Associated Press file photo
Davey Johnson last managed a game in Baltimore in 1997.
"Time flies," he said.
Tonight, Johnson will be in the dugout at Camden Yards for the first time since 1997, the year he guided Baltimore to its lone AL East title of the last 28 years, then abruptly resigned over a spat with owner Peter Angelos on the same day he was named AL Manager of the Year.
The Orioles haven't experienced a winning season since, but they'll enter tonight's opener of Round 2 of the Battle of Beltways with a 39-30 record, good enough for second place in the division.
"I think it's great," Johnson said of Baltimore's success this season. "The only history I know in Baltimore is always being a contender and a great team, great organization. And I know they haven't been living up to that reputation, and it's great to see them doing the things that most Oriole teams I've ever been involved with did."
Much of Johnson's baseball life has been associated with the Orioles franchise. He signed there in 1962, straight out of Texas A&M. Three years later, he made his big-league debut, then spent eight seasons manning second base at Memorial Stadium.
"I think so highly of Baltimore," he said. "That's where I broke in. That's where I chose to sign with. My kids were all born there. We won championships there. It was a like a family there."
In something akin to a family spat, though, Johnson's relationship with the Orioles for the last 15 years has been nearly nonexistent. He hasn't spoken directly to Angelos during this span, though he admitted he was touched when Angelos sent flowers after Johnson's 32-year-old daughter Andrea died in 2005 of septic shock.
Asked on Thursday to describe the current status of his relationship with Angelos, Johnson at first asked: "We have to go there?"
"I'm fine," he added. "I'm still an Oriole fan."
Johnson's only other managerial stint in the last decade and a half -- 1999-2000 with the Dodgers -- didn't coincide with any interleague series against the Orioles. And by the time he took over as skipper in Washington last summer, the Nationals had already made their annual trek north to Baltimore.
So tonight's game will mark Johnson's return to the Camden Yards dugout.
He has, however, been back to the ballpark once since he left the organization. In 2010, he joined ex-teammates and manager Earl Weaver for the 40th anniversary celebration of the Orioles' 1970 World Series title. That's his lone appearance at Camden Yards in 15 years.
"I haven't been back, not in any capacity other than a fan," he said.
Soft spot for the Orioles or not, Johnson's intentions this weekend are unmistakable.
"I know they beat us two out of three here," he said. "And I'd like to return that favor."