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Williams, Padres Talk About Dismissal a Year Later

March 10, 1987|TOM FRIEND | Times Staff Writer

TEMPE, Ariz. — One by one, the Padre players left their team bus Monday and trudged onto the playing field here. And then they saw him--No. 23 for the Seattle Mariners.

Dick Williams.

One by one, they went up to greet him. Pitcher Craig Lefferts said "Hi, Dick." Infielder Tim Flannery said, "How you doing?"

Then Harry Dunlop, Padre coach, walked up, said hello and stuck out his hand for a shake. Williams shook Dunlap's hand, but not tightly. Williams said nothing. And then he turned his back.

So, one year later, the former Padre manager still has the same enemies and the same grudge.

He thinks Dunlap used to be a spy for Jack McKeon, the Padre general manger. He thinks Dunlap used to report to McKeon every day to let McKeon know what was going on in the clubhouse.

He says McKeon is a liar, and he says Ballard Smith, the Padre president, is a liar.

"Both of them are liars," Williams said Monday before the Padres beat the Mariners in an exhibition, 7-5. "If you want to use it in capital letters, you can use it. They're both liars."

One year later, Dick Williams is free to speak his mind. Last February, when owner Joan Kroc fired him--that's right, he was fired, sources revealed Monday--Kroc's attorney (Beth Benes) drew up contracts mandating that Dick and his wife, Norma, and third base coach Ozzie Virgil and his wife, Stella, not speak to the media for a year regarding his dismissal.

The year is up, and Williams is talking.

His version of the incident, however, is different from the Padres.

Williams said Smith--in a meeting with McKeon and Williams in early November of 1985--told Williams he could either return as manager the last year of his contract or be bought out of the contract.

Smith and McKeon say that Smith told Williams at the beginning of their conversation that day, "We're not going to extend your contract, Dick. But you're going to get paid whether you manage or you don't manage."

As far as Smith and McKeon were concerned that was not an offer for a buy out.

And at the end of the conversation, Smith asked Williams: "Dick, do you want to manage the club this year or don't you?"

McKeon says Williams answered: "Yes, I want to manage the club." And then Smith said, "Fine, then you're the manager."

According to McKeon and Smith, Williams interpreted that conversation as an offer for a buy-out.

Williams called McKeon the next day and asked: "Did Ballard say I was going to get paid if I managed the club or if I didn't manage the club?"

McKeon says now: "I said yes to him. But Dick interpreted it as if he (Smith) was saying, 'Hey, if you don't manage we'll pay you.' You could interpret it that way or you could interpret it: 'Dick, if we don't rehire you, you're fired and you get paid anyhow.' He was never offered a buy-out."

Williams then told McKeon: "I don't want to manage. I don't want want to put up with the players or the press anymore."

McKeon says he then suggested that Williams call Smith and tell him the same thing. Williams was about to leave on a cruise, but he reached Smith and said he wanted to leave the Padres (thinking he'd be paid for the year). Smith told Williams to think it over while he was on his cruise, and to get back to him later.

Williams left on the cruise.

"He wanted to resign, but he wanted to be paid," Smith says. "That's how he works. That's his history. He always wants to get paid for a year without working . . . He'd obviously like to believe one thing (that the Padres would buy him out), and that's fine. He wanted to believe that. I let him talk. I listened. I told him to think about what he was saying while he was on the cruise. I never told him I'd do it. He told me what he wanted to do. I said, 'Dick, think about it and we'll talk about it when you get back.' He wanted to interpret that as meaning we'd do it. And thus, our problem. He wanted the money."

When Williams returned, he found out that Virgil, his third base coach and good friend, had been fired by McKeon. McKeon figured that Williams had already resigned, and because a new manager would want his own third base coach, he'd just let Virgil go.

But Williams, meanwhile, thought Virgil's firing was another message from McKeon and Smith that they didn't want him back. He said he was dismayed. Eventually, word of Virgil's firing leaked to reporters, and Kroc heard something was going on.

Smith said there's no way he would have offered Williams a buy-out without telling Kroc.

"I never told Dick Williams I would buy out his contract," Smith says. "That is something I would never have done without talking to Joan. Unfortunately, Dick hears what he wants to hear. There's no question I wanted him gone, but it was not anything I could've done without talking to her."

Williams says: "Ballard said he was willing to pay me off, and then he claims he didn't (say it). But we know. My wife was on the other line. She heard it, too."

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