March 23, 2006


Johnson Remains Orioles' Unforgettable Fire (Thomas Boswell, March 24, 2006, Washington Post)

Maybe [Davey] Johnson, 63, hasn't entirely forgiven and he certainly hasn't forgotten. But he's over it. The anger is gone. So is the "ill will" and "animosity" that he says he carried for years toward Angelos. Partly, the change of perspective is probably because Johnson almost died in late 2004 with a medical condition that withered his frame by 70 pounds and had doctors at the Mayo Clinic repeatedly "asking me if I had a living will." He's recovered now, looking fitter than when he left Baltimore. But he's lost some of the edge that made him famous or, perhaps, he's simply replaced it with the acceptance and grace of age.

Partly, his return to visit the Orioles, the team he played for, managed and still follows with affection, is the result of the flowers that Angelos sent to the funeral of Johnson's daughter, Andrea. That gesture snapped something in their clenched-jawed ill will.

True to the silliness of feuds in baseball, it also helped that Angelos funded a Greek team in the '04 Olympics and Davey, managing a group of comparably inept Dutch men, beat the Angelos-backed bunch. "They were terrible. They couldn't get it out of the [batting] cage," grinned Johnson, tale-spinning in his Texas twang. "I don't know what they'd have been like if Peter hadn't helped them out. So, that eased the animosity. That and the flowers."

"That and the flowers." In Johnson's face, it's hard to say how many emotions are at play in a man so smart he has an advanced degree in mathematics, was 15 years ahead of the curve in using exotic statistics devised by a Johns Hopkins professor in his strategy and made his first million in real estate in the 1960s long before he became an all-star with the Orioles.

Davey still gives you "aw, shucks" and spits tobacco on the dugout concrete. It's easy to forget he flies planes and played scratch golf. And that, when he played for Earl Weaver, he loved to take the manager's money at gin -- just to show Earl who was smarter. Not the best idea? Some percentages Davey never could play, especially the ones that told you when to back off from the boss and when to confront him. Johnson's gears didn't include reverse.

Now, part of that person, who led the Mets to the '86 World Series crown but also got fired everywhere he managed, has definitely mellowed. Walking around with a burst appendix for a year -- and not knowing what's wrong with you -- will do that to you. Especially when doctors says that, by 60, your appendix has either been removed or else it's never going to burst.

"That's just like my whole life," said Johnson. "Typical of me to have something nobody's supposed to have at that age."

His stubbornness was what made him such a good manager--he wasn't afraid to look stupid if the numbers told him a decision made sense. Too many guys play it safe at the expense of their team in order to avoid getting criticized.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 23, 2006 11:59 PM

Oh but if only Oil Can had pitched Game 7 we wouldn't care a lick about him.

Posted by: Matt C at March 24, 2006 10:58 AM

Quickly you learn, Grasshopper....

Posted by: oj at March 24, 2006 11:01 AM

I need to set up a macro to post these 86 postseason stats for Boyd...

Year Round Tm Opp WLser G GS ERA W-L SV CG SHO IP H ER BB SO

1986 ALCS BOS CAL W 2 2 4.61 1-1 0 0 0 13.7 17 7 3 8

WS BOS NYM L 1 1 7.71 0-1 0 0 0 7.0 9 6 1 3

Posted by: Matt Cohen at March 24, 2006 12:17 PM

The Can was about heart, not numbers.

Posted by: oj at March 24, 2006 12:47 PM

Every Mets fan in the world was praying that Boyd got the ball. What exactly was it about Hurst's 2ER in 17 innings that series that didn't make you want him on the mound?

Posted by: Matt Cohen at March 24, 2006 1:02 PM

No sense of destiny.

Posted by: oj at March 24, 2006 1:06 PM

What gets lost in these baseball posts is that OJ was fervently rooting for the Mets in 1986...and despite his current allegiance to the Sox, anyone who's known hom for 30+ years, knows that in his heart his favorite teams of all time are the 1969 Mets, the 1986 Mets and the 1982 Brewers.

Posted by: Foos at March 24, 2006 1:24 PM

'82 Brewers? Gorman Thomas? Gotta love a man with a first name for a last name and a last name for a first name.

I hated those Mets teams of the mid-late 80s. The '86 series was the only time I've ever rooted for the Sawx. Had the unfortunate experience of ducking into a bar to check the score of game 6 just as it all blew up for Boston.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at March 24, 2006 1:29 PM

It's a crime against humanity that Cecil Cooper isn't in the Hall.

Posted by: oj at March 24, 2006 1:34 PM

Let me say again that the late-80's Mets were the Most Evil Team Ever. Crackheads & cheaters from top to bottom.

Posted by: b at March 24, 2006 2:31 PM

But more fun than a bag of cats.

Posted by: oj at March 24, 2006 2:34 PM