Dauer learned from the masters Ex-Oriole applies lessons as coach

March 31, 1991|By Jeff Fletcher | Jeff Fletcher,Special to The Sun

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Apparently, Rich Dauer gained more from his 10 seasons as the second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles than a World Series ring and 984 hits.

He learned something too. It's not hard when you spend so much time around Earl Weaver and Cal Ripken Sr.

"Earl was the manager and Ripken was the guy who ran the spring trainings and did all the other stuff," Dauer said. "Earl was the genius and Ripken was the guy you learned from."

Dauer is now putting his years of experience to use as the third base coach for the Cleveland Indians.

Dauer, who played for the Orioles from 1976 to 1985, is in the team's top 10 in games, at-bats, runs, hits and doubles.

He said he learned most of his baseball from Weaver and Ripken, who was his manager at Class AA Asheville in 1974 as well as a coach in Baltimore.

But, even though he was surrounded by these baseball teachers, Dauer thought little about a post-playing career as a coach.

"When you're a ballplayer," he said, "you never really think about not being a ballplayer anymore."

After Dauer retired in 1985, he took a year off. But in 1987, he was back in baseball, managing the San Bernadino Spirit, a non-affiliated team in the Class A California League.

"When I wasn't able to put the uniform on anymore, it just got very hard for me to accept not being in the game of baseball," Dauer said. "My whole life is baseball."

In 1988 the Spirit became affiliated with the Seattle Mariners, who chose to hire people from their organization to fill the coaching roles. Dauer, 38, was out of baseball for the second time.

Because he played before the days when any player could become a multi-millionaire in five seasons, Dauer entered construction to make a living.

"During that year, when I was digging ditches, laying plumbing and sewers and pulling electrical wire, I decided baseball might be a little better suited for me," he said.

Fortunately for Dauer, he had a friend in Cleveland. Hank Peters, who had served as Orioles general manager during Dauer's playing days, was the Indians' president in 1989.

"We needed a coach for our Triple-A ballclub and we heard Richie was looking for a job," said Peters, who signed a contract extension through 1991 with the Indians. "We gave him the chance, but after that he was on his own."

Dauer spent 1989 as the third-base coach for manager Larry Hargrove at the Indians' affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colo. When John McNamara was hired to replace Doc Edwards as the Indians' manager after the 1989 season, both Dauer and Hargrove were added to the major-league coaching staff.

"I have a lot of confidence in [Dauer]," McNamara said. "You have to have confidence in a third base coach because, on a nightly basis, he probably has more impact on the outcome of the game than the manager."

But what would you expect from a product of the Orioles system?

"There were a lot of guys who played [for Weaver] who would make good managers," Peters said.

Frank Robinson, who managed the Indians and Giants before returning to Baltimore, is the most notable example of a Weaver disciple running his own club. Davey Johnson, who played second for the Orioles in the late '60s and early '70s, managed the New York Mets to two division titles and one world championship before he was fired last year.

Al Bumbry, who coaches for the Boston Red Sox, is considered by some to be one of baseball's top managing prospects. Former Orioles pitcher Pat Dobson is the Royals' pitching coach.

"As a player for the Baltimore Orioles you know every play, every situation, everything that is going to happen on the field," Dauer said. "We were fundamentally the most sound organization in baseball. We had great instructors and great players who followed those instructions."

On the field, Dauer was prepared. But only experience taught him the other elements of coaching, which go far beyond hitting fungos and pitching batting practice.

"As a player," he said, "you take care of yourself. As a coach you take care of everyone else. It's very hard to do. You have to be a special kind of person to pamper the guys who need pampering and air out the guys who need airing out.

"I don't think I appreciated the coaches enough when I was playing."

Coaching third base, however, is only the first step toward Dauer's eventual dream -- to manage. But he's in no hurry.

"Right now coaching third base is the most exciting thing I can do in baseball," he said. "I'm still part of the team. I'm still out on the field. The fact that I can control the offense makes me feel like I'm a player again.

"Managing is way, way in the future."

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