August 7, 2007
Albany -- South Georgia Peanuts manager Wally Backman makes no bones about his sticking up for his players.
But defending two of his players for failing a Souh Coast League drug test have have cost him his job.
Backman stepped down as manager of the Peanuts Tuesday.
Peanuts coach Larry Ollenberger has been named acting manager for the rest of the season.
Tempers were running hotter than the heat index on Monday for South Coast League officials and South Georgia Peanuts manager Wally Backman after Backman challenged the suspensions of two of his players for failing the league's drug test.
Backman criticized the way the league conducted its test and challenged the credibility of the league's medical director.
One day later, both sides were very calm in announcing Backman was stepping down due to philosophical differences.
Wally Backman said " I can't say that is best for the team but I can say it is best for the South Coast League that I step down."
South Coast League president Jamie Toole said "I have a great deal of respect for the way this thing was handled over the last 24 hours. And I feel good about the decisions we have made mutually to move forward."
Backman's departure ends what was stormy tenure as Peanuts manager that lasted less than 70 games.
During which Backman was suspended three times for a total of 14 games.
His job with the Peanuts was supposed to be the start of a comeback for Backman who was fired as manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks three years ago.
Backman believes his premature exit will not hurt his chances to manage again.
Backman said "That is a bridge we will have to cross down the road."
Wally Backman may be gone but the appeals of Peanut players Doc Brooks and Joey Hooft over their ten game suspensions for failing a drug test have been received by the league.
Jamie Toole says the appeals will be considered as well as the concerns that Backman brought about the drug testing procedure.
Toole said "It says a lot that we even care enough to have a drug policy. Unfortunately in our industry as a whole. meaning independent pro baseball, they don't have one because they don't want to have situations like this."
SCL Chief Executive officer Chris Allen also pointed out that of the 120 players in the league tested only four failed.
All four failures were for the presence of a masking agent.
Wally Backman may have had his issues off the field but the Peanuts have been the best team in the league with 48 wins and a first half championship.
And winning a championship is the last thing Backman told his players.
Backman said "The main thing for the kids that I brought here is to win the championship. I still stand behind that. So, I wish everybody the best."
The Peanuts players did not want to talk about Wally Backman's departure as manager.