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Davey Johnson’64

Catch and Release

By Donna Parker

Davey Johnson (left) is seated with Team USA General Manager Bob Watson (standing) and USA Baseball President Paul Seiler.

Davey Johnson, who received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Trinity in 1964, is a former major league baseball player and Mets manager.  As such, Davey led that team to a World Series win in 1986 but now is a long way from the ball park—living the good life in balmy Florida.  Player stats and getting along with baseball team owners might as well be a million miles away, because right now Davey is focusing on one thing—not letting the big one get away. 

In fact, when asked what his current job is, Davey Johnson drolly replies, “Nothin’.”

He goes on to say, “Well, golfer…fisherman.  I do live on a canal that leads to a chain of lakes and I have a place at the ocean.  As long as I can see the water, I’m happy.”

And this is a guy whose past merits qualify him for a little peace and contentment.  Thirteen years as a Major League ball player and many more years spent managing ball players yielded three World Series rings for Davey—two as a player and one for that Mets game 23 years ago.

“I spent 40 years in the majors at a very high level, but here’s the thing about major league baseball—you’re on the road literally 12 months.  The season is 10 months and the other two, you’re checking out talent in the minors,” Davey says.

Did we mention that even as he was earning his bachelor’s degree, he was already a free agent playing the season with the Baltimore Orioles and then traveling back to Trinity to attend classes? 

“I started at Trinity in the early 60s.  I’d play for the Orioles during season and then go to school to earn my degree in home building.”

“I knew I couldn’t get a degree in home building because there were certain courses I couldn’t take with my schedule. I actually had 140 hours when Peter Terwey Jr. department of mathematics, told me I could get my BS in Math with just 25 more hours, so I signed up for Chinese trigonometry and calculus,” Davey remarks, casually.

Post graduation, he hit the diamond full time, continuing on with the Orioles until he was traded to the Braves 10 years later.  From there, it was onto the Phillies and the Cubs until he hung up his cleats in 1978 and embarked on a long colorful career as a team manager.

“Well, it was a good life.  I played in four World Series and won two with the Orioles and one with the Mets,” says Davey.

Hitting homers came easily to Davey who grew up the child of an Army officer, playing on Little League teams at every one of his dad’s duty stations.  He wanted to stay behind with his Clearwater, Fla.,  Little League team when he was 12 and his dad was transferred to yet another base, but his parents, who weren’t particularly encouraging about his love of the game, told him, “No.’’  The whole military thing really stuck with him, though.  When asked what he thought about before all those baseball games during the playing of the national anthem, Davey proudly states, “I’m an Army brat.  I always thought and continue to think about the people who fight for our freedom.”

When his dad was transferred to Ft. Sam Houston, Davey played for Alamo Heights High School and accepted a basketball scholarship to A&M before settling in at Trinity.  Many of his baseball friends on campus were guys he knew from Heights days.

“Miles Cortez ’64 and I were seniors at Heights. He was actually on the Trinity tennis team with Chuck McKinley ’63.  I still vacation with Miles.”

While in the majors, Davey married and became a dad of four children.  Fifteen years ago, he married for the second time to his current wife, Susan.  The couple has six kids between them, one of whom is deaf and blind.  That motivated Davey to serve as the spokesperson for the Helen Keller National Center.  He and his wife, who owns a women’s boutique in Winter Park, Fla., raise $1 million a year for that organization, and have their own non-profit called Foundation for Success which raises money for bright young girls to attend college.

Even during semi-retirement, though, Davey keeps one hand in the game, coaching the Deland Suns in the Florida Collegiate Summer League.   

“It keeps you young,” says Davey.  “I learn a lot of new things.”

But mostly, this self-described “competitive guy,’’ is settling into his current life, which he describes as much more “laid back and content.’’  This time, his major pastime is reeling in the big one.

“I’ve made a lot of money, but there’s more to life than fame or fortune.  Any fish you catch is a great catch.”