No prince to ump, Regan looks like an Earl

April 24, 1995|By KEN ROSENTHAL

Earl would have loved it, the screaming, the pointing, the cussing. Who cares if it was only an exhibition game? The umpire blew the call.

Phil Regan raced up the third base line and gave replacement umpire Larry Walding the full treatment.

Just like Earl always did.

Just like Johnny never would.

Arguing with an umpire should be the least important part of a manager's job, but it's different in Baltimore, thanks to good, old No. 4.

Earl Weaver spent more than a decade kicking dirt, turning his cap around and making a general nuisance of himself to the men in blue.

It wouldn't have been a big deal, but he also led the Orioles to four World Series in 11 years, and fans came to equate his antics with success.

Know what?

The fans might have been right.

Players love it when a manager fights their battles. And Regan, the 58-year-old rookie, certainly wasn't bashful yesterday in his Camden Yards debut.

"An exhibition game -- geez," assistant general manager Frank Robinson said, chuckling. "That looked like me out there."

It was Weaver vs. Ron Luciano, Robinson vs. Drew Coble, Axel Schulz vs. George Foreman.

And the 24,010 suckers who paid regular-season prices for spring-training baseball howled with delight.

Regan didn't get thrown out, but Walding was afraid to talk to a reporter afterward, so how can anyone expect him to eject a manager?

"We had to go extra innings because the guy blew the call," bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks grumbled after the Orioles' 8-7 victory.

Whatever, Regan took his best shot.

Earl would have been proud.

"I don't know what the fans expect of me as a manager as compared to Earl Weaver," Regan said. "But in winter ball, I've been fairly aggressive.

"I don't argue just to argue. I'll argue when I think we're right, like I thought we were today. I stick up for my players."

That much became obvious in the sixth inning, after Cal Ripken hit a two-run, bases-loaded single to put the Orioles ahead 3-2.

The disputed play occurred when Rafael Palmeiro slid into third. The Phillies' Charlie Hayes appeared to miss the tag, but Walding called Palmeiro out.

It was the first out of what developed into a six-run inning.

And Regan went nuts.

"He can get fired up," third base coach Steve Boros said. "No one has seen that side of him. But he's a fierce competitor.

"He's been so nice, so gracious, polite, diplomatic -- and there's that side to Phil. But I've seen the side you saw today in winter ball.

"That's how he gets when he feels an umpire doesn't do his job or a player doesn't do his job. That wasn't for the crowd. That's Phil Regan."

The anti-Johnny.

The '90s Earl.

"You'll see it again," Boros said. "When he feels he's got a case, he's going to be out there. It sends a message loud and clear -- to the players, to everyone."

Amazing, isn't it? Johnny Oates never sent that message in nearly four seasons as manager. Regan delivered it on his first day at Camden Yards.

"That was pretty impressive," catcher Chris Hoiles said. "He's going to stick up for us. He's on our side."

The underlying issue is the incompetence of the replacement umps -- "we're in desperate need of the real guys," Hoiles said -- but fire is fire.

It might sound silly, but such things matter. A team reflects the personality of its manager. Too often under Oates, the Orioles were passive and scared.

Oates would argue on occasion, but never was comfortable with challenging umpires. He was too respectful, too nice a guy.

Boros is the same way -- he said he won't argue much himself, but if he questions an umpire, that's a signal for Regan.

The point is, someone must do the dirty work. And if that someone is the manager, all the better.

"It has tremendous value," Regan said. "You're a team. And in everything you do, you ought to try to be a team."

That symbolism was lost on Oates.

He didn't leave the dugout last season when Juan Guzman threw behind Cal Ripken, then drilled him in the back on the day Ripken's consecutive-games streak reached 1,999.

And he didn't leave the dugout in the middle of the 1993 pennant race, when a fan at Yankee Stadium reached over the right-field wall to catch a home run by Don Mattingly.

Ben McDonald never forgot it.

He lost the game, 1-0.

"To me, that was the biggest one," McDonald said. "Eighth inning, 0-0 game, I'm out there pitching my butt off. Mattingly hits a controversial home run. The fan clearly reached over the fence.

"Johnny never left the dugout. To me, something's wrong. When your pitcher is out there giving 100 percent, the least he could have done was come out and argue.

"If the guy hits it 600 feet, I can't say anything. But to lose like that, it left a bitter taste in my mouth."

The game that day was critical, and Oates did nothing. The game yesterday was meaningless, and Regan made his stand.

Earl would have loved it.

Earl would have been proud.

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