Always expect the unexpected.
How many times have we learned this lesson at a baseball game?
It happened again Wednesday. This typist was enjoying a leisurely Camp Day morning game at The Ballpark at Harbor Yard; the final game in the first half of the Atlantic League season between Freedom Division champion--and defending overall league king--Somerset, NJ and the homestanding Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish.
First came the hot dog race in about the second inning when the last of three participants in the mascot-like contest turned out to be none other than 288-game major league winner Tommy John, Bridgeport's fun-loving manager. The lefty, who is not so fleet of foot now that he is 66, has been a frequent participant in on-field events during his 2 1/2 years at the helm of the Bluefish. He often has taken part in a golf chipping contest against a fan.
Little could anyone--save the Bluefish players--know that in the middle of the fourth inning the public address would reveal this was John's last game as manager. No, he did not get sacked for losing the race. He told the Bridgeport players during a pre-game meeting that he would be leaving.
The hometown newspaper web site, ConnPost.com, reported that General Manager Todd Marlin said John resigned to "pursue an opportunity outside of baseball". The oddity of this is Marlin had told beat writer Rich Elliott he was caught off guard by the announcement.
The PA announcement did not mention a replacement although it was later revealed to be Willie Upshaw, the third base coach, and the only man to lead Bridgeport to an Atlantic League title. Upshaw is the winningest manager in Bluefish history (220-139, .613), and guided the team to three consecutive playoff berths before stepping down after the 2000 season to return to major league baseball. He had returned as the top assistant to John this season, the first in which the Bluefish are owned by Atlantic League Founder Frank Boulton.
Bridgeport won the game, 6-4, to give John a 160-176 record for his time at the helm, although none of his teams qualified for the playoffs.