Davey Johnson turned 70 on Wednesday. As Johnson himself noted recently, while accepting the Baseball Writers' Association of America's NL Manager of the Year award, 51 of his 70 years have been spent in the game of baseball. Signed as a minor league free agent by Baltimore in 1962, the Orlando, Florida-native debuted in the majors with the Orioles in 1965 and went on to have a 13-year career with the O's Braves, Phillies and Cubs.
Six years after he retired as a player, Johnson debuted in the majors as a manager with the New York Mets in 1984. He stayed in NY until 1990, managed the Cincinnati Reds from 1993-1995, the Orioles in 1996 and '97, and then spent two years in LA with the Dodgers (1999-2000) before an 11-year stretch in which he was out of the major league game, but still managing with USA Baseball and consulting with teams like the Nationals.
D.C. GM Mike Rizzo hired Johnson as a senior advisor upon taking over as General Manager in 2009 and a year and a half later the then-68-year-old Johnson was in the organization and willing to take over on the bench after Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned in June of 2011.
A few weeks on the bench with a team he'd help shape from behind the scenes convinced Johnson he could help them take the next step, and he talked about the possibility of the Nats making it to the postseason long before the Nationals did just that under his guidance, winning the first division title by a team from the nation's capital in 69 long years and winning the NL East Division crown before losing in five games in the NLDS with St. Louis.
The Nats fell short of the pennant Johnson predicted upon agreeing to return to manage the team in the winter of 2011.
Asked in the postgame press conference following Washington's heartbreaking loss in Game 5 with the Cards what he had to say to the fans after an electrifying, 98-win, fan base-building campaign, Johnson, who wore the loss more than he had any disappointment all season, said simply, "Well, you know, I'm sorry. We'll make it up to them next year. It was a fun ride, a lot of character. I really enjoyed managing them this year."
Under his guidance, the Nationals are 138-107 (.563 WP) since June of 2011. When Johnson agreed to return to the bench in the nation's capital in 2013, he upped the ante once again, predicting not another division title, or a pennant this time around, but instead declaring the motto is, "World Series or Bust!"
The Nationals' 70-year-old manager will be in the 17th major league season of his second career in the game in 2013. He's already said it will be his last. In accepting the D.C. Chamber of Commerce's Hometown Hero Award in early December, Johnson said in his speech that he plans to add another ring to his collection (two as a player, one as a manager) in his final year on the bench.
"'Next year is going to be my last year and I’m going to go out with my fourth World Series ring,'" Johnson said, as quoted in the Washington Post, and as he told reporters before the 2012 season even ended, he thinks there's room for improvement in 2013. "A lot of guys haven't hit their stride," Johnson told reporters last October. "There's still a bigger ceiling for a number of players on this ballclub."
He was right last time... the rest of the league better look out. Davey Johnson's determined to go out on top.