Francona, Leyland renew acquaintances

May, 14, 2010
DETROIT -- In 1981, while the major leagues were on strike, Terry Francona was playing the outfield for Denver in the American Association. During that season, he ran across Evansville manager Jim Leyland for the first time, and the pair struck up a friendship that has lasted almost 30 years.

"Jim is a lot of what is good about baseball, and I know there are a lot of people who agree with me," Francona said. "He's a good man, but when the game starts, he wants to beat your brains out. I respect that."

Leyland said he knew early on that Francona would stay in the game for a long time.

"I couldn't have told you in 1981 that he was going to manage the Boston Red Sox to two world championships, but he was always a sharp guy who knew baseball," Leyland said. "He's like an old pair of shoes -- there is nothing tricky and nothing flashy, he just gets the job done. I'm a huge, huge fan of his, and I have been for a long time."

Remembering Ernie Harwell: In 1996, when Francona spent a year as the Tigers' third-base coach, he got to know legendary Detroit broadcaster Ernie Harwell. Harwell, who died last week at 92, is being honored by the Tigers with a uniform patch and a flag with the initials "EH" is in center field.

"I can't imagine that anyone has talked about Ernie in the last few days without using the word 'gentleman' because that's exactly what he was," Francona said. "I remember a spring-training luncheon -- they were having trouble finding guys to go, and since I was the new coach, I had to go. Ernie was there and he read his famous poem about baseball. After that, I was glad I had been there."

Beckett, Cameron close to return: Francona said before the game he hoped to have Josh Beckett and Mike Cameron back for next week's two-game series in New York. Beckett will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, and if all goes well, he'll start Tuesday against the Yankees. For more, click here.

Change in the weather: Unlike the Yankees, who just spent four damp, frigid days in Detroit, with game-time temperatures in the 40s, Boston arrived in the Motor City to perfect conditions. Friday saw sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-60s, with similar weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday.



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