Terry Francona

Terry Francona is one of baseball’s most successful managers over the last two decades, and he’s featured in MLB Network’s latest documentary Tito: The Terry Francona Story.

Here’s a blurb from MLB Network’s release about the feature, including a listing of those interviewed.

Several MLB personalities, who have enjoyed first-hand experience with Francona, discuss his unifying presence, winning approach, resilient mentality, signature humor, and strong personal connections with so many, including: former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti, former Red Sox players Curt SchillingKevin MillarJon Lester and Dustin Pedroia, former Guardians player Jason Kipnis, Baseball Hall of Fame electee Scott Rolen, current Guardians left fielder Steven Kwan and pitcher Triston McKenzie, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Guardians general manager Mike Chernoff and bench coach DeMarlo Hale.

Having captured two World Series titles together during their eight-year run in Boston, Epstein says, “People love Tito. I’m not surprised everyone wanted to show up for this documentary for the way that they’d show up for him, anywhere, anytime. He is baseball. When you think about Tito, you think about just being in a clubhouse, the bonds that are created, the brotherhood, the friendships and the beauty of it for him is the way he’s developed countless unbelievable connections and friendships with people in the game.”

Francona talks openly about managing NBA legend Michael Jordan in the Minor Leagues, being let go in Philadelphia, managing Boston to its first World Series title in 86 years and subsequent departure, and the jubilation and heartbreak of guiding Cleveland to the 2016 World Series. As a three-time Manager of the Year award winner, Francona is candid on his health struggles and how much longer he wants to manage.

And here’s a trailer.

When this film was initially announced earlier this month, I wondered whether or not it would hit the “nostalgia” element I crave hard enough. I was somewhat skeptical at the time, and am pleased to say that I was wrong. This doc is a fine walk down memory lane, and while a fair chunk is focused on his most recent managerial stints in Boston and Cleveland, the film does spend time on his playing career, his time as a major league coach and minor league manager (including clips of his time managing Birmingham in 1994, featuring Michael Jordan), and his first MLB managerial stint in Philadelphia.

As outlined above, there are plenty of interviews in this doc. Francona himself, of course, adds a lot of color and context, and this feature wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining and informative without him involved. Other standout interviewees include Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff of the Cleveland front office, Dustin Pedroia, and Curt Schilling, who all contribute valuable (and often entertaining) insights into various parts of Francona’s career.

There’s a ton of footage from Francona’s career (which isn’t a surprise), though we’re familiar with much of it, given how recently the highlights of his managerial tenure took place. It’s always good to see behind the scenes stuff, and there’s a bunch featuring Francona, his coaches, and his players. That footage doesn’t break much new ground, but helps humanize Francona a bit more (not that he needs it).

The production values are top notch, as they usually are with MLB Network productions, and the presentation is refreshingly minimalist. Viewers won’t be bombarded with ridiculous graphics or booming audio, which help keep the focus on Francona.

When it comes down to it, MLB Network Presents is a refreshingly consistent docuseries. Each edition usually delivers nostalgia in spades, bringing oodles of relevant footage and interviews. Tito is no exception, and the length feels about right (a complaint I’ve had in the past is that some editions either seem far too short or too long). I’d recommend watching to all baseball fans, but especially those in Boston and Cleveland.

Tito: The Terry Francona Story premieres Sunday, April 23 at 8 PM ET on MLB Network.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.