Passionate about winning
Davey Johnson Brought Out the Best in His Teams
By SAMANTHA CARR
November 19, 2009
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. – Whether he’s managing the Mets, Team USA or the Deland Suns in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, Davey Johnson’s passion for the game shows.
It’s a passion that could take him all the way to Cooperstown.
|Davey Johnson is one of twenty finalists for electin to the Hall of Fame Class of 2010 by the Veterans Committee. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)|
“I still love the game. I love being part of it,” said Johnson.
Johnson, who managed the Mets, Reds, Orioles and Dodgers, is one of 10 finalists on this year’s Veterans Committee managers/umpires ballot at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The Veterans Committee will vote on Dec. 6 at baseball’s Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, and the results of the vote will be announced Dec. 7. The results of the Veterans Committee election for executives will also be announced on Dec. 7.
The 10 candidates on the managers/umpires ballot are: Charlie Grimm, Doug Harvey, Whitey Herzog, Tom Kelly, Billy Martin, Gene Mauch, Danny Murtaugh, Hank O’Day, Steve O’Neill and Johnson. Any candidate who receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010.
Johnson played 13 seasons of big league ball from 1965-75 and 1977-78 with the Orioles, Braves, Phillies and Cubs and spent two seasons for the Yomuiri Giants in the Japanese League from 1975-76. He was a four-time All-Star and won two World Series titles with the Orioles. He won three Gold Glove Awards for his play at second base and was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1966.
“When he was a player, he was a lot like Earl Weaver. He was always asking why,” said Frank Cashen, who served as both a vice president and general manager for the Mets.
Johnson retired following the 1978 season with a career .261 batting average, 136 home runs and 609 RBI. The following year, he began his managerial career in the Mets farm system.
He won pennants in each of his three seasons in the minors, then took over the big league club in 1984. He became the first National League manager to win at least 90 games in each of his first five seasons.
“Davey makes moves in a game that are so good they are absolutely eerie,” said Cashen. “Other managers are thinking of the moves they’ll make this inning, Davey is thinking of the moves he’ll make three innings from now.”
The Mets won the World Series in Johnson’s third year as skipper – 1986 – and never won less than 87 games in his six full years with the club. He is the winningest manager in Mets history.
“My job is to extract greatness from my players,” said Johnson.
He went on to manage the Reds, Orioles and Dodgers, and his teams finished in first or second place 12 times in 14 seasons. He won five division titles and made it to the American League playoffs as a Wild Card team in 1996 – and was named the AL Manager of the Year in 1997 after leading the Orioles to the AL East title.
Johnson had only one losing season managing a team for a full year with a lifetime winning percentage of .564 (1,148-888) – good for 10th all-time among managers with at least 1,000 wins. Each of the nine managers with a better winning percentage than Johnson are enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
“He takes the pressure off and allows you the freedom to produce,” said former player Wally Backman.” “It’s a respect that he gives us that we end up giving back to him.”
Johnson earned a degree in mathematics from Trinity University and gained attention for his use of computers to analyze players.
“He had ideas that nobody understood, and worded in a language of an MIT professor. It’s only now we realize that Davey was ahead of his time,” said Orioles scout Jim Russo, who signed Johnson to his first big league contract.
Johnson paid attention to pitcher-hitter matchups and used platooning and pinch hitting to his advantage, much like Weaver.
“I don’t experiment,” said Johnson. “I may gable sometimes, but not wildly. I know what cards I’m holding and I’ll play them.”
“He’s a strange combination of mathematician, baseball person and someone who likes to read a lot,” said Cashen.
He was also one of the most successful managers in history. Following his major league managing career, Johnson has been at the helm of Team USA in the Olympics and at the World Baseball Classic. In 2009, he managed the Deland Suns in the Florida College Summer League.
Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.