'I am not a quitter'

Originally Published: November 18, 2004
ESPN.com report

Wally Backman was manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks for just four days before being fired Nov. 5 following revelations he was arrested twice and struggled with financial problems.

Backman is scheduled to appear in a Washington state court on Dec. 3 for a possible probation violation stemming from an incident three years ago.

On Thursday, Backman sat down with ESPN's Pedro Gomez to discuss his ouster by the Diamondbacks. Below is an edited transcript of the interview, which airs on SportsCenter and ESPNEWS:

Pedro Gomez: Obviously lots happened in the last two weeks. How much did you want that Diamondbacks managing job?

Wally Backman
Wally Backman, 45, says he's tried to learn from his mistakes.

Wally Backman: It was no question I wanted it. I thought I worked hard for it. Earned it. Desired it. I believe I made the people believe that I deserved it. There were some unfortunate circumstances that came about.

Gomez: You talked about the tough circumstances surrounding the entire process. How would you describe those?

Backman: Well, the circumstances I think that came out after the process were the tough circumstances. What it did to my family, I have got big shoulders. I did make some mistakes in my life. I will admit that 100 percent.

Gomez: Did you talk about that at all during the interview process, the fact that you could?

Backman: No, because the past was never brought up in the interview process. The things that happened in the past, the facts were very misleading, what the media had, the way the media used it. Which was crushing to me to get the Arizona Diamondback job. But it's just ... it's some of the things that happened, just it wasn't all true.

Gomez: What is true and what isn't true?

Backman: Well, the truth is I did have a DUI in 1999. I made a mistake. I am not the only person in this world that had one. I regret the things that happened. When I got the DUI in '99, I was managing an independent ballclub in Tri-Cities, Washington. I got in front of the fans, I apologized to the fans. I apologized to the rest of the people in the community through the media. I thought that was behind me.

Gomez: Obviously some other things have emerged as well. How would you describe those other incidents?

Backman: The other incidents, you know, there was a restraining order that was put on me when I was going through a divorce in '95. No divorce is pretty. Nobody wants to have to go through one. The fact is when I went to court over the restraining order the judge threw it out of court, so the restraining order was in place only until I could go to court. There were accusations that were made about me that were totally false. Those [were] the things that didn't come out in the media, in areas like I would have hoped for them to come out. It said that I had a restraining order on me for hitting my wife in the face. It was found totally untrue. The judge threw it out. There [were] other issues. There [were] contempt charges, not against me but against her, but that stuff is so far in the past to me, that it's stuff that I don't want to rehash. All I want to rehash is the fact that I am a family man. I love my family. I made mistakes. I am going to admit that. I didn't let it ever affect my job.

Gomez: Do you think the Diamondbacks should have asked you about your background?

Backman: What people don't understand is I was with the organization for the whole year managing in their minor league system. ... None of those questions ever come up. What has happened in your past? Did you get a ticket when you were 17 years old? Yeah, I got tickets when I was 17 years old. I am no different than any other 17- or 18-year-old kid. There [are] unfortunate things that happen throughout somebody's life and the fact that you learn about what the mistakes that you made and you go on to where you don't make those mistakes again. That's what I have tried to do.

Gomez: What did you think when they didn't ask you about those things because you knew these things had happened in your life; what did you make of that, that they didn't ask you?

Backman: I made it to be a problem. I thought it was going to be an issue. The Diamondbacks told me day after day when everything was coming out in the media that they were going to stand behind me 100 percent. Unfortunately, they had a change in thought.

Gomez: There was obviously a financial issue as well with your personal life. How did that affect this process?

Backman: Hopefully, it didn't affect my process in any way. I had to go through a bankruptcy, I tried not to for years and years and years. It was taxes, mainly taxes from '83 to '92 during my playing career, taxes that there was just no way that I was ever going to be able to beat it.

Gomez: How much does this hurt?

Backman: I am hoping it doesn't cost me my career. My love for the game has never changed since I have played. It was kind of a funny deal that my son and I -- he just signed with the Texas Rangers -- talked about who is going to make it to the big leagues first, and I got there but it was only for five days, so I guess the race is still on again.

Gomez: Where do you go from here?

Backman: That's a great question. It's tough. I think back signing out of high school with the Mets and doing everything I could to get to the big leagues and proving to people that I can stay in the big leagues, was a feat. I climbed to the top of the mountain then. I went back to the bottom of the mountain when I started managing in independent ball and I grew all the way up to the major leagues and got to the top. Now to fall off of this mountain, it's a big mountain to fall off of. I am not a quitter. I never have been a quitter. I will try to fight myself back to the top again.

Pedro Gomez, who is a bureau reporter for ESPN, covered the Oakland A's from 1990-97 for the San Jose Mercury News and the Sacramento Bee, and was the national baseball writer for the Arizona Republic from 1997-2003.