10/16/08 7:11 PM EST
Francona happy for two Phillies
Sox skipper pleased Giles, Coppenbarger reach Fall Classic
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
When it was over, Francona was extremely happy for two members of the organization he has maintained a close relationship with.
One was Phillies chairman Bill Giles. The other was a far more anonymous figure, that being Frank Coppenbarger, a longtime clubhouse attendant for the team.
"I was going back and forth," Francona said. "There was the debate [and] the game. I wanted to watch at the end [and see Coppenbarger] jump up when they won. I was actually hoping to see Bill Giles, and I didn't. I didn't see it and I wanted to -- almost more than anything. But I did see Frank jump up into somebody's arms and almost kill them. That meant a lot to me, but other than that, I was kind of flicking back and forth. I wanted to see the state of our nation."
As for the state of the Phillies, Francona has no real grudge against the franchise that dismissed him after four seasons (1997-2000) which produced a disappointing 285-363 record. At that time, rebuilding was the order of business.
"Our thing was to try to help some young players get better and survive," Francona said. "That's not what they're trying to do now. They're trying to win a World Series. It's vastly different."
The one thing that left a sour taste in Francona's mouth from his years in Philadelphia is the harsh treatment that he received from fans.
"I went through some really tough times there," Francona said. "It's hard for me to be all warm and fuzzy about the city. That's just the way it is."
But he couldn't be happier for Giles.
"He's one of the dearest people that I've ever come across," Francona said. "He wants everybody that works for him to do well, try their best. I mean, I can remember him, he stood out on the Clearwater field before the first home Grapefruit League game every year, and he proclaims that this is going to be the year -- and he believes it in his heart -- and now I'm happy for him that now it's come true."
And if the Red Sox are able to come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship Series, Francona would have no qualms with another trip to Philadelphia, even if some of his former boo birds are waiting for him.
Part of the reason he made sure to stay up for the clinching out of the Phillies-Dodgers game is that Francona remembers how his friends from that organization reached out to him after his highest moments with the Red Sox, the World Series championships of 2004 and '07.
"We were going through our success and I was getting messages from Bill Giles, from Frank Coppenbarger. I needed to watch part of that," Francona said. "I was generally happy for a lot of people."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.