Lou Piniella had resigned as Reds manager on October 6 to become manager of the Seattle Mariners. Piniella had won the 1990 World Series in his first season as Reds manager, having replaced Tommy Helms, who had replaced the banned Pete Rose on August 24, 1989. Piniella had helped the Reds erase the public humiliation of Rose and the Reds with the 1990 wire-to-wire Reds championship. An injury-riddled 1991 led to a 74 win season in 1991, but the Reds rebounded to win 92 games in 1972, finishing in second place, eight games behind the Atlanta Braves. However, Piniella had grown weary of the Reds/Marge Schott circus and took his popular management style to Seattle where he stayed 10 years, including winning 116 games for the 2001 Mariners.
Two days after Piniella resigned from the Reds, Schott fired Reds general manager Bob Quinn. and promoted Bowden eight days later. Despite being only 31, Bowden had worked in baseball front offices with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1984-88) and with the New York Yankees in 1989 before joining the Reds organization.
Hall of Famer Tony Perez was/is an all-time favorite of many Reds fans. Nicknamed “Big Doggie” the slugging first baseman was known for his clutch hitting, his 379 home runs, and his ability to keep balance in the Big Red Machine clubhouse. After being traded to the Montreal Expos before the 1977 season, Perez played for three teams besides the Reds for seven seasons before returning to Cincinnati as a free agent to play his final three seasons in a Reds uniform. He immediately became a coach and served on the staffs of Rose, Helms, and Piniella.
Having Perez available was an opportune moment for the Reds. From “Redleg Journal” by Greg Rhodes and John Snyder:
Many fans were upset about the resignation of Piniella, but the hiring of the popular Perez quickly rekindled enthusiasm. At the time, Marge Schott was under investigation by the commissioner’s office for her hiring practices and use of racial and ethnic slurs. While Perez was a highly-qualified candidate, cynics wondered if Perez was hired only to placate Major League Baseball.
No matter the reason, hiring Perez was like gold to the Reds fan base. However, like fool’s gold, the joy was short-lived. In February, 2003, MLB suspended Schott for one year from Reds day-to-day operations and fined her $25,000 for making racial and ethnic slurs. With a new management team in place and high expectations from everyone after the 1992 rebound year, the Reds lost nine of their first 11 games to start the season. They rebounded to cross .500 at 19-18 and then went on west coast road trip where they lost six of seven games dropping them to 20-24. Bowden called Perez and fired him over the phone. From “Redleg Journal:”
Perez had been criticized in the media for inflexibility, for being too slow to make strategic moves during games, and because the Reds were making too many mental errors. But his firing still caught most everyone by surprise and outraged fans. Bowden needed around-the-clock police protection because of death threats to himself and his family. Fans were also upset because Bowden fired Perez over the phone instead of face-to-face.
Such outrage became common to Bowden’s moves. From Wikipedia:
Bowden is known for his frequent roster moves, accessibility to the media, willingness to sign players with track records for personal problems, and affection for athletic outfielders. In his 16 years as an MLB general manager he was well respected for keeping low payroll clubs competitive. On the other side of the coin he was almost universally disliked by his peers as well as many Reds players and other members of the organization…
In 1993 Bowden fired rookie Manager Tony Perez after only 44 games. Perez was a star player in Cincinnati and immensely popular with Reds fans. At the time, it was the earliest firing of a first-year manager in 65 years. The firing drew significant criticism from Cincinnati fans. However, he replaced Perez with Davey Johnson who went on to win divisional titles in 1994 and 1995 for the Cincinnati Reds making the decision a successful one.
Perez was 20-24 as a Reds manager and later managed the Florida Marlins for a portion of the 2001 season going 54-60. His overall managerial record was 74-84.
Bowden landed on his feet by hiring former New York Mets World Series champion manager Johnson, who managed in a total of 14 major league seasons compiling an impressive 1148-888 record, winning five division titles and one World Series. However, 1993 wasn’t one of those winning teams, as the injury-riddled Reds ran through 51 players, easily breaking the team’s previous total 45 to that point, trying to find the right players to field a winning team. The Reds finished 73-89, but Johnson managed the team to first place titles in both 1994 (66-48) and 1995 (85-59) before leaving the Reds to manage the Baltimore Orioles.
So, why did Johnson leave? Next event…
October 30, 1995: Ray Knight accepts his pre-ordained position as the new manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Despite Johnson’s success, he was forced out of Cincinnati due to a personality clash with Reds owner Marge Schott. From Wikipedia:
In 1995, Schott famously announced in the middle of the season that manager Davey Johnson would not return, regardless of how well the Reds did. By all accounts, this was because of a personality clash between Johnson and Schott. Most notably, Schott didn’t approve of Johnson living with his fiancÃƒÂ©e before they were married later in the year. The Reds won the division (before losing the National League Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves, 4 games to 0), and Johnson was fired anyway. The Reds have had only three winning seasons since then.
From “Redleg Journal:”
Davey Johnson opened the season in the unusual position of lame-duck manager. According to his two-year contract, he was to be “promoted” to consultant in 1996, with Ray Knight slated to be Johnson’s successor as the Reds skipper…
The move that was agreed upon before the season even started became official. After achieving success under the laid-back demeanor of Johnson, Reds players chafed at Knight’s overconfident, confrontational, pti bull tenacity. Knight lasted less than two years with the Reds, posting a 123-135 record. Johnson went on to manage the Orioles and the Dodgers.
Knight was a former Reds all-star third baseman who had tackled and succeeded in the role of replacing Pete Rose as the Reds third baseman when Rose left for free agency following the 1978 season. After waiting two years for his chance as a player, Knight batted .318 with 10 homers, 79 rbi, and an 814 OPS in 1979, finishing fifth in MVP balloting for the year. He was named to the 1980 all-star team and was the Reds starting third baseman for three years before being traded to Houston.
As mentioned above, the Reds didn’t improve under Knight, falling to .500 his first year as manager. Knight was fired mid-year 1997 (43-56) and replaced with grandfatherly Jack McKeon who went 33-30 the rest of the season.