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Davey's Destiny

Fiery Manager Davey Johnson Has a Reputation for Speaking His Mind, while Getting Results. Now With Los Angeles, He Has the Chance to Turn Around His Boyhood Idols
Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99

(continued from page 4)

After leaving Cincinnati, Johnson received a three-year, $2.25 million contract to manage Baltimore, and immediately spirited the O's to their first postseason appearance in 13 years. The club reached the 1996 league championship series against the Yankees, falling to the Bronx Bombers in five games. Success, however, still didn't disguise Johnson's strained relationship with Orioles owner Peter Angelos.  

They clashed repeatedly over such matters as Johnson's refusal to defend Roberto Alomar after he spit at an umpire, Angelos's firing of a pitching coach, and Johnson's fining of Alomar for not showing up at an exhibition game. Johnson wanted that $10,500 levy to go to his wife's charitable organization, the Carson Scholars. Angelos angrily felt that that was a conflict of interest. Tensions remained high throughout the season, even as Baltimore hurtled towards the '97 playoffs. That wire-to-wire first-place dash won Johnson Manager of the Year honors. Wanting a vote of confidence from Angelos, he faxed him a letter asking for either an extension or a buyout. When the fax was made public, the Orioles boss viewed the act as "insubordination of the worst order."  

"Was I going to eat mud and be the whipping boy again?" Johnson asks. He resigned, and lost $750,000 for ending his contract. "There comes a point when life is too short no matter what money is at stake. I just got tired of people being told I'm dumb, or that I messed up."  

Now, as manager of the Dodgers, Johnson will be tested again. However that drama plays out, the TV sports shows will only highlight the tough exterior of this turnaround expert, the veneer meant for public consumption. There's also the very private, closed-mouthed Johnson, who, like his father, won't talk much about such personal traumas as his daughter's ongoing struggles with depression, and his son's fight against drug and alcohol addiction. Yet he's still the devoted family man, hoping to perform a few more miracles.  

"Super tight with my three kids, Davey's been a great father to them, particularly to Jake [aged 22], who's deaf and blind," confides Susan, after Johnson has gone off to play golf. "Davey knows Jake will always have enormous, all-encompassing needs, and he's been there for him, lobbying at the Helen Keller National Center and on Capitol Hill for issues relating to deafness and blindness. He's taken on quite a burden bringing Jake into his own house. Most guys wouldn't do it. But that's my David, a real winner."

Edward Kiersh is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.

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