Players react strongly to firing of Reds President Dick Wagner


CINCINNATI -- Pete Rose says he suspects the firing of Cincinnati Reds President Dick Wagner means the ballclub is going to be sold.

Rose, now with the Philadelphia Phillies, played for the Reds 16 years but left in 1978, shortly after Wagner took charge, because the club refused to meet his salary requests.


Wagner was fired Monday by club owners James and Bill Williams, who put former Reds chief executive Bob Howsam back in charge on an interim basis. There also has been speculation recently that the Williams brothers might sell the team to Cincinnati financier Carl Lindner.

'My first reaction to Mr. Wagner's firing is that it looks like someone's going to buy the club and they didn't want to do the firing,' said Rose. 'I understand that just last week Mr. Wagner said, 'I'll never quit, you'll have to fire me.' That's a bad statement to make.


'I only had one :onfrontation with Dick Wagner,' recalled Rose, 'and that was the same one that everyone had with him -- every time a contract :ame up.

'He just had a burr about saving money. He figured if he saved $5,000 on every player, he was saving a lot of money.

'He was raised under a philosophy of a :onservative approach. The California Angels proved that you can't buy a pennant, but you can surely buy some experienced players to go with the young ones. I think the Reds are just a couple of ballplayers away from winning a lot of games.'

Rose said he wishes the Reds well.

'The one thing I hope is that Cincinnati baseball returns to the top, because I'm a Cincinnatian, and when I get out of the game, I'll be a Reds fan again.'

Joe Morgan, who like Rose also now plays for Philadelphia after Wagner let him go from the Reds, criticized the way Wagner fouled up good teams.

'He took a great team (1975-76) and broke it up and traded (manager) Sparky Anderson,' said Morgan. 'He took a good team (1981) and traded George Foster and Ken Griffey and they've been in last place ever since.'


Tony Perez, yet another ex-Red who now plays for Philadelphia, figured, 'That's what the fans wanted, and that's what the fans got.

'People have just been pushing and pushing for this. They had to do something, they had to make a move.

'But,' added Perez, 'I have no personal reaction to the firing of Wagner because I never played under him when he was general manager. I got traded by Howsam.'

Johnny Bench, one of the few Reds remaining from the glory teams of the 1970s, said he was 'somewhat surprised, but not totally' by Wagner's firing.

'I don't see much change immediately because Mr. Wagner worked under Mr. Howsam for a long time. I think Mr. Howsam is just coming back as a favor.'

Woody Woodward, the assistant general manager, is to be in charge of affairs for the team until Howsam arrives in Cincinnati later this week. It's not out of the question that Woodward could eventually be elevated to general manager.

'I think they want to give Woody some more time and more experience to see what happens there,' figured Bench.

Reds manager Russ Nixon said he was 'surprised and saddened' by Wagner's firing.

'I was treated very fairly by Dick Wagner, and he has done a lot for me,' said Nixon. 'He met with me today after it happened and told me he felt I was doing a good job. He wanted me to continue the way I have been, and he wished me good luck.


'When Mr. Howsam gets here, I will meet with him to see what he wants to do. But I'm not going to predict or anticipate any changes until I hear what he has to say.'

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