Doctors, who discovered that Johnson's blood pressure had plunged to 80 over 40, treated him with two injections of Adrenalin and a heavy dose of Benadryl. It took about an hour to get him stabilized. "If I hadn't been where I was, I probably wouldn't have made it," Johnson says. "The doctors said I was probably only five minutes away [from dying]."
As a result of Johnson's travails—he missed all or part of five of the Reds' previous 11 games through last Saturday—Cincinnati has been learning to live without him, though not especially well. When Knight took over while Johnson served his suspension last Friday and Saturday in Denver, it turned into a crash course in managing. Cincinnati lost both games to the Colorado Rockies by a combined 16-7 score, with Knight appearing as eager as a child allowed into the cockpit of a 767. He wanted to push every button. When his cameo was over, Knight said, jokingly, "Yes, I still want to manage next year."
Johnson sequestered himself at the Reds' hotel during Friday's game, watching it on television. "It could be your identical twin, but everyone manages a game differently," he says. "Ray's strategy was just different—some good moves, some not so good. It was fun asking myself, What would I do here?"
Knight lifted starter Pete Schourek, a 15-game winner, for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning with the score tied 3-3; removed his best defensive first baseman, Hal Morris, with a one-run lead in a seventh-inning double switch; and used 18 players in all. "Other than the result, I think it was a typical Ray Knight game with all the moves," Knight said after Cincinnati lost 10-5. His bullpen coughed up seven runs in relief of Schourek, whose hasty removal prompted even Bowden to ask Knight to explain the move during a telephone call the next morning.
"He had thrown 83 pitches, and I was only going to get one more inning out of him anyway," Knight said Saturday. "And with the middle of the Colorado order coming up, I didn't know if he had enough."
The move blew up when the Rockies torched righthanded reliever Hector Carrasco for five runs in two thirds of an inning. Knight later learned that Carrasco could not snap off his pitches properly because of a recurring circulatory problem in his right index finger. "He should have never been out there," Knight said. "I learned something. If a guy has a problem, you have to address it daily. If I know Carrasco has a problem, Schourek stays in."
Johnson stuck around Coors Field for the game on Saturday, though out of harm's way in a private box. Cincy fell behind 3-1 after one inning. That left Knight with few levers to pull as the Reds went down 6-2. "I hate being behind," he said. "You don't get to do anything as a manager."
Cincinnati is a deep, experienced team with the kind of flexibility that allows a manager to be creative. Johnson, for instance, has used eight Reds in the cleanup spot this year and the same number as starting first basemen. Cincinnati has three solid candidates for the National League MVP award: Larkin and outfielders Ron Gant and Reggie Sanders.
The latter would seem to be Johnson's kind of player: Sanders used exterior paint inside his South Carolina house last year and got sick from the fumes. "I thought it would last longer," shrugs Sanders, often described as a five-tool player, a paintbrush not being one of them. Sanders was a career .267 hitter entering 1995, but he is having a breakthrough year. At week's end he led the league in extra-base hits (67) and was second in slugging (.623) while batting .320 and stealing 31 bases.
The Reds are a resourceful club that rarely self-destructs, as evidenced by a 21-11 record in one-run games and league lows in errors (68) and unearned runs allowed (35). Nonetheless, they look like a different team whenever they visit Coors Field. They were 1-5 there after losing again 5-4 on Sunday while failing to hold the Rockies to less than five runs in any of those games. Cincinnati is a turf-tailored speed team (17-20 on grass fields) that doesn't have the fly-ball hitters to slug it out in the thin Denver air with the homer-happy Rockies, who were 38-24 at Coors Field after last weekend.