Oates, a catcher used primarily
used for his defensive skills, began his minor-league career in the Orioles'
system playing for future Baltimore skippers Joe Altobelli and Cal Ripken,
Sr. He spent 11 years in the Majors, playing with six teams.
Mr. Oates was a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1967 and played parts of 11 seasons in the major leagues, mostly as a backup catcher, for five organizations.
After his career ended in 1981, he became a minor league manager in the New York Yankees organization for two years and a coach for the Chicago Cubs for four years.
Rangers manager Buck Showalter played for Mr. Oates at Double-A Nashville in 1982 and has named the manager's office at Ameriquest Field in Arlington in Mr. Oates' honor. He called Mr. Oates the "best manager I ever played for."
Mr. Oates returned to the Orioles organization in 1988 as manager of its Triple-A team in Rochester, N.Y. He was hired by Doug Melvin, at the time in charge of the Orioles farm system, and one of his catchers was Jerry Narron, who was at the end of his 15-year playing career.
They became two of Mr. Oates' closest friends, as did Dick Bosman, who was the Orioles' roving minor league pitching coordinator. Narron would become a Rangers coach and succeed Mr. Oates as Rangers manager, and Bosman would become Mr. Oates' first pitching coach with the Rangers.
Mr. Oates joined the Orioles' major league coaching staff in 1989. After coaching first base for more than two years, he replaced Frank Robinson as Orioles manager on May 23, 1991.
He managed the Orioles through the strike-shortened 1994 season before being fired. He was 291-270 in his 3 1/2 seasons with the Orioles and was selected by league managers as the 1993 Sporting News American League Manager of the Year.
When Melvin, the Orioles' assistant general manager, was hired by the Rangers to be their general manager after the 1994 season, he immediately fired manager Kevin Kennedy and hired Mr. Oates on Oct. 19, 1994.
Melvin and Mr. Oates had a close relationship dating to 1980-81, when they were with the New York Yankees. Melvin, a part-time employee, was the only one willing to throw batting practice to Mr. Oates, the third-string catcher.
"Johnny will be sorely missed," Melvin said. "Not only have we lost somebody that I worked closely with but a great friend as well.
"I always understood Johnny and the values he stood for, his honesty and integrity and the kind of people he wanted around. That's the reason why I hired him, knowing that he would make my job easier, knowing that I had somebody like Johnny in the clubhouse."
The Rangers were 74-70 under Mr. Oates in the strike-shortened 1995 season, then went 90-72 in 1996 and won the American League West title. They lost three close games to the New York Yankees in the best-of-five division playoffs.
The Rangers slipped to 77-85 in 1997 but rebounded in 1998, winning another division title with an 88-74 record. They set a club record with 95 wins in 1999. But in both years they again ran into the Yankees, who swept the Rangers in the division series and won the World Series both years.
"For me, as a young player, [Mr. Oates] came along at the right time," Rangers outfielder Rusty Greer said. "He put me in the lineup every day and showed a lot of confidence in me.
"I don't think it's any coincidence that Juan [Gonzalez] won two Most Valuable Player Awards under Johnny or that Pudge [Ivan Rodriguez] won his MVP under Johnny. Johnny got the most out of each player and knew what buttons to push. He allowed each player to be themselves."
The Rangers fell to 71-91 in 2000, and Mr. Oates resigned after the Rangers lost 17 of their first 28 games in 2001.
He was replaced by Narron, his closest friend and his third-base coach with the Orioles and Rangers.
His professional mentors were former Orioles manager Cal Ripken Sr., Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, minor league manager Joe Altobelli and former Yankees and Royals manager Dick Howser.
He is survived by his wife, Gloria; daughters Lori and Jenny, son Andy and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Texas Rangers manager from 1995 to 2001
American League Manager of the Year in 1996, when he led the Rangers to their first-ever playoff appearance
Led Rangers to division titles in 1996, 1998 and 1999 and a club-record 95 victories in 1999
Helped two Rangers to MVP seasons: Juan Gonzalez in 1996 and 1998 and Ivan Rodriguez in 1999