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Former Cleveland Indians manager John McNamara dies at 88

McNamara led six different ball clubs in his career & won the 1986 AL pennant with the Red Sox.
Credit: Tammy Lechner/AP
In this Aug. 6, 1996, file photo, John McNamara listens to questions during a news conference in Anaheim, Calif., announcing his assumption of managerial duties of the California Angels. McNamara, who managed several Major League Baseball teams (including the Indians) during his career, died Tuesday, July 28, 2020, in Tennessee. He was 88.

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — (AP) Former Major League Baseball manager John McNamara, who led the Indians and five other clubs over more than two decades in the game, has died.

McNamara's wife Ellen said he died Tuesday in Tennessee at the age of 88. He is best remembered for his tenure with the Boston Red Sox, whom he piloted to within one strike of a World Series victory in 1986 before an unprecedented collapse extended the team's championship drought into the new millennium.

Boston staged a miraculous comeback in that year's ALCS to earn a date with the Mets for the championship, and led 5-3 in the 10th inning of Game 6 before a series of mistakes gave the victory — and eventually the championship — to New York. McNamara never recovered in New England, and was fired roughly halfway into the 1988 season.

McNamara had previously skippered the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds (the 1979 National League West champions), and California Angels, and a little over a year after his ouster from Boston general manager Hank Peters hired him to manage the Indians. The long-suffering franchise was undergoing an infusion of young talent, and in 1990 finished 77-85 and just 11 games out of first place, the closest they had been to the top in a full season since 1959.

But in McNamara's second season in 1991, the bottom fell out, as the Tribe posted its worst record since 1914 at 57-105. He was fired 77 games in and replaced by Mike Hargrove, who would go on to lead Cleveland to five division titles and two AL pennants during the decade.

The Angels brought McNamara in as their interim manager to end the 1996 season before he retired, ending his career with a record of 1,160-1,233, two postseason appearances, and a Manager of the Year award for his efforts in '86. Current Indians skipper Terry Francona was managing Boston in 2004 when the club finally won its first title since 1918, and his father Tito played for McNamara during the latter's stint with the A's.

"I think my dad was actually a year older than him when he was managing in Oakland, so it was kind of funny," Francona said Wednesday. "Just a sweet, sweet man."

The Tribe held a moment of silence for McNamara prior to tonight's game against the Chicago White Sox.