Crowley is reborn as a Twin

November 15, 1990|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

Terry Crowley's next visit to Memorial Stadium won't be as devastating as the last one. But it will be unlike any of the thousands of others he has made in his career.

"It will be strange coming back with a different uniform on," said the man they used to call "The King of Swing." He spent all or part of 12 seasons with the Orioles as a player and four more as the team's hitting coach before he was dismissed in the massive shake-up the day after the 1988 season ended.

After serving as minor-league instructor for the Boston Red Sox for the last two years, Crowley is returning to the big leagues as the batting coach for the Minnesota Twins. It is a move he says wasn't as easy to make as it might appear.

"I'm walking away from a great job," said Crowley. "I had two fantastic years with the Red Sox and they treated me well. But this is a great opportunity to help turn things around with the Twins."

Until last year, Crowley had spent all but three years of his career in the Orioles' organization. He has lived in the area his entire adult life. The association was always "Terry Crowley, Baltimore Orioles."

"It felt funny saying 'Terry Crowley, Boston Red Sox' and it feels funny now saying 'Terry Crowley, Minnesota Twins,' " he said.

Gone, and almost forgotten, are the feelings of rejection when he was dropped from the Orioles' coaching staff. "I don't have any bitterness, maybe just a little confusion about the way it happened," Crowley said. "Right now, in 1990, I don't feel like I did in 1989, or at the end of 1988.

"Then a lot of things were going on in my mind -- one was the realization that I had to get a job. Another was, why did it happen?"

It wasn't that Crowley was surprised by the developments. "We had a lousy year and they wanted to make changes," he said. "You had to have an inkling."

On the last day of the season manager Frank Robinson told Crowley to meet him in his office at 10 o'clock the next morning. "Five minutes later he asked me to mention some things for Worthy [Craig Worthington] to work on over the winter," said Crowley. "On the plane ride home from Toronto I was thinking that maybe I'd survive."

But when he arrived at the stadium the next morning Robinson was not there, and it was general manager Roland Hemond who broke the news. "As soon as I saw Roland I knew a change was going to be made," said Crowley. "I have to give Frank the benefit of the doubt. For all I know he might have wanted to bring me back, but the club decided to make changes.

"What hurt was that, after all those years, they didn't offer me another job in the organization. Not that I necessarily would have taken it, but it would have been nice to shake hands and know I could come back if something else didn't come up.

"But I know things like that happen in baseball," he said.

Crowley landed on his feet. He took the job with the Red Sox after talking to former teammate Al Bumbry, Boston's first base coach. "I turned down more money from some other teams because Bumbry told me what a great organization it was," said Crowley.

"Let's face it, you have to have talent to have any success and the Red Sox had a couple of good drafts. We [the Red Sox] hit a lot of home runs in the minor leagues the last two years. The Red Sox came up with some 'monsters,' in guys like Phil Plantier, Mo Vaughn and Jeff Bagwell [who was traded to Houston for reliever Larry Andersen], and I guess some people noticed we had some success."

The call from Minnesota came as a surprise to Crowley, who met with manager Tom Kelly and general manager Andy MacPhail last week and was offered the job within 48 hours. The Twins apparently were impressed by the home run prowess of the Red Sox minor leaguers and the fact that the Orioles averaged 183 homers during Crowley's four years as hitting coach. Last year the Twins, despite playing in the home run-prone Metrodome, hit only 112.

"My main objective," said Crowley, "is to get a guy to drive the ball. But the way I coach is to work off a hitter's style and try to improve it. I'm not going to take somebody who weighs 148 pounds and try to get him to hit home runs, and I'm not going to try and get somebody who weighs 218 to go the other way with the ball."

The difference between working with minor leaguers, which Crowley also did with the Orioles for one year, and major leaguers is primarily in approach, he said. "At the minor-league level you have to be a little more careful what you tell them," said Crowley, "because they will do what you say. If you tell them to stand on their head they'll try it, so every suggestion you make has to be well thought out."

In the big leagues the mental approach to hitting comes into play a lot more. "With young players I'll sit down and tell them, 'This is what the pitcher is going to do with you,' whereas with a veteran player you might ask, 'What do you think he's trying to do?' "

Crowley's tactics won't be any different; he'll use the same low-key approach that has been his trademark. The only thing different will be the uniform -- and his feelings the first time the Twins play the Orioles. "There are still some guys there I care about and feel close to," he said.

The connection may be broken, but some of the ties will always remain between the Orioles and Terry Crowley.

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