Award

The Sporting News Executive of the Year Award was established in 1936 by Sporting News and is given annually to one executive — including general managers — in Major League Baseball.

Listed below in chronological order are the baseball executives chosen as recipients of the TSN Executive of the Year Award.

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