His heart rate normal, Johnson back at work He's on medication, off caffeine, nicotine

August 24, 1996|By Jason LaCanfora | Jason LaCanfora,SUN STAFF

Manager Davey Johnson sat in his office outside the Orioles' clubhouse yesterday afternoon and joked with each passing player.

Johnson's accelerated heartbeat, which kept him in the hospital on Thursday and forced him to miss a game, was back to normal.

He traded barbs with Bill Ripken. Recently acquired reliever Terry Mathews left his first meeting with his new manager doubled over with laughter.

Everything was fine, except for the doctor-ordered mandate of no more coffee or tobacco, two of Johnson's favorite vices.

But there was cause for concern Thursday morning, when Johnson arose from bed, took 15 steps, felt dizzy, lost consciousness and collapsed. He came to when his head smacked against the floor. The fall woke Johnson's wife, Susan, who immediately called the Orioles' team doctors. The manager spent the rest of the day, and night, at the hospital.

Johnson left St. Joseph Hospital at 11: 30 Thursday night after watching the Orioles' game on TV, and is taking medication that's restored his heartbeat to its normal rate.

"I knew what was going on, but as far as an explanation for what was going on, I have no idea," Johnson said. "I've never had it before and I really didn't experience any difference in my chest. I just got light-headed. . . . It's very common from what I gather."

Johnson said his heartbeat was twice its regular rate yesterday, but after 10 hours of tests and medication, it had slowed to normal.

"Right after the grand slam, it reverted back," Johnson said jokingly, alluding to Paul Sorrento's homer that put the Orioles down 7-0 Thursday. "I thought I was going to have the big one during the game. . . . A few hours after that, they checked me out, walked me around and did an EKG and said I was all right. I didn't want to stay in the hospital. I wanted to go home."

Johnson said he doesn't know what caused the problem, nor how long he will have to take medication. But he has a built-in excuse.

"They got me on something, I don't know what," Johnson said. "So if I make any mistakes, it's the medication.

"My heart's fluttered a few times like everybody else, but I've never had a rapid heartbeat before. Supposedly 25 percent have had it."

Johnson said he wasn't frightened by the incident because he had no discomfort and he has no plans for a follow-up visit with the doctor. However, he will be communicating with the Orioles' training staff regularly.

He said bench coach Andy Etchebarren, the fill-in manager, looked lonely in the dugout Thursday. Etchebarren was grateful for Johnson's company last night.

"That's right," Etchebarren said. "I'm glad to see him back in there. I know he was watching me. He seems to be fine to me. It would have been nice to win one for him, but that's OK, we'll win tonight."

Pub Date: 8/24/96

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