ANAHEIM — John McNamara could dig his fingernail into the paint on these white cinder-block walls and scratch down about 30 years to the layer that greeted him on his first afternoon as a major league manager.
On Sept. 16, 1969, Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley fired Hank Bauer during a trip to Anaheim and gave the 37-year-old McNamara his first job managing in the big leagues. Told to lay low until the afternoon announcement, McNamara spent the morning with Joe DiMaggio.
Where had they gone?
To Disneyland, of course.
Fourteen years later, McNamara was named Angel manager and spent two seasons in the office behind the third-base dugout, surrounded by these walls so reminiscent of a cell, sometimes toasting victory but more often turning over a defeat.
And Tuesday afternoon, after Marcel Lachemann announced his resignation in a morning press conference, he was again hanging his clothes on the rack in this office and pulling on an Angel uniform.
"It brings back a lot of memories," said McNamara, "but it's been a long, tough day for me. I managed Marcel in the minors in 1965, he pitched for me in 1970 in Oakland and I brought him here as pitching coach in '84.
"But he wanted me to come here and do it for the rest of the year and I owe a lot to the Bavasi family, so, under any other circumstances, I wouldn't be sitting here."
In 1983, McNamara was hired by then general manager Buzzie Bavasi to replace Gene Mauch as Angel manager. The team won 151 games and lost 173 over the next two seasons and McNamara--the target of both public and organizational criticism about his lack of fire--resigned, only to be replaced by Mauch.
Tuesday, after Lachemann removed himself because he felt he could no longer motivate his troops, McNamara moved back in, this time as an employee of Disney.
Clearly with the Angels, what goes around often comes around . . . especially in the manager's office.
And McNamara, who has been a roving minor league catching instructor with the Angels for five seasons, doesn't plan on hanging any pictures or setting up permanent residence.
"I've learned to never say never, but I doubt seriously that I'd be back," he said. "This is a job for a young man. The strain, the pressures. I enjoyed what I was doing and I've already had my day in the sun."
If Lachemann was a product of the computer age, McNamara is a descendant of the chewing tobacco era. Lachemann calculated endless possibilities and probabilities before making a decision. McNamara relies more on instinct. "We'll still have the computer stuff," McNamara said, "but I'll manage with the style I've developed over the years."
Right fielder Tim Salmon, while stressing Lachemann shouldn't be blamed for the players' failures, is hoping the managerial change will mean a "fresh attitude" that can provide a spark for the Angels.
"I think he brings in a certain looseness that may be beneficial," Salmon said. "It hasn't been much fun this year, that part of the game has really been missing for us."
McNamara, who managed 18 seasons in the big leagues after a 14-year career as a minor league catcher, holds a share of the major league record--with Dick Williams, Rogers Hornsby and Jimmy Dykes--for managing six teams.
He led Cincinnati to the National League West title in 1979 and the Reds finished 3 1/2 games back in 1980. In 1986, he was named American League manager of the year after leading Boston into the World Series. His last managerial job was with Cleveland in 1991.
McNamara held a 45-minute closed-door meeting with the players before Tuesday night's game with Minnesota, but admitted he didn't have any instant-success secrets to impart.
"It was the same old stuff I've been canning for 18 years," he said, smiling. "I just told them that it doesn't take talent to hustle and play hard.
"I'm told we have 51 games left and it's amazing what can happen in that time. Make no mistake, they've been told they can win. I'm not coming out here to lose, I never have."
When McNamara was managing the San Diego Padres in the mid-70s, former Dodger Manager Walter Alston offered some sage counsel, advice that might have kept Lachemann in this office.
"He told me you're only as good as your players and that you can't make yourself sick over things you can't control," McNamara said. "I don't care what you do, good players, and especially good pitchers, always make smart managers."