Milligan: new team, old hurt

March 15, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- His mustache is gone, his nicknam might be retired, his number resembles that of a defensive lineman and his uniform doesn't look right.

But, despite the lingering hurt caused by the separation from his former team, Randy Milligan doesn't hide. He still wears a smile that can brighten an entire ballpark.

It just looks different beaming out from under a red cap.

"It feels strange," Milligan said before his new team, the Cincinnati Reds, played the Orioles yesterday. "I haven't gotten used to red yet -- I don't look in the mirror too much."

One of the Orioles' most popular players for the past four years, Milligan was among the players not offered a contract last December. He worked overtime trying to reach a compromise that would allow him to stay in Baltimore, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

The parting was not without pain. It hurt then, and it still does.

L "I love Baltimore, the fans and the players," said Milligan.

"I made a lot of great friends there, and it wasn't easy to leave.

"If I told you I've put it out of my mind, I'd be lying. There's not a day that's gone by that I haven't thought about it.

"But what can I say?" asked Milligan. "Here I am. I'm with the Cincinnati Reds now, and I've got a lot of work to do.

"It's a big difference, starting with the no facial-hair rule," said Milligan. "I'm going through a lot of changes. I've got to learn all the new nicknames, get used to new people."

For the most part, Milligan's nickname of Moose hasn't yet caught on with his new club, which is fine with him.

"I've always had that nickname," he said, "but Baltimore is the first town where it was accepted, and I'd just as soon leave it there. I'm just Randy Milligan over here."

For the first time, Milligan yesterday elaborated on his failed attempt to negotiate a deal to stay with the Orioles.

"They read in the paper that I was willing to stay in a part-time role, so they called me into the office," he said.

"But their offer was pretty low, so we made a counteroffer. They had signed some other guys for about a 60 percent cut [in salary]," said Milligan, "so we [he and agent Mike Powers] proposed a 63 percent cut [to $450,000].

"I would've taken less than that to stay, less than I got from the Reds, but there was a one-time offer [$350,000], and they said they wouldn't negotiate. I really had no choice. It was kind of like they were pushing me out. After four years of playing with my heart and soul, I thought I deserved a little more than that."

"It was just like all negotiations," Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson said. "You get to the point where you say, 'This is our offer.' We negotiated with them, but finally said we couldn't meet their proposal and they said they couldn't accept ours."

However, Milligan said he left without any hard feelings. "There is bitterness, none at all," he said. "The Orioles gave me a shot to play in the big leagues when my career could've been over. They gave me an opportunity, and I made it work."

Milligan, likewise, said he has no resentment toward the players who made him expendable -- first basemen David Segui and Glenn Davis. "The Orioles have a good lineup," he said. "I've always liked David's tools. He's a good ballplayer. He'll do fine.

"Why should I feel bitter toward Glenn? He's a great person. I have no ill feeling toward him at all," said Milligan.

When it became obvious his days with the Orioles were over, Milligan had some decisions to make. One will result in a loss to the community he has served well.

Milligan has decided to move out of Baltimore and settle in the Tidewater area of Virginia, which is home territory for his wife, Rene. "That [staying in Baltimore and not playing with the Orioles] would be too tough," said Milligan.

He said he picked the Reds over a couple of American League teams (the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians) for personal satisfaction. "If I couldn't play for the Orioles, I wanted to go with a team that had a chance to win it all," he said.

Obviously, the racist comments attributed to Reds owner Marge Schott did not affect his choice.

"I never took that incident into account," Milligan said. "I really don't know what the facts are.

"She's a nice woman. I think she's just from the old school. My mother told me about people like that. It's hard to change your ways."

At the moment, Milligan's role with the Reds would appear to be no different from the one he unsuccessfully campaigned for with the Orioles. "Right now, I'm the backup for Hal [Morris, the first baseman] and a pinch hitter," he said.

"At least, judging from the way things have been going, that's what I think it will be. I've got to get used to a new league and new pitchers."

One of the more outgoing members of the Orioles, Milligan is more reserved with the Reds. "They have a lot of great people here, but I have to get to know them, and they have to get to know me," said Milligan.

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