Former MLB manager John McNamara, who helmed infamous 1986 Red Sox, dies at 88

Jack Baer
Writer
John McNamara was more than one infamous moment. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

John McNamara, who worked as an MLB manager for 19 seasons but is most known for one disastrous series with the 1986 Boston Red Sox, died in Tennessee on Tuesday according to the Boston Globe. He was 88 years old.

Between 1969 and 1996, McNamara helmed the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, California Angels, Red Sox and Cleveland Indians. He accrued a 1160-1233 career record.

Topping out at Triple-A as a player, McNamara worked nine seasons as a minor league manager before getting his first shot at the big leagues with the A’s. He would bounce around jobs across the majors for decades, with his most successful team ironically becoming his most infamous.

McNamara always tied to Bill Buckner blunder

The worst moment of McNamara’s career needs no introduction.

After a 1986 season in which he won his lone Manager of the Year award, McNamara presided over one of the most infamous losses in sports history. A grounder rolling through the legs of Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner in Game 6 cost McNamara’s a team a championship-clinching out and later led to questions about the manager leaving Buckner in the game.

McNamara had previously replaced Buckner with Dave Stapleton on defense in Game 1 and Game 5 of the World Series, but later defended the decision to keep him in for Game 6 by saying he truly believed Buckner, who died last year of dementia, was his best defender. He even claimed Stapleton, who had committed one error in the last three seasons, had the nickname of “Shakey.”

Of course, a man is more than the worst moments of his professional career.

Reggie Jackson, who played under McNamara as an A’s minor leaguer in 1967, specifically cited McNamara’s leadership in his 1993 Hall of Fame induction speech, per the Globe:

“I learned to understand friendship and sensitivity from a very special friend by the name of John McNamara,‘' Jackson said during his acceptance speech in Cooperstown, N.Y. “He was my manager, and he would not allow the team to eat in a restaurant where I was not allowed to eat. I always wondered why we ate sandwiches on the bus and made only essential pit stops.

“I understood care from that. I’ll always remember you, John, for your dignity and sensitivity and for stepping up at a time when very few did.‘'

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