Chest pains sideline Red Sox manager

Posted: Thursday, April 07, 2005

NEW YORK — Chest pains forced Terry Francona into a hospital Wednesday. How soon the Boston manager returns to his team remains to be seen.

Francona was taken by ambulance to New York Weill-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan after experiencing chest tightness in the morning. He underwent a variety of tests and then listened on the radio as the Red Sox rallied for a 7-3 victory over the Yankees, their first win of the season.

Red Sox spokesman Glenn Geffner said Francona, who turns 46 on April 22, was scheduled to be transferred Wednesday night to Boston, where he will remain under the supervision of team doctor Thomas Gill.

''We're pleased he's coming back to Boston tonight. He's still undergoing some tests, we understand he has not had a heart attack,'' team president and chief executive Larry Lucchino said Wednesday night at Fenway Park, where the red carpet ceremony for the premiere of the movie ''Fever Pitch'' took place. ''The tests will continue, but the victory today I know helped his morale.''

The Red Sox, meanwhile, were off to Toronto to open a series against the Blue Jays on Friday.

''Tito has meant so much to this whole team,'' center fielder Johnny Damon said. ''He's the guy that would go to battle for you.''

The Red Sox would not specify what Francona was tested for or any results.

General manager Theo Epstein informed the team of Francona's situation in a very brief meeting after the second Red Sox bus arrived at Yankee Stadium around 10:30 a.m. He then went to the hospital and spent the game with Francona.

Francona came to Boston with a reputation for being too nice and letting players take advantage of him. But the Red Sox responded to his easygoing personality and gelled into a raucous bunch that brought Boston its first World Series title in 86 years.

With Francona in the hospital, the Red Sox banded together in the collegial manner that made them champions.

''I almost needed a bed next to Tito,'' acting manager Brad Mills said jokingly of the tense game. ''(The win) was a lot to do with the guys focused on what they have to accomplish.''

Damon said during the game players asked the trainers, including Jim Rowe, who accompanied the manager and returned to the ballpark, about Francona but they ''didn't give us any until after the game.''

The Red Sox were upbeat after their ninth-inning comeback, yet there was little of the boisterous revelry common from the team that dubbed themselves Idiots during the playoffs last season.

First baseman Kevin Millar, though, found it easy to crack a smile after hearing his manager was doing well.

''We're all doctors,'' Millar said. ''The first two days we tightened up his chest and today we lowered his blood pressure.''

Francona took the 8 a.m. bus to the stadium with Mills and several coaches and began his routine, even fulfilling media obligations despite not feeling well.

''He just felt a little tightness in his chest,'' Mills said before the game. ''He was a little concerned, there's no doubt. He told me, 'Don't worry about me. I'm going to be OK.'''

But Mills, friends with Francona since they were roommates and teammates at the University of Arizona, said he talked to Francona on the telephone before the first pitch and said, ''I'm going to worry about you.''

Francona had experienced chest pains before — a result of life-threatening blood clots that developed from a knee operation.

Ten days after knee surgery in 2002, he was in Seattle interviewing for the Mariners' managing job when he experienced severe chest pains.

Upon his return home, Francona said, doctors discovered a blood clot had gone to his lungs. He was given blood thinners and the problem was thought to be under control, but complications developed. He had staph infections in both knees, which required four more operations, he said, and then developed serious hemorrhaging in his leg that ultimately required an additional two operations.

He was sent home after Thanksgiving, but more clotting ensued and he was hospitalized until Christmas Eve. In all, he said, he underwent eight operations to deal with the problem. On more than one occasion, he said, the situation was life-threatening.

Francona played 10 years in the major leagues as a first baseman and outfielder. He had already had 11 knee operations when he went in for the arthroscopic procedure in November 2002.

Francona also managed the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000.

AP Sports Writer Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.

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