O''s Regan touches all bases on first day

October 18, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

Phil Regan, scheduled to fly back to Venezuela today where he will stay until Nov. 15, spent his first full day as Orioles manager growing on Baltimore as Baltimore grew on him.

Up at 7 a.m., working on five hours' sleep. On WBAL radio with Dave Durian and Jim West, from his airport hotel at 8:15. By the time he returned to his room for a phone-in with baseball-savvy Stan "The Fan" Charles, 14 hours had elapsed.

The morning started with a few phone calls, then a ride to the ballpark. A tour of the clubhouse, the weight room, and the rest of the stadium with Orioles general manager Roland Hemond and new pitching coach Mike Flanagan. A brief chat with Mike Devereaux, an acquaintance from their days together in the Los Angeles Dodgers' organization, who had stopped by the clubhouse.

Upstairs with Hemond and Flanagan, then a meeting with Hemond and Frank Robinson. Lunch brought in from Perring Place Restaurant.

"They were my first crab cakes in Baltimore," Regan said. "Delicious."

More phone calls, including one to owner Peter Angelos for giving him the opportunity to manage the Orioles.

Then it was off to a news conference on the grass of sun-kissed Camden Yards, a perfect day to play baseball. What a tease. The Orioles announced the hiring of Flanagan with highlights of the left-hander, in every sense of the term, showing on the scoreboard. Then it was off to a meeting with club vice chairman for business Joe Foss and Russell Smouse, a senior lawyer with Angelos' law firm.

Now the fun started.

Bernie Martin, an Irish Mario Andretti, behind the wheel of a plush Cadillac somehow adhering to a tight schedule. Regan, riding shotgun, pulls a telephone message from Toronto Blue Jays scout Gordon Lakey out of his pocket and roars.

It reads: "Just wanted to say congratulations. Not looking for a job."

Regan's car trails Flanagan's to the WMAR studios, when Regan notices something strange.

"Wait a minute, my pitching coach is driving a Mercedes," Regan said. "What's going on here?"

Scott Garceau, a talking head with a great deal of curiosity, welcomes his guest and waits for the news anchor to finish interrogating former and possible future Washington mayor Marion S. Barry. The essence of the questioning: Why should Washington forgive you for being convicted of a misdemeanor ** drug charge that landed you in prison for six months?

Then they segued into sports, where no question could be as tough.

Over and over, Regan answered the toughest question of the night without a hint of a bristle.

The Leo Gomez question: What if the owner tells you who to play?

"If our communication lines are as open as I expect, I don't anticipate him doing that," Regan said.

A portrait of a manager is unfolding for Baltimore. Quietly frank, quietly confident, quietly strong.

After WMAR, it was off to WBAL-TV. The Mercedes stayed in the parking lot. Flanagan, public relations director Charles Steinberg, and a portly reporter squeezed into the spacious back seat of the Cadillac.

Regan and Flanagan swapping stories, getting to know each other, as the driver who says nothing whisks the Orioles' new tandem from this television appearance to that. Regan, the avuncular manager with the deep laugh, very much enjoys the Earl Weaver stories told by Flanagan, the dashing young pitching coach with the biting wit.

"Every time Earl came out to the mound to visit [Jim] Palmer, Palmer would stand on the highest part of the mound and make Earl stand at the bottom," Flanagan said. "Every time, Earl screamed 'You're just doing that to make me look shorter.' I've got all these pictures at home with Palmer standing at the top of the mound and Earl at the bottom. And that is why Palmer did it. He wanted to make Earl look shorter."

Regan tells a story about Jack Morris, who despised visits from the pitching coach and even once had to be chased back onto the mound by Regan for a brief tongue-lashing.

They arrive at WBAL, where prepared Gerry Sandusky is surrounded by unmanned robotic cameras that move by remote control.

The schedule is tight and the driver begins to pull away, before Flanagan is in the car.

"Easy," Flanagan said. "I'll be like Al Widmar [a former pitching coach]. It took him so long to get to the mound. He asked me how I was doing and I would tell him I was doing fine when you started coming out here but I got tired waiting for you."

John Buren awaits at WJZ. Speculation from one corner of the back seat centers on Buren calling his guests "Dude." Wrong. Buren opted for his second favorite word. "Man."

Buren worded the Gomez question best of anyone: "When does involvement from ownership cross over into interference?"

Regan buried the notion the owner will be a problem, but Buren said, "You brought your dancing shoes with you," and gave Regan a most-sincere punch to the biceps. "I heard about you," Regan said with a smile.

WBAL talk-radio host Josh Lewin is next and Regan fields questions from callers, including one who summed up a feeling growing in Baltimore: "You weren't our choice, but the more we hear you talk, the more we understand why you were the Orioles' choice."

It's 7:30 and Regan does a call-in show with a York, Pa., radio station from the car, before meeting with Hemond to discuss the coaching staff.

"You know, it's been a pretty emotional day," Regan said. "You think back to all the bus rides, all the years in Venezuela, all the things you went through to get what you wanted."

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