15 years after split, a chance for Peter Angelos, Davey Johnson to patch things up
Davey Johnson hadn't owned a home in more than a decade. But soon after being hired by the Orioles in 1995, he defied baseball managers' conventional logic by buying — rather than renting — a ranch house on the north side of Loch Raven Reservoir.

It was the sort of decision he would never make in a game — allowing his heart to triumph over his head — but Johnson was as smitten with the Orioles franchise from his playing days as he was with the Baltimore County property, which had a pool, a stream and plenty of rustic charm.

"It's not really wise for a manager to buy a home. They get fired too often," said Johnson, now the manager of the Washington Nationals. "But I was planning on staying there."

That didn't happen. Johnson resigned in a power tussle with Orioles owner Peter Angelos after a 98-win season in 1997. He sold the house. The Orioles have not had a winning season since.

But it turns out the story has a sequel involving personal tragedy, flowers and — perhaps — a reconciliation of sorts.

Last week, Angelos said he would like to resolve any misunderstandings that might linger from Johnson's two seasons as Baltimore's manager.

"I just think enough time has passed," the owner said.

Many Orioles fans mark the club's inability to hold on to Johnson as the unofficial beginning of the team's slide — a Baltimore version of the former Boston Red Sox curse. He resigned the same November day he was named the American League's Manager of the Year for leading his club within two wins of the World Series .

The chapter didn't end to Angelos' liking, either. Nearly 15 years after Johnson faxed his resignation letter, Angelos isn't apologizing for anything. But he would like closure.

There was a long pause after Angelos, now 82, was asked a week ago about parting with Johnson, whose Nationals are on an early-season track to post their best record since arriving in Washington before the 2005 season.

"Well, you'll have to talk to him first," the owner finally said in his deep, baritone voice. Told that Johnson had indeed been interviewed — and that he's still fond of the Orioles — Angelos, who rarely gives media interviews, opened up.

"He and I were friends," Angelos said. "The contention we didn't get along was false. Personally, I have a lot of affection for the guy. He was a great manager, and I was sorry to see him go."

Neither Angelos nor Johnson wanted to recount the multiple issues involved in their split. But there is a sense from Angelos of wanting to make certain the facts were recorded correctly.

Johnson had led the club to two straight AL Championship Series and believed he deserved a contract extension. He had completed the second season of a three-year deal, and media outlets reported that he sought either an extension or a buyout of his final season — essentially a divorce. "I felt I merited an extension," The Sun quoted the manager as saying.

Johnson was looking for a sign of support — of satisfaction — from his boss. But Angelos believed he was being presented with an ultimatum, and the owner balked.

"I'd like to get the thing factually established," Angelos said last week. "And then he and I probably go back to being, if not business associates, then friends. Then everybody gets back to being the way it used to be."

And maybe — if you believe in karma — the Orioles finally produce a winning record.

Johnson still loves the Orioles. They are the team of his youth. The infielder, initially attracted to Baltimore by the exploits of Brooks Robinson, signed with the club out of Texas A&M in 1962 when he was 19 years old and played his first eight big league seasons at Memorial Stadium, winning two World Series.

"I like to see the Orioles do well. I picked Baltimore when I could have picked any team in baseball. We didn't have the draft then," Johnson said as he donned his red jacket with the curly "W" in the tiny manager's office before a recent Nationals game. He is 69 and has overcome issues relating to his heart and appendix. He appears smaller — scaled down — than he did as a player.