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Rodgers: Brown 'Cancer' to Angels : Baseball: Former manager says meeting with president might have prompted firing.

May 19, 1994|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Buck Rodgers, still having difficulty believing he was unemployed Wednesday, accused Angel President Richard Brown of being a cancer in the organization.

Rodgers said Brown had him fired as manager of the Angels, and that General Manager Bill Bavasi simply was following orders.

But sources close to Bavasi confirmed the firing was Bavasi's idea and Brown and chairman Jackie Autry approved it. Owner Gene Autry told Rodgers in a phone call that he wasn't aware of the firing until Wednesday.

Rodgers indicated it was difficult to believe that Bavasi, who was hired Jan. 12, would fire him this quickly. Sources, however, insist Bavasi was troubled by Rodgers' stubbornness and was convinced they could not coexist. Bavasi wanted to hire his own manager, and his only choice was Marcel Lachemann. If Lachemann had rejected the job, Bavasi said Wednesday, Rodgers would still be manager.

Rodgers lashed out at Brown at a news conference he called at an Anaheim hotel. The Angels sent a club official to monitor it and report back to the front office.

"There's still some kind of cancer here with the California Angels," Rodgers said, directing his comments toward Brown. "I think that's very obvious for someone who's been here for 15 minutes.

"This organization is not all bad. This organization is very salvageable. But there's a paranoia here. There's a fear of failure that has to go."

When Brown was informed of Rodgers' comments during the 30-minute news conference, he refused to address them.

Said Bavasi: "You've got a guy who's been through a tough, traumatic experience, and (Rodgers is) entitled to make any comments that he deems appropriate.

"But what I told you (Tuesday) is the absolute truth. I know what happened. Rich knows what happened. The Autrys know what happened.

"I stand by what I said, and it was totally my decision."

Rodgers says his confrontation with Brown during the Angels' last home stand might have triggered his dismissal. Rodgers was summoned for a private meeting to discuss comments that Brown heard Rodgers had made about him.

"He said that I said that he didn't know anything about baseball. Even if I believed that," Rodgers said smiling, "I wouldn't say that."

Brown and Bavasi vehemently denied the meeting had anything to do with Rodgers' firing.

Rodgers, 55, an original member of the Angels' expansion team, has said that Brown is threatened by those who played the game. Brown was named the Angel president on Nov. 1, 1990, and had been the team's legal counsel since 1981. He never played professional baseball.

"If you're a paranoid person, you're threatened by everything and anything about you," Rodgers said. "There's something against people who played the game: 'You're not as smart as the next person or you can't do the job as well.'

"I wasn't after anybody's job. I have trouble enough with my own job, which I don't have anymore."

It may take days, if not weeks or months, to convince Rodgers that Brown was not behind the firing. Take a look at the track record since Brown has been president, Rodgers said, and you'll find his fingerprints on the departures of general managers Mike Port, Dan O'Brien and Whitey Herzog and manager Doug Rader. But while the role players have changed throughout the year, Brown has remained.

Rodgers, his eyes watering, his voice choked with emotion, still had trouble believing Wednesday that he was standing behind a lectern without a job.

It had been 24 hours since he had been fired as manager of the Angels, and still, he had no answers as to why he was unemployed.

"I spent 30 years in the organization," he said. "I was given no reason. I asked for a reason, and he still gave me no reason. The whole thing took 12 minutes.

"I read where Bill said, 'I had a tough time with Buck in the meeting.'

"Well, if that's tough, he's got a whole lot of tougher times coming."

Rodgers, who will be paid $600,000 this year and $600,000 in 1995--and is expected to earn $3 million to $5 million in his settlement involving the Angels' 1992 bus accident--said that he probably will sit out the rest of this season before considering another managerial job. He still would like to return to the field, but no matter what transpired with the Angels, he refuses to change his style.

"This job is never going to change me," he said. "If I'm not a man standing before you, I'm not going to be less of a man to keep my job. If I have to do that, I'll get out of the game."

Rodgers also said that he won't talk about his firing again after Wednesday. It's just not fair to the organization, he said, or to Lachemann.

Yet, he said, he would like one favor. He still would like an explanation. He deserves, at least that, he said.

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