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Book excerpt

Inside Terry Francona’s Red Sox clubhouse

Terry Francona was the Red Sox manager from 2004-2011, and won two World Series during his tenure.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File/2009

Terry Francona was the Red Sox manager from 2004-2011, and won two World Series during his tenure.

First of three excerpts from former Red Sox manager Terry Francona’s memoir, co-authored by Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, which went on sale Jan. 22.

Terry Francona loved his corner office at Fenway, the same space where Joe Cronin closed his door and met with Ted Williams in the 1940s. It was remarkably unchanged through the decades. When the office door was open, anyone in the Sox clubhouse could see the manager sitting at his L-shaped desk.

Francona’s desk was outfitted with a land-line telephone and a printer, computer, and monitor. There were three drawers on the right side of the desk, which was a tad inconvenient for the left-handed manager. The office walls were adorned with black-and-white “subway” tiling, and there was natural light from two back-wall opaque windows — protected by diamond-patterned metal grates. In the dismal Fenway years in the early 1960s, unsuspecting Sox fans walking down Van Ness Street toward Jersey Street could have tapped on those frosted windows and interrupted Pinky Higgins making out his lineup card or perhaps swilling some scotch.

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The Sox manager’s space was spartan. The new-millennium Red Sox were a $1 billion enterprise, and employees were equipped with state-of-the-art technology and the full force of John Henry’s resources, but there were limits to what could be done with the old bricks and small spaces of a ballpark creeping toward 100 years old. The manager’s office was a great example of these limitations. The office had its own toilet, encased in a small corner stall just a few feet to the left of the desk. Privacy was minimal. In army barracks fashion, the latrine featured a brown swinging door, offering maximum exposure and minimal privacy. You could see under the door. You could see over the door. And you could hear the manager turning the pages of USA Today as he sat on the throne.

Longtime Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’d knock on the office door and Tito would say, ‘Come on in,’ and I’d open the door and look across the room and see his feet underneath that stall door.”

“We got a lot of work done that way,” said Francona. “I used to mess with the players too. [David] Ortiz would knock and I’d be on the toilet, and I’d say, ‘Come on in,’ and he’d go, ‘Oh, no,’ and I’d say, ‘Let’s go over the signs.’ I loved that old saloon door.”

“Francona: The Red Sox Years”

“Francona: The Red Sox Years” is now on sale.

“This is a subject that’s unfortunately impossible to avoid,” said [former Red Sox general manager] Theo Epstein. “This gets back to what really appeals to Tito. He loves baseball. He loves the game. He physically loves the clubhouse. Emotionally, I think he loves to let go of the outside world. Some people compartmentalize the job. Tito compartmentalizes the real world, throws himself into the clubhouse, loves every aspect of the clubhouse. He loves being down there and loves nakedness, vulgarity. Loves joking around . . . loves playing cards. He loves everything about it. It’s part of the fabric of who he is.

“So the social norms about going to the bathroom, those don’t always translate to the clubhouse to begin with, and he took it to a whole other level because of how deeply he believed in the clubhouse ethos. He would find satisfaction in a way that wasn’t always satisfactory to others. He would stimulate the senses, all of them, olfactory, auditory. It was a way to disarm people too. I think he felt like once you had a conversation with him where he was involved in a natural act like that, he felt like it brought you closer to him. You were sort of in. He did it to media, PR guys, front office. It was basically impossible to have a conversation with him without seeing things that only a toilet paper holder should see.”

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The office was equipped with its own shower stall, no small perk in a home clubhouse in which the coaches’ room had no bathroom facilities.

“That office has the best shower head in baseball,” said Francona. “It’ll knock you right through the door.”

The manager’s office also featured a small closet and a pedestal sink next to two frontal exit doors. A 42-inch plasma screen covered the wall space between the two doors. Guests could sit in one of three roll-away chairs or on the faux-leather couch situated against the wall to the right of the manager  —  the couch that sometimes served as Francona’s hotel bed.

“I swear that couch had Johnny Pesky stains on it from when Pesky was a player,” said the manager. “People would come into my office, sometimes not in a very good mood, and it was adding insult to injury to have them sit on that couch. I slept on it a couple of times a year.”

There was a thermostat on the wall behind the desk, and Francona hung a few photos there to make the stark space feel homey: framed images of Tito Francona, Nick Francona, and the Francona girls. In later years the family pictures were joined by a photo of Muhammad Ali, a poster of David Ortiz hoisting Dustin Pedroia, a shot of Francona with Ted Kennedy, a tiny photo of Johnny Pesky in baseball underwear, and a framed letter from an angry Red Sox fan “telling me to stick the lineup card up my ass.”

The old Fenway office had New England barn–like qualities. Sox clubhouse workers kept sticky-traps in the corners of the office, and Francona sometimes found dead mice in the traps when he returned from road trips. When he found mouse droppings in his sink, he suspected they were deposited by mice scurrying on the exposed pipes overhead.

“Once a week I saw a mouse running under the toilet,” said the manager. “That was okay, but it bothered me when I saw the stuff on the sink. I asked them to fix the place up for eight years, but they didn’t do anything until after I left.” (The office was overhauled, including a makeshift partition shielding the toilet and shower area, in the months before Bobby Valentine took over for Francona.)

.   .   .

As much as New Brighton [Pa.], Tucson, Yardley [Pa.], or Chestnut Hill, Fenway Park was Francona’s home. He loved his job, and he loved the people who were part of his everyday routines. He had his best friend Brad Mills alongside him in the dugout for every pitch of every season. He had former teammate John Farrell as his pitching coach. He had traveling secretary McCormick and team doctor Larry Ronan on speed dial. He trusted a handful of the longtime Fenway clubhouse workers as much as he trusted members of his own family.

“They were like my little brothers,” he said.

Fenway Park’s clubhouse workers were baseball descendants of the men who’d allowed Francona to hang around clubhouses in Oakland and Milwaukee when he was a little kid and his dad was a big league outfielder and who’d let him steal candy from the ballplayers’ stash. Often referred to as “clubhouse kids,” the Red Sox clubhouse managers were grown men, some with wives and children. They all had bills to pay, and no one lined their pockets more freely than Terry Francona.

Edward Jackson, a.k.a. “Pookie,” was a Francona favorite. The Red Sox found Pookie (nicknamed by his grandmother) when he moved to Fort Myers [Fla.] from Jacksonville in 1994. Affable and quick with a smile, Pookie was the go-to guy for clean socks, food runs, practical jokes, and red fleece tops. Jackson was an agent of change for the clubbies in 2002 when he temporarily worked as a driver for new owner John Henry. Afflicted with allergies, Jackson coughed and wheezed while he drove Henry around Boston. The caring owner asked Jackson why he didn’t have medication for his condition, and Jackson told the owner that the clubhouse workers did not have health insurance. Henry called Fenway and directed his assistant to include the clubhouse workers in the Red Sox employee benefits program. He told Jackson to see a physician immediately and put the bills on the owner’s desk until the insurance kicked in.

Jackson was always in the Sox clubhouse.

“Pookie was almost assigned to me,” said Francona. “I’d come in some morning and Pookie would be scrubbing my shower down.”

When Francona joined the Red Sox in 2003, he had one previous MLB managing job in Philadelphia, where he went 285-363 in four seasons.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff/File/2003

When Francona joined the Red Sox in 2003, he had one previous MLB managing job in Philadelphia, where he went 285-363 in four seasons.

Tom McLaughlin and Joe Cochran were another pair of loyal lifers in the clubhouse. Tall and hilarious, Brighton native McLaughlin started with the Red Sox as a batboy in 1986 and served as visiting clubhouse manager in all the years that Francona managed in Boston. Cochran, who grew up on Cape Cod and started with the Sox in 1984, often worked inside the left-field wall for longtime grounds­keeper Joe Mooney. Cochran was the home clubhouse manager during Francona’s tenure. McLaughlin traveled frequently, and Cochran was on every road trip. They knew all the locker-room secrets and gave up nothing.

“Clubhouse guys survive by not letting anything get out,” said Francona. “And they know everything. If we traded for a guy and I knew the clubbie on that guy’s team, I would always call him. You could get information from a clubbie that a scout could never see on a field.”

The routine on home dates was pretty similar. Francona would leave his Brookline home late in the morning, always on the quarter-hour. Fenway was only a 10- to 12-minute drive from his home, and each day he stopped at the Starbucks on the corner of Route 9 and Hammond Street for an egg salad sandwich. He finished his drive heading eastbound on Boylston Street, turned left onto Yawkey Way, and proceeded to the giant green door near Fenway’s gate D. After turning into the underbelly of the ballpark, he’d weave his vehicle around the poles under the stands toward the clubhouse door on the first-base side. The clubhouse door was invariably locked because of the early hour. Francona had keys but never remembered the security code, so he’d open the door and let the alarm go off. Then he’d throw his keys to the clubbies and tell them not to ask if they wanted to use his car.

“Go shopping, go for lunch, I don’t care,” he’d say. “Just don’t [expletive] ask me if you can drive it.”

Francona also had an open wallet policy. During the afternoon, the manager’s black billfold sat on the corner of his desk, and it was understood that any of the clubbies or coaches could take out a loan. No need to ask. Twenties came and went without conversation or suspicion.

“I went into that wallet about once a day,” said Jackson.

Japanese chef Iso Kosaka, a Dice-K [Daisuke Matsuzaka] favorite, was working for the ball club by 2009 and prepared Francona a daily lunch of rice, vegetables, and noodles. After eating, Francona would go upstairs for a 20-minute swim in the Swim-Ex machine. Mills would often join him.

“That made for a lot of jokes,” said the manager. “Here you got two bald men in bathing suits going upstairs to work out in a little 10-by-12 pool. You can imagine how funny everybody thought that was. It was like we were dating.”

After his workout and a shower, Francona would begin poring over data on his computer or perhaps summoning video master Billy Broadbent to fix something on his laptop.

The clubbies were ubiquitous in the early afternoon hours before the clubhouse door was opened to the media at 3:30. Pookie, Murph, or John would make runs to the dry cleaners or to pick up prescriptions at CVS for the manager. McLaughlin would often come over from the visitors’ room to shoot the breeze while Francona read printouts and scouting reports.

The door that connected his office to the clubhouse was almost always open. Francona did not believe in sealing himself off from the locker room. He wanted his players and coaches to feel welcome to come in and talk at any hour of the game day. Mills and [DeMarlo] Hale (Hale had known Francona since their days on the coaching staff of the 2002 Rangers) came into the manager’s office every afternoon to go over the night’s lineup and matchups. The manager and his coaches wanted to have everything done long before the media entered, long before players started getting ready for the first pitch. He wanted to be free for a game of cribbage with Pedroia before the players went out on the field for early stretching.

“Tito needed that time, by himself,” said Hale. “He bounced things off me, asked my opinion. He liked to be there early and not be interrupted. He’d ask what I thought about things. Tito wanted time with his bench coach, then his pitching coach.”

.   .   .

The manager-GM relationship was stronger than ever.

When Francona interviewed for the Sox job in 2003, he and Epstein talked about the ideal manager-GM relationship. Epstein had admired the dynamic in San Diego between Bruce Bochy and Kevin Towers, who worked together from 1995 to 2006.

“They could talk about anything, anytime, without threats to one another,” said Epstein. “There was an implicit understanding that they were in it together. If there was any probing question or issue to be explored, it was for the good of the organization and it wasn’t any kind of personal threat whatsoever, and they had a ton of fun together.”

By 2009 Epstein felt that he and Francona had evolved to this level. They protected one another when interacting with the media. Francona always went through Epstein with any questions or frustrations with ownership. Epstein had pulled back from some of the day-to-day suggestions and postgame analysis. It was a marriage that worked.

Francona developed a strong working relationship with Theo Epstein, right.

Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Francona developed a strong working relationship with Theo Epstein, right.

“Theo taught me a lot about the caretaker part of the organization, and I hope I taught him about the player’s side of it,” said Francona. “We were meeting in the middle on a lot of that, which was good. I knew when things were getting hot for him, and I knew where I could go. We had the ability to yell at each other and we could move on.

"One thing I wasn’t good at: if I had the rotation set up and he wanted to change it, inevitably there would be an argument and I would tell him a day later, ‘Theo, if you give me a couple of days, I’ll get around to it. Sometimes it takes me a while to get to the right answer, but I’ll get there.’ And he understood that. We had a real good understanding of each other, and the one thing that I liked — when things were going [poorly], I went right to him and he’d fix it.

“There were things I really appreciated. In eight years, not one time did Theo ever come down during spring training and be pissed that we lost or that somebody didn’t run a ball out. That’s rare. He never, ever yelled at me about somebody not hustling. He knew I cared, but he was smart enough to pick his battles, and I always appreciated that.”

“We were partners,” recalled Epstein. “We were really connected in a pretty natural way. There were always issues that would come up where we were at opposite ends of the table, and I thought we did a pretty good job of handling those issues with care so the relationship continued to grow. Our relationship was really important to both of us and it grew, but it wasn’t this pat thing. I really respected Tito and tried to put him in a position to succeed and tried to always have his back, and I got to know him really well, to know what he’s all about. So it was easy to be there for him in ways that were important to him. He’s really good at reading people. He could see through some of my gruffness or some of my moods and connect with me in an important way too, so I think we were there for each other.

“We talked so much baseball. We were trying to build an organization, scouting, player development, major league team. His approach in the clubhouse and on the field was fundamental in that, so we had to talk about it and make sure we were on the same page and make sure he was empowered to do what he wanted. He had so much going on, to balance all those constituencies, it helped him to have a touchstone to bounce things off. It really worked in that respect. Tito wants nothing more than to have people around him who don’t annoy him, that he believes in, that he won’t have conflict with, and that he can have fun with. I could be that guy, up to a point. Ninety percent of the time, I could be that guy.”

***

Excerpted from “FRANCONA: The Red Sox Years” by Terry Francona and Dan Shaughnessy. Copyright 2013 by Terry Francona. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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