Maury Wills, hired only last August to manage the...

By TOM GREEN   |   May 6, 1981

SEATTLE -- Maury Wills, hired only last August to manage the Seattle Mariners, was fired suddenly Wednesday when the last-place club decided to 'change the picture' and replace him with the manager of its farm club.

The Mariners named as interim manager Rene Lachemann, who has skippered the club's Triple-A teams in Spokane and San Jose since 1977. Lachemann turned 36 Monday and is the youngest current manager in the major leagues.

Lachemann remarked, 'This is a dream.'

Wills was not immediately available for comment.

The 48-year-old Wills had rashly predicted before the 1981 season began that the fifth-year team would play .500 baseball. Instead, the floundering Mariners were off to their worst start ever with a 6-18 mark.

Although Wills spent onlythree months at the helm of the club, Mariners' president Dan O'Brien said he felt the former shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers had been given a fair trial as manager.

'I must tell you that I did not see the excitement that was apparent on the diamond in August and September of last year,' O'Brien said of Seattle's dismal 1981 start.

'Even back into spring training, the picture hasn't been one that anyone was satisfied with, including Maury. He feels, as we all do, that this team is better than it's been playing.

'It became apparent and obvious that we had to change the picture. Now we're looking to a new artist to change the picture.'

O'Brien and Mariners' owner George Argyros said Wills' recent suspension by the American League for altering the size of the batter's box at the Kingdome was not a factor in their decision to discharge him.

Wills became only the third black man, after Frank Robinson and Larry Doby, to manage in the big leagues when Seattle hired him last Aug. 4 to replace Darrell Johnson.

But Wills was unable to effect any immediate changes as the Mariners went 20-38 the rest of the way and finished with the worst record, 59-103, in baseball last year.

His overall record with Seattle was 26-58.

Lachemann, the man named to replace Wills, said he wasn't concerned about the Mariners' decision to call him an interim manager.

'Interim?' he asked rhetorically. 'I feel any manager in the big leagues is that way. If you don't do the job, you're gone.'

Lachemann said his style of managing was to communicate with players one-on-one. He said that, rather than making any wholesale player changes, he planned to try to help the team begin playing up to its potential.

'I'm in the big leagues now,' he said. 'I'm one of the top 26 managers, per se, in the United States, and I'm thankful.

'I'm going to dance with the one who brung me. What brung me is hard work, enthusiasm and a love of baseball.'

As O'Brien suggested, Wills' problems became apparent as early as spring training when the club struggled to win Cactus League games and Wills became embroiled in arguments with umpires over their interpretation of the balk rule.

Wills was criticized during the spring for tactical blunders, including his teaching of rundown plays. Some veteran players groused they were being overlooked by their new manager.

Wills became the center of controversy last month when Kingdome groundskeepers lengthened the front of the batters' box before a game with the Oakland A's under his orders.

After an investigation by the American League, Wills was given a two-day suspension and fined $500.

Despite his team's poor start, Wills spoke optimistically of the future less than 24 hours before his firing. He conceded that the team was going badly but insisted things would get better.

'There is no reason to panic,' he said. 'The sun's going to shine.'

Wills said no one on his last-place team was depressed, but then added that anyone on a last-place club 'wouldn't feel too chipper, either.'

'We expect every night we go out there that we'll turn it around,' said Wills. 'I'm not happy, not pleased, but everybody's trying.'

After an eight-year apprenticeship in the minor leagues, Wills rose to prominence as shortstop and later captain of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1960s.

Wills revolutionized baseball by bringing the stolen base back into the game as an important offensive weapon. In 1962, he was named the Most Valuable Player in the National League when he broke Ty Cobb's long-standing major league record with 104 stolen bases. That record was later eclipsed by Lou Brock's 118 stolen bases in 1974.

Wills finished his career with 586 stolen bases to rank eighth on the all-time list.

Wills led the National League in stolen bases six straight years, helping the weak-hitting Dodgers to four pennants in the span between 1959-66.

Overall, Wills spent 14 years in the major leagues with the Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Montreal Expos with a .281 lifetime batting average.

Just as he worked hard for his chance to play in the major leagues, Wills also waited to get an opportunity to manage. Even before retiring as a player, Wills managed in the Mexican Winter League.

Following his retirement in 1972, Wills served as a special instructor for eight major-league teams, including the Dodgers and several teams in Japan.

Wills was an outspoken proponent of speed as an offensive weapon, pointing out that batters may slump but speed on the bases was a constant.

But in the Mariners, a team that was being tailored for the cozy confines of the Kingdome, Wills was saddled with a club that had some power but little speed.

Although the Mariners had averaged 100 losses a season during their first four years, Wills had hoped to show some immediate results by instilling a more aggressive attitude on the club.

But the Mariners managed to win only 11 of 29 games during spring training this year, despite Wills' desire to start a winning habit in Cactus League play.

His struggle to find a winning combination was evident during the first month of the regular season -- as Wills tried 20 different batting orders in the first 22 games.

A footnote in Wills' managerial career occurred last Sept. 25 when he managed the Mariners in a game in Seattle against the Texas Rangers. Playing second base for Texas was Bump Wills and the game marked the first time in major-league history that a father managed against his son.

After a lengthy eight-year stay in the minor leagues, Wills rose to prominence as shortstop and later captain of the Los Angeles in the 1960s.

Wills revolutionized baseball by bringing the stolen base back into the game as an important offensive weapon. In 1962, he was named the most valuable player in the National League when he broke Ty Cobb's long-standing major league record with 104 stolen bases. That record was later eclipsed by Lou Brock's 118 stolen bases in 1974.

Wills finished his career with 586 stolen bases to rank eighth on the alltime list.

Wills led the National League in stolen bases six straight years, helping the weak-hitting Dodgers to win four pennants during 1959-66.

Overall, Wills spent 14 years in the major leagues with the Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Montreal Expos with a .281 lifetime batting average.

Just as he worked hard for his chance to play in the major leagues, Wills also waited to get an opportunity to manage. Even before retiring as a player, Wills managed in the Mexican Winter League.

Following his retirement in 1972, Wills served as a special instructor for eight major league teams including the Dodgers and several teams in Japan.

Wills was an outspoken proponent of speed as an offensive weapon, pointing out that batters may slump but speed on the bases was a constant.

But in the Mariners, a team that was being tailored for the cozy confines of the Kingdome, Wills was saddled with a club that had some power but little speed.

Although the Mariners had averaged 100 losses a season during their first four years, Wills had hoped to show some immediate results by instilling a more aggressive and winning attitude on the club.

But the club managed to win only 11 of 29 games during spring training this year, despite Wills' desire to be start a winning habit in Cactus League play.

His struggle to find a winning combination was evident during the first month of the regular season as Wills tried 20 different batting orders in the first 22 games.

A footnote in Wills' managerial career occurred last Sept. 25 when he managed the Mariners in a game in Seattle against the Texas Rangers. Playing second base for Texas was Bump Wills and the game marked the first time in major league history that a father managed against his son.

After eight years in the minors, Wills rose to prominence as shortstop and later captain of the Los Angeles in the 1960s.

Wills, along with Luis Aparicio and Lou Brock, helped to bring the stolen base back into the game as an important offensive weapon. He was named the most valuable player in the National League in 1962 when he broke Ty Cobb's long-standing major league record with 104 stolen bases. That record was later eclipsed by Brock's 118 stolen bases in 1974.

Wills finished his career with 586 stolen bases to rank eighth on the all-time list.

Wills led the National League in stolen bases six straight years, helping the weak-hitting Dodgers to win four pennants during 1959-66.

Overall, Wills spent 14 years in the major leagues with the Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Montreal Expos with a .281 lifetime batting average.

Just as he worked hard for his chance to play in the major leagues, Wills also waited to get an opportunity to manage. Even before retiring as a player, Wills managed in the Mexican Winter League.

Following his retirement in 1972, Wills served as a special instructor for eight major league teams including the Dodgers and several teams in Japan.

Wills was an outspoken proponent of speed as an offensive weapon, pointing out that batters may slump but speed on the bases was a constant.

But in the Mariners, a team that was being tailored for the cozy confines of the Kingdome, Wills was saddled with a club that had some power but little speed.

Although the Mariners had averaged 100 losses a season during their first four years, Wills had hoped to show some immediate results by instilling a more aggressive and winning attitude on the club.

But the club managed to win only 11 of 29 games during spring training this year, despite Wills' desire to be start a winning habit in Cactus League play.

His struggle to find a winning combination was evident during the first month of the regular season as Wills tried 20 different batting orders in the first 22 games.

A footnote in Wills' managerial career occurred last Sept. 25 when he managed the Mariners in a game in Seattle against the Texas Rangers. Playing second base for Texas was Bump Wills and the game marked the first time in major league history that a father managed against his son.

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