Former Nationals manager Davey Johnson was hospitalized this week with COVID-19 but was back at his Florida home resting comfortably Friday evening, according to a message from his wife to the Mets’ longtime public relations director.
Word of Johnson’s illness first became public Friday afternoon when Ken Davidoff of the New York Post sent him a text message seeking his thoughts on Hank Aaron following the Hall of Famer’s death. Johnson, 77, replied to Davidoff: “Loved him. Can’t talk, in hospital with COVID-19 getting treatment. He was my idol and friend.”
Later in the evening, Jay Horwitz (who worked with Johnson during a portion of his decades-long tenure as the Mets’ PR director) tweeted: “Good news. Just spoke to Davey’s wife. He is home and resting comfortably. Got his treatment at hospital and now taking it easy. Keep the good thoughts coming.”
Though Johnson is remembered most fondly by Mets fans for managing the 1986 World Series champions and by Orioles fans for playing for the 1966 and 1970 World Series champions, he holds an important place in the Nationals’ briefer history.
Hired as a midseason managerial replacement after Jim Riggleman abruptly resigned in June 2011, Johnson spent two and a half seasons in the dugout at Nationals Park and guided the club to its first National League East division title and postseason appearance in 2012.
That Johnson found himself in that position in the first place was remarkable enough given his previous health scares. He nearly died in 2005 due to a ruptured appendix that went undiagnosed for some time. By the time Mike Rizzo offered him the job, Johnson (who had been serving as a special advisor to the general manager) hadn’t managed a big league club in 11 years.
Johnson, though, was re-energized by his unexpected opportunity to take over a Nationals club that was beginning to show signs of the success that would come one year later. He brought a sense of calm swagger to a roster that had some big names and big personalities but was still learning how to win and how to deal with all the extra attention that came with it.
Johnson won National League Manager of the Year honors after leading the Nats to a 98-64 record, some 15 years after winning the American League version of the award while managing the Orioles.
All told, over 17 seasons managing the Mets, Reds, Orioles, Dodgers and Nationals, Johnson went 1,372-1,071, winning six division titles and taking all but the Dodgers to the postseason.
Since going a disappointing 86-76 in 2013, his final season with the Nats, Johnson has spent most of his time at his home in the Orlando area or traveling the world with his wife, Susan.