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Saturday, June 24, 2023

Grady Little's managerial decisions led him to the majors; One later led him to be blamed for playoff failure

Durham Bulls manager Grady Little managerial style drew praise from one of his players to start 1990, according to the Durham Sun.

"I really like Grady's philosophy," player Kevin Castleberry told The Sun. "He likes to steal a lot of bases, steal home, hit-and-run in a bunt situation, things like that. I don't see how the other team is going to possibly figure out what he's going to do."

Little's managing philosophy eventually led him up to the majors. But one managerial decision in particular - in the 2003 American League Championship Series with the Red Sox - would instantly define his career. 

Little's long career in baseball began as a player, taken by the Braves in the 15th round of the 1968 draft Garinger High School in North Carolina.

Little started with the Braves at rookie Magic Valley. He made single-A Greenwood in 1969 and then AA West Haven in 1972 as a player-coach. His playing career then ended the next year, back at West Haven.

He returned to West Haven as a coach for 1974, then coached at Miami and managed at Bluefield in 1980. 

Little made AA Charlotte as manager in 1983. He moved to the Blue Jays system in 1985, then to the Braves at rookie Pulaski in 1986. He stayed with the Braves through 1995, making manager at AAA Richmond.

He first arrived in the majors in 1996, with the Padres as bullpen coach. He then made bench coach with the Red Sox in 1997 and with the Indians in 2000. For 2002, he returned to the Red Sox as manager.

Upon taking the job, Little spoke with The South Florida Sun Sentinel about coming in with some popularity. He knew that wouldn't always be the case.

"I'm sure there will be times in my tenure as the manager in Boston when I walk onto the field to take a pitcher out in Fenway Park that I won't be getting that same reception," Little told The Sun Sentinel. "It's quite possible."

Little's Red Sox missed the playoffs in 2002, but made them in 2003 and got to the American League Championship Series against the Yankees. In Game 7, Little left starter Pedro Martinez in in the eighth inning, long enough for the Yankees to come back and win the game. Little went on to be blamed for the loss.

"Pedro Martinez has been our man all year long and in situations like that, he's the one we want on the mound over anybody we can bring in out of the bullpen,'' Little explained afterward to reporters. "He had enough left in his tank to finish off Posada.''

Little did not return to the Red Sox for 2004. Instead, he turned Cubs minor league catching instructor for two seasons. He then returned to the majors for 2006 and 2007 as manager with the Dodgers.

Grady Little 1990 Durham Bulls card, Little seen up close

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:4,178
Made the Majors:1,377-33.0%-X
Never Made Majors:2,801-67.0%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:559
10+ Seasons in the Minors:343

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