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Firing lines

Sometimes, you have to let go

June 18, 2008|Chris Hine | Times Staff Writer

Willie Randolph's late-night dismissal was hardly the first suspiciously timed or otherwise unusual firing in professional sports. Here are a few others:

The wrath of George

* George Steinbrenner's secretary: Steinbrenner reportedly fired a secretary after the secretary brought him the wrong sandwich for lunch.

* Yogi Berra: Went 87-75 in 1984, started 6-10 the following season and was fired by Steinbrenner. This prompted a 14-year feud between Berra and Steinbrenner. Berra refused to attend all official functions at Yankee Stadium, even when he was honored in the stadium's Monument Park, because of resentment over his firing. In 1999, Steinbrenner, prompted by Joe DiMaggio, flew from Florida to Berra's museum in New Jersey to apologize to him. Berra forgave him and the two repaired their relationship.

* Billy Martin: During his tumultuous five tenures as Yankees manager, highlighted by on- and off-the-field altercations with players and Steinbrenner, Martin managed the Yankees to two World Series appearances and one title in 1977.

* Bob Lemon: Lemon took over for Martin after Steinbrenner let Martin go during the 1978 season. Lemon then guided the Yankees to a World Series title. In 1979, Steinbrenner moved Lemon to the front office to make room for Martin after the Yankees started sluggishly. Lemon then took over as manager late in the strike-shortened 1981 season, when he again guided the Yankees to the World Series, only to lose to the Dodgers. Then, 14 games into the 1982 season, Steinbrenner fired Lemon again.

* Dick Howser: Fired by Steinbrenner after losing the ALCS in 1980 despite winning 103 regular-season games.

Happy holidays . . . you're fired

* Mike White: Fired by the Oakland Raiders on Christmas Eve in 1996. Other coaches fired the week before Christmas in '96 were Rich Kotite (Jets), Dan Reeves (Giants), Rich Brooks (Rams) and June Jones (Falcons).

* Scott Skiles: Fired on Dec. 24, 2007 by the Chicago Bulls. He was off to a 9-16 start after taking them to the playoffs each of the past three seasons.

* Glen Hanlon: Fired by the Washington Capitals on Thanksgiving 2007.

What have I done to deserve this?

* Joe Girardi: Fired after one year as Florida Marlins manager. During the 2006 season, Girardi led the Marlins, who had the lowest payroll in baseball, to a 78-84 record and had them in contention for the National League wild-card spot. Girardi was fired because of disagreements with the Marlins' front office. Six weeks after his firing on Oct. 3, Girardi won the NL manager-of-the-year award.

* Larry Brown: Let go by the Pistons in 2005 after winning the NBA title in '04 and reaching the Finals again in '05. The Pistons were not sure if Brown's health would allow him to coach the entire 2005-06 season. Brown was replaced by Flip Saunders, who was let go by Detroit on June 3 after bowing out in the Eastern Conference finals each of the past three seasons.

* Marty Schottenheimer: Fired by the San Diego Chargers in February 2007 after leading the Chargers to a league-best 14-2 record. The Chargers lost to the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. Schottenheimer's firing was prompted by the team's disappointing exit early in the playoffs and Schottenheimer's strained relationship with General Manager A.J. Smith.

* Mike Hargrove: Fired as the Cleveland Indians manager in 1999 after leading the bottom-dwelling Indians to two World Series appearances and five straight AL Central titles, including the year he was fired.

* Buddy Ryan: Fired by the Eagles in 1990 after failing to get out of the first round of the playoffs for the third straight season. In his five seasons as coach, Ryan turned around an Eagles squad that failed to reach .500 for much of the 1980s. Ryan was 43-35-1 as Eagles coach, with a 31-17 record his final three years there. Upon his firing, Ryan said "This is the first time I've ever been fired for winning."

Other oddities

* Paul Westhead: Fired early in the Lakers' 1981-82 season. Owner Jerry Buss' announcement came while the Lakers were on a five-game winning streak, and one day after Magic Johnson said he wanted to be traded because he and Westhead "don't see eye to eye." Buss insisted Johnson's comments had nothing to do with Westhead's firing. The firing came after Westhead guided the Lakers to the 1980 NBA championship, a victory that prompted Buss to say Westhead was "the best coach in the world." At first, Buss wanted Jerry West to take Westhead's place. West declined the offer but said he would stay on to help the new interim coach, Pat Riley, until Riley felt comfortable taking the reins.

* Jon Gruden: Gruden wasn't fired, but traded by the Oakland Raiders to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for draft picks. The Raiders then hired Bill Callahan, who took the Raiders to the Super Bowl, only to lose to the Gruden-led Buccaneers.

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