Longtime Baltimore Orioles second baseman and onetime manager Davey Johnson still has a soft spot for his adopted hometown.
Johnson played for the Orioles from 1965-1972, playing in four World Series, winning two of them. He won three Gold Gloves and was named to the All-Star team three times.
As Orioles manager, Johnson led the team to the American League Championship Series in 1996 and 1997, winning the AL East in his final year before walking away from the last year of his three-year contract.
"Some of the highest points and the some of the lowest," Johnson remembers about his time with the Orioles.
Johnson has written a new book, "Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond," and in a telephone conversation, he remembered Baltimore fondly.
"Being in four World Series, playing on a great defensive infield, playing behind great pitchers, playing for a great manager in Earl Weaver," Johnson said of his happiest times. "I learned a lot from [Weaver], the way he handled pitching staffs, which I used a lot in the future. … Even coming back to manage the Orioles in '96 and '97 -- great joys. My kids were born in Baltimore. I love Baltimore, the fans. So many friends there. Just a wonderful place."
After he left the Orioles, Johnson finished his playing career and had a highly successful stint as a manager -- leading the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1986, and after he managed the Cincinnati Reds, he took the Orioles job in the fall of 1995.
"I bought a beautiful house out near the [Loch Raven] reservoir," Johnson said. "I was looking to make the Orioles great again. I thought I helped put together a great team because I hired Pat Gillick, who's probably the best [general manager] in baseball of all time. He hired Kevin Malone as his assistant, and I thought between the three of us, we put a good team together."
Johnson's time with the Orioles soured because he and managing partner Peter Angelos tangled, and Johnson said "he kind of usurped my power in controlling the guys." On the same day Johnson was named American League Manager of the Year in 1997, he left.
"The reason I resigned and walked away from $800,000 the next year is that I thought I was a detriment to the organization," Johnson said. "I thought they would be better off if they had someone else managing because, obviously, the owner had it in for me. He didn't agree with my managing style. I walked away. He didn't fire me. I did it for the best interests of the Orioles."
After Johnson left, the Orioles went through 14 losing seasons -- until Buck Showalter led the team to the postseason in 2012 at the same time Johnson's Washington Nationals made their postseason debut.
"I was happy for it," Johnson said about the Orioles' renaissance. "I love Baltimore. … I still have a lot of friends there. … It's still one of favorite towns. I felt like Washington and Baltimore were kind of like brother and sister cities."
Johnson has been back to Orioles reunions in recent years and said he always has a great time.
"It was always fun to come back there -- mostly to see the fans," Johnson said. "They have a great ballpark in Camden Yards."
When he played, Johnson was ahead of his time. He developed computer programs which would design optimal batting orders. Nevertheless, he thinks analytics have become too much a part of the game.
"If you put a bunch of garbage in there, you're going to get a bunch of garbage out," Johnson said. "This launch angle era, the velocity off the bat is awful. It's going to lead to more problems."
These days, Johnson avidly follows the game and regularly checks in on the Orioles and shortstop Manny Machado.
"I always liked [Chris] Davis at first base," Johnson said. "He's struggling. It's probably launch angle and all that crap. … I'm really disappointed the Orioles have gotten off to a bad start. I know a lot of the players, and I hope they don't trade that great shortstop."
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