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Johnson apologizes for Vietnam tales

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Posted: Thursday December 17, 1998 02:08 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Toronto manager Tim Johnson held a news conference for the first time since admitting tales he spun for three decades about Vietnam combat experience were completely false.

"It's like somebody has taken a 50,000 pound weight off my shoulders," he said Monday of his decision last month to acknowledge the false stories he has told. "I've had 30 years of guilt lifted off my back."

Blue Jays coaches and players said Johnson repeatedly made references to his tour in Vietnam. He has spent the past few weeks since his admission going through therapy and calling his players to apologize for lying.

While Johnson spent six years with the Marine Corps, his stint was solely with the reserves, teaching mortar technology to troops headed to Vietnam. He never saw combat.

"Friends of mine were going to Vietnam when I was going to spring training," he said. "While they were off fighting and getting killed, I was playing baseball. I've dealt with the guilt for 30 years."

The doubts about Johnson's military history became a major distraction for the Jays toward the end of the 1998 season even the though the club continued to play well. It was cited as a major source of friction between Johnson and pitching coach Mel Queen, who since have pledged to work together. Johnson doesn't feel this will have any effect on his dealings with players or coaches.

"Credibility is about winning ballgames," he said. "There was not one time when all this happened when the players let up at all. They have all been supportive and said, 'Hey you showed me something."

"It was a problem but I am trying to deal with it and move on. I want this out of the way by the time we get to spring training."

Johnson led the Jays to an 88-74 record as a rookie manager last season. It was the club's first winning season since 1993. Toronto also posted the highest winning percentage in the American League from July 31 to the end of the season -- .653 (34-18).

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