Terry Francona will always be known as the Red Sox manager who ended the franchise's long drought without a World Series title.
But that honor almost went to John McNamara, who led the Sox to within one strike of a championship in 1986.
McNamara died Tuesday in Tennessee at the age of 88, according to Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe.
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McNamara managed the Red Sox from 1985 to 1988, but the highlight — and lowlight — of his tenure came in 1986, when he was named the American League Manager of the Year. Under McNamara, the Red Sox went 95-66, rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS against the California Angels and advanced to the World Series against the Mets.
The team's failures in the Fall Classic are well-documented, as are McNamara's questionable decisions in Game 6 when the Red Sox had a two-out, two-strike lead against the Mets in the 10th inning.
Among McNamara's disputed calls were pinch-hitting for Roger Clemens in the eighth inning with the Sox up 3-2, using Mike Greenwell instead of Don Baylor to pinch-hit for Clemens, and not putting in a defensive replacement for Bill Buckner when Boston took a 5-3 lead in the 10th. None of those moves worked out, and when a Mookie Wilson grounder went through Buckner's legs, the Mets won the game 6-5 and evened the series.
After that collapse, McNamara remained with the Red Sox for a season and a half, and he was fired at the All-Star break in 1988 after the Sox had gone just 43-42 to start the season. McNamara racked up a 297-273 record in three and a half seasons as the Red Sox manager, only making the one postseason appearance in '86.
McNamara's managerial career included stops with the A's, Padres, Reds, Angels and Indians in addition to the Red Sox. He compiled a 1,160-1,233-2 record over parts of 19 seasons between 1969 and 1996.