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BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : NATIONAL LEAGUE : At the End, Johnson's Eyes Are Red Too

October 15, 1995|BOB NIGHTENGALE

Cincinnati Manager Davey Johnson's eyes started to well with tears Saturday afternoon, but before anyone could see him cry, he bounded up the dugout steps and onto the field.

Johnson had successfully avoided publicly contemplating his fate all season, but now, all of the pent-up emotion came tumbling down upon him. He realized he could be managing his final game in a Red uniform.

"When I came back this year, it wasn't to go out this way," Johnson said. "I swallowed my pride to take this job. I could either take this [one-year] contract or walk. I wasn't going to let my pride stand in the way because I knew I was the person who could lead this team to participate in the World Series.

"I've been trying not to let my emotions run away, but it's very difficult for me. These guys have made it very rewarding. This probably is the best group of guys I've ever had to manage.

"I tell you this, I'm never going to forget this year."

Johnson, who will be replaced by Ray Knight, has no idea where he'll end up in 1996. The Baltimore Orioles have expressed interest. The St. Louis Cardinals have talked about him. So have the New York Yankees.

"As soon as I'm finished, I'm going to find the largest bucket of golf balls and I'm going to walk to the furthest end of the driving range," he said. "Then I'm going to beat on them and beat on them and beat on them until I get blisters. When I'm done doing that, I'm going to just sit in front of a lake."

*

The most painful aspect of this series, Johnson said, was watching the mounting frustration endured by clean-up hitter Reggie Sanders.

Sanders was an all-star during the season, batting .306 with 28 home runs and 99 runs batted in, but has had one of the worst postseason performances in baseball history.

Sanders had 19 strikeouts in his last 25 at-bats.

In fact, since homering off Dodger starter Ismael Valdes in the fourth inning of Game 2 of the division series, Sanders was two for 21 with 16 strikeouts, failing to hit out of the infield.

"The shame is that people are going to remember him for this and not the season," Johnson said. "That's not right. He's one of the most talented guys in the league. You don't have the kind of season he had and then say, 'You can't do it.'

"He was just so uptight the whole time. It's like he put 500 pounds of pressure on his back."

*

Atlanta right fielder David Justice was hit in the right knee during batting practice and was taken out of the starting lineup and replaced by Mike Devereaux.

The injury occurred when Justice was standing at third base and catcher Javier Lopez hit a line drive that hit Justice half an inch from the spot where he fouled a ball off his knee in the Colorado series.

"Can you believe it?" Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox said, "of all places to get hit. Oh well, I'm just glad he wasn't hit in the face."

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