Backman done in by legal troubles

PHOENIX -- Just four days after he was introduced as Arizona
Diamondbacks manager, Wally Backman was fired Friday following
revelations he was arrested twice and struggled with financial

Former Seattle manager Bob Melvin will replace Backman. Melvin, fired by the Mariners the day after the season ended, was Bob
Brenly's bench coach on Arizona's World Series championship team of 2001. He gets a two-year contract with club options.

Arizona's management had been unaware of Backman's problems until they were reported in Tuesday's editions of The New York Times. Diamondbacks officials said they failed to do a criminal or financial background check on Backman.

"It's obviously a mistake on our part to have made a decision
without having done the proper background work," managing partner
Ken Kendrick said. "I take full responsibility for that."

After details of his past problems surfaced in the Times and in
the Phoenix-area media, the Diamondbacks hired a company to do an
independent background check. The decision to replace Backman was
made after seeing results of that investigation, Kendrick said.

"I'm stunned, so is my family, so is everybody," Backman told the Arizona Republic. "I'm not prepared to say anything today but I will definitely have a statement [soon]."

Backman was asked in his final interview whether there was
anything in his past that the Diamondbacks should know, and he
answered no, Kendrick said.

"Had we, at the time we made the decision, had all the facts
that we ended up having, we would not have named Wally our
manager," Kendrick said.

When Backman was hired, Kendrick raved about his intensity and "hard-nosed" attitude. Melvin is far more low-key.

Melvin managed the Mariners for two seasons was let go by
Seattle and replaced by Mike Hargrove after the Mariners went
63-99. A close friend of Brenly, Melvin said he dearly wanted the
Diamondbacks job and was willing to overlook the fact that he was
not the team's first choice.

Wearing the World Series ring he earned with Arizona, Melvin
said he wanted to restore the pride that the organization has felt
in the past.

"This really is a dream come true. There's nowhere else I'd
rather be than here," he said. "The goal here is to get us back
to our glory days. There is a very rich history here, albeit a
short one. We accomplished some incredible things here in a very
short period of time and the goal is to get back to that."

Melvin, who lives in suburban north Phoenix, announced that
former Diamondback Jay Bell would be the team's bench coach. Al
Pedrique, who took over as interim manager when Brenly was fired
last July, is a likely choice for his old job as third base coach,
although no official announcement has been made.

Kendrick declined to say what other problems the club's probe
may have uncovered.

"We're at a point where talking about this in that way is not
really fair to Wally," Kendrick said. "We respect him and his
family. He's a good family man. He has a loving wife and wonderful
children. They don't deserve at this point, with this decision
having been made, for there to be further scrutiny in their lives."

As a result of this week's failings, the Diamondbacks have
instituted mandatory background checks on all key hires. One was
conducted on Melvin, Kendrick said.

Backman, 45, had agreed Monday to a two-year deal but never signed the contract and will be given no compensation, Kendrick said.

Backman was arrested in 2001 after a fight at his home involving his wife and one of her friends in Prineville, Ore. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor harassment and was sentenced to 12 months' probation, ordered to undergo an anger management evaluation and donate $1,000 to the local Boys and Girls Club.

He was arrested, and later convicted, on a driving under the
influence charge in Kennewick, Wash., in 2000.

A judge in Benton County, Wash., has ordered a hearing next
month to determine if Backman violated his probation on the drunken
driving charge. He served a day in jail and the rest of the
one-year sentence was suspended on condition that he commit no new

The judge's order stems from the 2001 fight in Prineville.
Backman has also had financial problems, filing for bankruptcy
several years ago.

Backman managed in the minor leagues for eight seasons after a 14-year major league career, the first nine with the New York Mets.
He was part of the 1986 Mets team that won the World Series title.

He had spent one year in the Diamondbacks organization, managing at Class A Lancaster, and was selected Sporting News minor league manager of the year for his performance.

The abrupt turnaround was an embarrassment for the organization in its first major decision since restructuring management and forcing out Jerry Colangelo, who had headed the franchise since its inception in 1998.

The Diamondbacks fired manager Bob Brenly on July 2 and replaced him with Al Pedrique, the former third base coach.

Backman, Melvin and Montreal third base coach Manny Acta were the three finalists for the job.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.