Johnson's hopes grow, but so does O's candidate list

September 30, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

The Orioles have interviewed four candidates for the managing vacancy created by the Monday firing of Johnny Oates and have at least four more names on their long list.

In addition to Cincinnati Reds manager Davey Johnson, a leading candidate for the job with Tony La Russa reportedly leaning toward staying at Oakland, the Orioles plan to interview St. Louis Cardinals hitting instructor Chris Chambliss, who called to express interest.

They also have plans to contact Buck Rodgers and Whitey Herzog, both of whom last worked for the California Angels, to see if they have any interest in interviewing for the job, according to a club official.

Rodgers, who was vacationing in Boston and unavailable for comment yesterday, likely would be interested in interviewing for the job. As of last night, they had not attempted to reach Rodgers.

An attempt by the Orioles to reach Herzog by phone was unsuccessful. "Everyone will get equal consideration," Orioles owner Peter Angelos said. "We have no leading candidate. Let's just let the interviewing process take its course."

As of last night, Johnson and the Orioles had not spoken, but general manager Roland Hemond indicated he expects to contact Johnson today to arrange an interview for next week, perhaps as soon as Monday.

Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Bill Virdon and Cleveland Indians pitching coach Phil Regan interviewed yesterday. Rick Dempsey and Davey Lopes were the first candidates interviewed on Wednesday.

Chambliss, who would become the second minority candidate interviewed for the job after Lopes, has been granted permission to interview for the Kansas City Royals' managing vacancy.

Meanwhile, Jack Sands, La Russa's legal adviser, has been quoted as saying there is a "60-40" chance La Russa will remain in Oakland. One likely scenario has La Russa staying in Oakland for one year, then testing the open market.

If La Russa decides to leave, Boston is believed to be his first choice.

Barring a La Russa entry into the race, Johnson's qualifications would seem, on paper at least, as strong as any candidate's. Johnson's winning major-league experience and ties to the Orioles organization make him attractive, but the Orioles will not peg him, publicly or privately, as their No. 1 candidate.

The Orioles, however, are Johnson's first choice.

"I'd love to talk to them," Johnson said. "I have followed the organization's progress. The ownership change. The new stadium. When [Reds GM] Jim Bowden told me they were interested, I was ecstatic. Holy moly, whether they want me or not, just letting me talk is great.

"To me, to be able to come back there would be great. I've always felt like it was my home. My kids were born there. I'm doing cartwheels."

Johnson, who managed the 1986 New York Mets to a World Series title, said he would not want to leave the Reds for many jobs.

"I don't like to move around, but if something could work out where I could return to Baltimore, that's where I would like to finish my career," said Johnson, 51. "I want another World Series championship. It would be icing on the cake. You could lay me to rest and I'd be a happy camper."

When Bowden went to Reds owner Marge Schott about the Orioles seeking permission to speak with Johnson, Schott reportedly told him to offer Johnson a one-year extension at the same pay. Bowden, thinking that an insult to Johnson, persuaded her to grant the permission to the Orioles.

Bowden, whose contract expires at the end of the year, has been granted permission to interview for the St. Louis Cardinals GM job.

"I was very happy at Cincinnati," Johnson said. "And I assumed I was coming back. The problem there was that the GM status was in doubt."

Johnson likely will find this interview different than most he has undergone because a mixture of baseball and business professionals are on the panel.

Four men -- general manager Hemond, assistant GM Frank Robinson, vice chairman of business and finance Joe Foss and attorney Russ Smouse -- have conducted the interviews thus far. They plan to pare the original pack of interviewees to a group of two or three finalists.

Assistant GM Doug Melvin, who interviewed for the GM job with the Texas Rangers and will interview Monday for the Cardinals job, said he understood Hemond's decision to exclude him from the process.

Only Dempsey met with Angelos, whose schedule precluded him from meeting with the other candidates. Dempsey and Angelos had dinner in Little Italy on Wednesday night.

"We didn't talk about the job at all," Dempsey said. "We had a great time. I was telling old Earl Weaver stories."

Dempsey and Virdon coincidentally were on the same flight out of Baltimore to St. Louis. Virdon connected on a flight to Springfield, Mo.; Dempsey to Los Angeles. Dempsey played for Virdon when the latter managed the New York Yankees.

Virdon kidded Dempsey about the media criticism his candidacy received and said, "Oh, well, at least they noticed you."

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