Friday, November 11, 2011

#37 Darrell Johnson

Card: This is Darrell Johnson's third and final card as a manager. Johnson had five cards as a player with his rookie card in the '57 set.

Picture: Johnson is staring off into the distance.  His hat is crooked.  Is that an accident or was he setting a trend?

Player: Johnson was a strong armed back up catcher who played for seven teams in six MLB seasons.  Johnson played for the White Sox and Browns in 1952 but would return to the minors for the next four years.  Johnson was then a third string catcher for the Yankees in '57 and '58 backing up Yogi Berra and Elston Howard.  Although he very rarely played (26 games) he was kept on the roster the entirity of both seasons.  He was on the World Series roster both years but not surprisingly didn't see any action.  The Yankees lost to the Braves in '57 but got their revenge the next year winning in seven games. 

Johnson spent '59 back in the minors and resurfaced with the Cardinals in 1960 again as a seldom used player-coach.  He returned as a coach only for the Cards in '61 but was let go when manager Solly Hemus was fired in July.  Johnson was signed by the Phillies to catch and played with them until he was sold to the Reds for the stretch drive.  The veteran backstop helped the Reds win the pennant hitting .315 in 20 games and went 2 for 4 in the World Series loss to the Yankees.  Johnson finished his playing career as a player-coach with the Orioles in '62.

Manager:  After the '62 season, Johnson was named manager of the Orioles top farm team in Rochester.  Johnson won an International League championship in '64 but had a disapointing '65 campaign.  The Orioles responded by promoting Earl Weaver to AAA and demoting Johnson to AA Elmira.

Leaving Elmira, Johnson then shifted gears and worked as a scout for the Yankees in '67 and was the Red Sox pitching coach in '68 and '69.  In 1970 Johnson worked as a minor league pitching instructor and returned to managing in '71 with the Red Sox AAA team in Louisville.  Johnson won the International League championship in '73 after the team moved to Pawtucket.

Darrell Johnson was given the reins to the Boston Red Sox for the '74 season.  Things were looking good for the BoSox but a late season collapse left them in third place with 84 wins.  With the addition of stud rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice the Red Sox won 95 games and won the AL East in '75.  After sweeping the three-time defending chamion A's in the ALCS, Johnson and the Red Sox took the favored Reds to seven games but lost the epic series.  Johnson was heavily criticized for his on field decisions and relations with the press became quite strained.  Struggling along with a 41-45 record in July of '76 Johnson was axed. 

The American League was set for expansion and Johnson was named skipper of the Seattle Mariners in September of '76.  Johnson spent three plus years in Seattle, winning no more than 67 games in a season.  Johnson was let go in August of 1980.

Meanwhile Don Zimmer was hired as the Rangers manager and brought Johnson onto his coaching staff for the '81 season.  By July of 1982 Zimmer was canned and Johnson given control for the rest of the year, oddly replacing the man who replaced him in Boston.  Johnson's Rangers won 26 and lost 40 under his control.  This was Johnson's last gig as manager at any level.

Johnson worked for the Mets in various capacities from '83 to '99 in roles such as scout, minor league coordinator, bench coach, and special assistant to the general manager.

Flipside: One thing about the way Topps lists the manager's record is that it only lists their regular season place in the standings.  For instance you'd never know that Johnson managed the '64 Rochester and '73 Pawtucket teams to league titles.

Oddball: In the minors in 1955 the very slow footed Johnson hit an inside the park home run.  On Johnson's drive down the first base line the right fielder lost track of the ball as it caromed in the bullpen in foul territory.  As it the ball bounced off a wall and back into fair ground, the perplexed right fielder was searching frantically for the ball under the bullpen bench as the sloth-like Johnson rounded the bases.

History: As a player Johnson was considered a valuable guy to have around and won a championship in '58.  He was a good defensive catcher and threw out 47% of base stealers in his career.  Johnson handled pitchers well and was a player-coach prior to managing. 

As a manager he took a lot of heat in Boston for not closing the deal in '75.  Ironically Johnson was with the Mets organization '86 when the Red Sox lost their next chance at a ring.  He managed the Mariners for a while but found that it is a tough job starting from scratch.  Johnson took over the Rangers halfway through '82 but was no longer the manager when this card came out.  Johnson passed away in May of 2004, five months prior to the Red Sox winning that elusive championship.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I had no idea he was the BoSox manager in '75. In fact, I really never knew much about this guy at all.