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Russell back where he belongs

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 5, 1999


ST. PETERSBURG — If he ever had any doubts about returning to the minors to manage, they dissipated the first time Bill Russell stepped onto the field this spring.

photo
Ex-Dodgers manager Bill Russell takes over for the Double-A Orlando Rays this season.
[Times photo: Jonathan Newton]
The former Dodgers skipper, who is managing the Rays’ Double-A team in Orlando, said he belongs in uniform and he belongs in a manager’s office.

“I’m getting an opportunity here to start something new,” Russell said. “I knew I wanted to stay on the field, and the Devil Rays have given me a chance to do that.”

Russell, 50, was Tommy Lasorda’s successor as manager of the Dodgers in 1996 and had a .537 winning percentage over parts of three seasons before being fired last summer.

He could have found work as a scout, or he could looked for an opportunity as a big-league coach. But he decided that managing was still in his future, and he was willing to go back to Double A to prove it.

The move back to the minors is not the only major change for Russell. This is the first time in more than 30 years he is wearing a uniform other than the Dodgers or one of their affiliates. Russell played 18 years for the Dodgers, playing in four World Series.

Along with a two-year stint as a Triple-A manager, he was a Dodgers coach for seven years before becoming manager during the ‘96 season and leading Los Angeles to the National League wild card.

“It was a little strange, but it’s just like anything else, it takes time to get to know everybody,” Russell said. “The main thing is just getting to know the routines and starting to feel like you belong a little bit.”

 

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