BALTIMORE — Davey Johnson holds a soft spot for Baltimore in his heart. He always will. He talks often — and fondly — about his days in Baltimore both as a player and as a manager. The second part didn’t end well. But it hasn’t hardened his feelings toward the team or the city.
In his first visit (in an official capacity) in 15 years, Johnson looked out at the field at Camden Yards Friday afternoon and talked Baltimore, one more time.
Here’s some of what the Nationals’ manager had to say:
On how it felt to be back: “It feels really good. It’s beautiful ballpark. I always love coming here. I had to go to a doctor’s appointment about two, three weeks ago and I went over to 33rd Street, Memorial, where the stadium was and it’s gone. (Cal) Ripken’s got a ball field there and it looks a little different. Fences are a little shorter than they were at Memorial Stadium. It’s always good to be back in Baltimore.”
Does it feel like it’s been 15 years?: “No, it doesn’t… I’ve always had good memories about winning as a player. It was more just the town than the ballparks. It was just a good feeling. I got to visit with Jim Palmer before I came out here, talking about the good ol’ days. I think he won a Cy Young Award and you get a $5,000 raise. Those were the good ol’ days.”
Does the end sour it for you?: “As a manager, managers are hired to get fired. All the times that I was here, they were fun times for me. I really enjoyed playing here, learning the game of baseball here. It was fun to come back and manage in the town I played in. I played in a bunch of World Series but my only regret is that I didn’t get to manage this team into the World Series… All my memories of Baltimore and baseball are all the great memories.”
“I’m really proud that the Orioles are playing good baseball. I’ve always been a fan of the Orioles. And I really wasn’t a fan when they beat us two out of three. They were really close games. It’s going to fun going into their yard and maybe returning the favor. I’m happy for their success and I hope they have continued success when we leave here.
On if the fan reaction will interest him: “I love the fans in this area. I grew up here. It doesn’t matter what they do. I’m going to appreciate it. They couldn’t do anything to dampen any kind of love I have for this community.
“I don’t remember fans hardly every booing here, as a player or as a manager. I mean, as a manager I thought we did a great job getting into the league championship series. A little 12 year old helped the opposition. And then Benitez hung a slider against Cleveland and that didn’t turn out too good either. But by in large, all my memories, we were knocking on the door.
“The one thing I do remember that I love to think back on, one of the clubhouse guys mentioned it, ‘Didn’t we have fun back then when wire-to-wire ahead of the Yankees?’ That was a really good time. That was probably the thing I enjoyed the most.
On if he’s spoken to Peter Angelos lately: “Not really. We each have pretty busy schedule. The last communication I had from him was some flowers in condolence for the death of my daughter Andrea. It was greatly appreciated.