Tuesday, April 3, 2012

#152 Jay Johnstone - Chicago Cubs

Veteran Jay Johnstone is pictured here on his 15th Topps card.  Johnstone usually has a big smile on his cards and this is no exception.  It even looks like his grinning as he take batting practice. 

Player:  Jay Johnstone was a flakey left-handed hitting reserve outfielder who bounced around the major leagues for 20 seasons.  He got his start with the Angels, signing fresh out of high school in 1963.  He spent three and a half seasons in the minors before debuting in the majors in 1966.  He played all three outfield positions while starting almost every game over the last two months of the season, batting .264 with three homers.

Johnstone started the year as the Angels CF in '67 but slumped badly after fouling a pitch off his ankle.  He was sent down to the minors for a spell before coming back up at the end of the year.  In 237 plate appearances his stat line of .209/.226/.274 did little to indicate he would play 18 more seasons in the majors.  He split the '68 season between the Angels and AAA, and had better results this time around as he batted .261 in 41 big league games. 

The Angels used Johnstone as their everyday CF in '69, and his 148 games would be a career high.  He responded with a .270/.321/.381 line and played good defense leading to 3.3 WAR.  After a 11 hits in 20 at bats to start to the '70 season, he quickly fell back to earth and ended up a platoon player.  He finished with a .238 average in 119 games.  After the season he was traded in a six player deal that sent him to the White Sox.

Johnstone had a solid season for Chicago in '71 with a .260 average and establishing high water marks in both HR (16) and SB (10) in 124 games.  The White Sox hoped for more power from Johnstone and he struggled to fit the bill in '72 as his average collapsed to .188 with four long balls in 290 plate appearances.  During spring training the following year, Johnstone asked for and was granted his release when he was given a pay cut.   He was signed by the A's but had just three hits in 28 at bats before spending the rest of the year in the minors.

In '74 he turned up with the Phillies where he would enjoy his finest personal success.  Over the next four seasons he would fill the fourth outfielder role on good Philadelphia teams.  He batted .295 in 224 plate appearances in '74 and batted a career best .329 in 350 trips to the plate in '75.  Continuing in his platoon role, Johnstone had a career year in '76 as he batted .318/.373/.457 with 38 doubles.  He batted 7-9 in his first taste of postseason action but the Phillies were swept out of the NLCS by the Reds.  Johnstone had another productive year in '77 as he hit .284 with 15 HR.  The Phillies and Johnstone (1-5) were stymied against the Dodgers in the NLCS. 

Johnstone was struggling through the '78 season with a .179  average when he was traded in June with Bobby Brown to the Yankees for Rawly Eastwick.  Used mainly as a pinch hitter in the Bronx, Johnstone batted .262 during the regular season.  He got into two World Series games but did not bat as the Yankees defeated LA.  He played sparingly to start the '79 season and was sent mid-season to San Diego for Dave Wehrmeister.  In San Diego he resumed his familiar platoon role and hit .294 as a Padre. 

The Dodgers signed the veteran outfielder in 1980 and he was a pinch hitting specialist for most of the year before starting 30 of the Dodgers last 32 games.  He batted a solid .307 in 279 plate appearances.  In '81 he was again primarily a pinch hitter but with poor results as he hit just .205.  He was 2-6 in the postseason and hit a big two-run homer in Game 4 to help tie the series.  The Dodgers went on to claim the world title, giving Johnstone his second ring. 

After Johnstone managed just one hit in thirteen at bats to start the '82 season he was cut by the Dodgers, but caught on with the Cubs soon after.  They liked his left handed bat and platooned him yielding a .249 average and 10 HR.  He was a pinch hitter in '83 and '84 with moderate success batting .257 and .288 respectively.  The Cubs released Johnstone in September of '84, three weeks before they embarked on a rare playoff chance. 

Johnstone hooked up again with the Dodgers in '85 but was injured most of the year.  Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda liked his veteran influence and despite two hits all season, the 39 year-old Johnstone made the playoff roster.  He was 0-1 in the NLCS, grounding out in his last major league at bat.  He retired with a career stat line of .267/.329/.394 with 102 HR and a 103 OPS+. 

Flipside:  Some tiny stats on the back of this card...  Johnstone played in 20 seasons but qualified for just one batting title when he had 597 plate appearances way back in '69. 

Oddball:  Johnstone's pranks are well documented, here are videos of some more. 

Johnstone and former teammate Rick Monday share the same birthday (11/20/45), both played with the A's, Cubs, and Dodgers and both served in the Marines during the late 60's.

History:  Johnstone's
Johnstone has hosted several TV shows, written three books, and provided color commentary for the Yankees (89-90) and Phillies (92-93). 


  1. I recall that Johnstone was the Phillies' regular rightfielder until Bake McBride was acquired in June 1977.

    One time, Jay sneaked in from right field, took a pickoff throw from the catcher, and nailed the Pirates' baserunner at 1st base!

  2. I'm a big fan of batting cage cards. This is a very nice one!