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Thank you, Terry Francona

Terry Francona was the college Player of the Year in 1980, when he led Arizona to the national title. Photo by Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

As a Red Sox fan, I endured through the 1975 World Series, Bucky Bleeping Dent, one strike away in 1986, Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in one inning too long, leading to Aaron Bleeping Boone … and all manner of imbeciles and irritation for more than a quarter century.

And then came Terry Francona.

The most decorated player in Arizona Wildcats baseball history became the greatest manager in Boston Red Sox history.

He didn’t just have a good eight-run run in Boston, or a great eight-year run, he had the best eight-run.

Two World Series titles … and, well, what more do you need? Two World Series titles.

“I always say it took a Wildcat to bring a championship to Boston,” another former ex-Cat who is big in New England — linebacker Tedy Bruschi — once said.

Can the Red Sox just retire Francona’s fleece pullover right now?

After the team’s epic September collapse, perhaps it was a case of Francona having had enough, admitting that there were guys on the team he just wasn’t able to reach. As he said, Boston “wears on you.”

Perhaps it was a case of upper management itching to go in a different direction.

Either way, what was a great fit in Boston for eight years ended Friday as abruptly as Jonathan Papelbon blowing a one-run lead in the ninth.

For eight years, Francona, through his steadiness, his humor and his personal warmth, led the Red Sox through a glorious time. And for eight years, he was about as fine an ambassador for University of Arizona athletics as could be.

It’s hard to forget Francona wearing an Arizona hat during the 2004 rolling rally parade through Boston, as the Red Sox celebrated their first Series title in 86 years.

“He is an absolute genuine person,” former Wildcats coach Jerry Kindall told me earlier this year when Francona was selected for the College Baseball Hall of Fame.

“There is no deceit, no pretension, no ego, in Terry Francona. The best way I can say it is he is one of the most genuine people I have ever met. I am lucky to call him a good friend, as well as his coach.”

Red Sox fans have been lucky to call him “manager” for the past eight years.

He won’t have trouble finding further employment, depending on his wishes, but if he isn’t doing anything next spring, here’s an idea: Francona throwing out the first pitch before the Wildcats’ home opener in their new digs at Hi Corbett Field.

Also from TucsonCitizen.com:

Hall pass: Ex-Wildcat Francona selected to College shrine

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