Of all the charges leveled against Bowden, the most serious was that the Reds had cynically used Perez and his Cuban heritage to defuse some of the criticism prompted by Schott's racist remarks. Even Perez, who reacted initially like the good team player he always has been, seemed to give some credence to that theory after thinking about it for a day. "Yesterday I thought this was a move they had to make," Perez said on May 25. "Today I smell something fishy. I don't know if I was used because I was a big name in town or a minority. But I feel I've been used."
However, Bowden insisted that Perez was fired only because Bowden had become convinced that Perez was incapable of providing the leadership necessary to snap Cincinnati out of its lethargy. "We just didn't have the time to train a manager," Bowden said. "I made the right move, and I made it at the right time. The only mistake I did make was that I should have called Tony over to my office and looked him in the eye when I told him."
Now it's up to Johnson to get the Reds to look him in the eye and follow his lead by focusing on the games ahead. Before last week his biggest decision every day was whether to play golf or go fishing. "A year ago I really became anxious to come back," Johnson says. "I wanted to be in a situation where the ball club wanted me, and I felt like I was the man. I want to do some good here. I just hope I'm here long enough to hear the players bad-mouth the guy who fires me."