Former Indians Manager John McNamara Dies at 88
Vince Guerrieri | On 29, Jul 2020
Former Indians manager John McNamara died Tuesday at the age of 88.
McNamara, a Sacramento native, is probably best known as the manager of the 1986 Red Sox, who lost the World Series in heartbreaking fashion to the Mets in seven games. In Game 6 of that World Series, McNamara first removed starter Roger Clemens in the eighth inning (he said at the pitcher’s request; Clemens denies it even today) and fatefully left Bill Buckner in at first base instead of putting in a defensive replacement. Mookie Wilson’s dribbler went through Buckner’s legs, setting the Mets on the path to victory. They won the next game as well for their last World Series title to date.
The Red Sox went 78-84 the following season, and McNamara was fired at the All-Star Break in 1988. His replacement, Joe Morgan, led the Red Sox to 12 straight wins immediately after McNamara was fired on the way to the American East title in 1988. The Red Sox won another division title in 1990.
By then, McNamara was the Indians manager. Doc Edwards had been fired with 18 games left in 1989, and John Hart served as interim manager through the end of the season. Hart was considered for the job, as was Rene Lachemann and minor league manager Mike Hargrove, who was added to McNamara’s big league coaching staff. (Russell Schneider said prophetically that Hargrove was the manager in waiting.)
McNamara was hired by team president Hank Peters. The two went way back, to the days when Peters ran the farm system for the Kansas City Athletics and McNamara, a catcher who never made the big leagues, was player-manager for their Lewiston affiliate. “I owe everything to Hank,” McNamara later said.
He won three pennants as a minor league manager, and as 1969 ended, he was named interim manager of the Athletics, by then in Oakland, after Hank Bauer’s firing. The A’s dynasty of the 1970s was starting to bloom, largely with players he’d coached in the minors. He was only manager for one season in Oakland, locking horns with mercurial owner Charlie Finley.
He latched on as a coach with the Giants before being named manager of the Padres in 1974. He spent three seasons in San Diego, and succeeded Sparky Anderson as manager of the Reds. He was the manager in 1981, when the Reds put together the best record in the majors before being shut out of the strike-altered playoffs. He was fired in 1982, and then managed two years with the Angels before being hired in Boston.
Cleveland was widely regarded as his last stop, and he still felt he had something to prove. And he felt like the team was on the cusp of something great. As it turns out, he was right, but it wouldn’t happen on his watch. The team went 77-85 in 1990, good for fourth place in the American League East, their highest finish in the division since 1976, but the following year, lost 105 games – still the club record. McNamara presided over half those losses. He was dismissed as Indians manager in July, succeeded by, yep, you guessed it, Hargrove.
With the exception of a brief interim stint as the Angels manager, it turned out to be McNamara’s last managerial job.
Photo: 1991 Topps Baseball card