BOSTON (AP) _ Jimy Williams, the third base coach for the Atlanta Braves and a former Toronto Blue Jays manager, was hired today as manager of the Boston Red Sox.

The announcement ended a 50-day vacancy in the job that opened when Kevin Kennedy was fired the day after the regular season ended.

The hiring of Williams, who hasn't managed since he was fired by Toronto in 1989, ended a lengthy process that general manager Dan Duquette began with 18 to 20 candidates.

Williams, who flew into Boston on Monday night, inherits a team in turmoil that finished with an 85-77 record, third in the AL East.

Williams, 53, had succeeded Bobby Cox as manager of Toronto in 1986. He was dismissed early in the 1989 season, compiling a 281-241 overall record. In 1987, his best season, his team won 96 games. He joined Cox's staff in Atlanta in 1990.

``He's the best third base coach I've ever seen,'' Braves coach Leo Mazzone told The Boston Globe. ``He's a hard worker. He's at the ballpark early. He's always thinking about better ways to win. He talks to everybody. He's a class act.''

Kennedy was 171-135 over two seasons, including an AL East title in 1995 and a franchise-worst 2-12 start this season.

His player-friendly style angered management. General manager Dan Duquette fired Kennedy Sept. 30 and accused him of failing to quell _ or even encouraging _ player discontent with the way Duquette was running the team.

When Kennedy was fired, designated hitter and close Kennedy friend Jose Canseco demanded a trade. First baseman Mo Vaughn, an important clubhouse leader, said he was concerned that the front office was more interested in power than in winning.

Roger Clemens filed for free agency, saying he would weigh the Red Sox offers with the cold, businesslike approach that the team had used toward him. And Jim Leyland, everyone's first choice for manager, said the clubhouse rancor was one reason he turned the team down.

In an unusual move, Duquette hired pitching coach Joe Kerrigan before naming a manager, further reducing the manager's role in the organization.

Duquette also blamed Kennedy for the team's 6-19 start, a disaster virtually everyone else attributes to personnel decisions that sent the Red Sox into the season with too many designated hitters and not enough pitching or defense.

Kennedy is owed at least $700,000 for the one-year remaining on his contract.

Among the candidates on Duquette's original list were former major league managers Whitey Herzog, Jeff Torborg and Jim Fregosi. Among the others reportedly considered were Grady Little, Tim Johnson, Larry Bowa, Ken Macha and Buddy Bailey.

Williams joined the Braves on Oct. 4, 1989 as a minor league instructor and became third-base coach under Cox on June 25, 1990.

He had spent three full seasons and part of a fourth as Toronto's manager, his only big-league managerial experience.

Under Williams, Toronto finished fourth in the AL East in 1986, second in 1987 and tied for third in 1988. All three teams finished above .500 and the last two were two games out of first place.

Williams was replaced by Cito Gaston 36 games into the 1989 season with the Blue Jays tied for sixth with a 12-24 mark.

He also was third-base coach in Toronto while Cox was manager from 1982 through 1985 and replaced Cox as manager the next season.

Williams, a minor-league shortstop who played briefly in the majors, began his managerial career at Quad Cities in the Midwest League in 1974. Five of his six minor-league teams had winning records. The last one, Salt Lake City, won the Pacific Coast League championship in 1979. The next year, he became a coach with the Blue Jays.