Davey Johnson told reporters this week he informed those behind its staging that if the pregame ceremony today honoring his work with the Washington Nationals and his career as a manager went too long he may come down with a back ailment that forces them to cut the proceedings short. The 70-year-old skipper even joked about checking into the hospital to avoid having to take part in the tribute. It was supposed to be held before last night's game, but the rain washed that out before it forced the postponement of the penultimate regular season game in Nationals Park in 2013. The Nationals will instead hold the ceremony before the start of this afternoon's day half of the day/night split doubleheader with Miami.
Before the second game of four with the Marlins in Nationals Park on Friday night, the veteran of 17 seasons on the bench as a manager in the majors was asked during an interview with ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro what he was thinking heading into this last nine games as the Nats' skipper? Ever defiant, Johnson said that wasn't how he thought about things. "First of all," he told the show's hosts, "you're making the assumption that we're not going to get into the playoffs, so we've got more than nine left, in my opinion, okay?"
Johnson went on to say that he was enjoying every last moment of his time as the Nationals' manager. "I'm glad we're playing a lot better," he said. "We had a very slow start. We had a few little glitches in this massive machine I'm trying to manage here, but I'm enjoying every minute of it."
With two to play today and six more remaining on the schedule after that, Johnson's managed Washington to a 221-178 record since taking over for Jim Riggleman and John McLaren in the summer of 2011. Though Johnson's not quite done yet, they are honoring him today, so we will too. Here are our favorite Davey Johnson anecdotes/quotes from the past few seasons covering the Nationals...
• Davey Johnson on saving Frank Robinson from drowning:
"We partied a lot, [the Orioles owners] the Hoffbergers believed in partying. Of course we won a lot, so we had a lot to party for. I remember the time when Frank Robinson, after we won in '66, he fell in the swimming pool and Andy Etchebarren and I were looking down on him and he was on the bottom of the pool and we both jumped in and saved him."
"He didn't know how to swim," Johnson laughed. "And he was nothing but rock hard muscle, and we didn't know why he went in the pool, but we damn sure weren't going to let him drown." Asked if he ever reminds Robinson that he saved him from drowning, Johnson said, "No. I don't bring that up. He probably thought I pushed him in. But we had our feet dangling in the water and we heard a splash and Etch and I both looked down there and said, 'Look at Frank. He's swimming. No, he ain't coming up.' So we went after him, but boy that was a scare."
• Davey Johnson on watching Hank Aaron in BP:
"I used to watch Hank Aaron," Johnson said recalling his days in Atlanta from 1973-75. "He was fascinating to watch take BP. He never hit a ball out of the ballpark in BP. Never. And he was just a marvelous thing to watch. He was so relaxed and working on just hitting little line drives and ground balls, two-hopper ground balls through the infield and soft line drives. And he only took batting practice during the year maybe once a week. And there's something to be learned from that because I asked him one time, 'Why do you just swing like maybe 50%?' and he said, 'I'm timing a guy throwing 60 [mph], I can always turn the volume up and I said, well that's right."
Aaron also told Johnson why he famously said he always looked for a breaking ball on every pitch that was thrown to him. "I asked him, 'What do you look for up there?' and he said, 'I always look for a breaking ball.' I said, 'Yeah?' and he said, 'Yeah, because they can't throw the fastball by me.' I said, 'You got that right!'"
• Davey Johnson on watching Frank Robinson take BP:
"I watched Frank Robinson so close," Johnson said, "and everything he did when he came over [to] Baltimore. I remember one game, the first game of a doubleheader, he was getting jammed during the game and I knew where his toe hold was. I knew where he strided. I knew what bat he was using. I knew everything. In fact, it was because of him I went to a bigger barrel bat, and I told him the first game of the doubleheader, I said, 'You know, they've been throwing you a lot of breaking balls and your back foot's about six inches closer to the mound,' and I said, 'I think you're unconsciously creeping up because of all the breaking balls they're throwing you.'
"And he just listened to me and then the next game I think he moved back because I know he went and hit a couple of home runs," Johnson laughed. "But I was always observant of the great ones."
• Frank Robinson on Davey Johnson's nickname:
"[Davey] a good headsy hitter, a good headsy player, and he was a thinker. And if [Orioles' manager] Earl [Weaver] would hold still long enough, he would tell Earl how to do things. Earl wasn't having too much of it, but Davey was a real thinker back then. Sometimes he would think too much and that's where he got the name, 'Dum Dum,' because he used to get four hits and then go back out working on hitting the next day and think himself into an 0 for... but he was a good teammate and a good player. He knew the game and he played it well."
More from Federal Baseball:
- Nationals To Recognize Davey Johnson Before Today's Game In Nats Park
- Nationals vs Marlins: Postponed Until Tomorrow; Doubleheader Sunday 1:35; 7:05
- Nationals' Saturday Night Lineup vs Marlins In Nats Park
- Stephen Strasburg Returns To The Mound In Nationals Park; Weather Permitting
- Davey Johnson On Jordan Zimmermann's Complete Game Shutout Of The Marlins