Sunday, October 15, 2023

Remembering Well Traveled Slugger Deron Johnson


TRIVIA WINNER: The winner of this week's trivia contest is Raymond Jones of St. Louis, MO, who knew that Larry Brown clubbed the first Indians home run of the 1969 season and he hit it off Denny McLain. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.

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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION:The 1969 Kansas City Royals had basically five starting pitchers. Two of those pitchers had one stat which was exactly the same for both. Who were they are what was the stat we are looking for?

While his career would start with the storied New York Yankees, he'd make his mark as a Cincinnati Red and finish as a member of the Boston Red Sox, while playing for five other teams in between. Make no mistake about it; Deron Johnson was a slugger extraordinaire.

He would play all three outfield positions, first base and his natural position; third base. He came up with New York in 1960 and was sent to Kansas City along with Art Ditmar for Bud Daley in 1961. Two years later he was sold to the Reds where he had his best seasons, blasting 90 homers in four years. He hit 32 and led the league with 130 RBI in 1965 while batting .287.

By 1967 the Reds sent him on to Atlanta in a four player swap which brought Mack Jones to the Reds. A year later he was sold to the Phillies. In the next four seasons he hit 87 homers including 27 in 1970.  In the next three years he was traded three times, sold once, released twice and signed as a Free Agent once. And in all of his travels, the only name player he was swapped for really was Jones, a slugger in his own right.

So why was this really good player who could hit for a respectable average, blast long homers consistently and play good defense, so well traveled? 

The 1961 Yankees were loaded so there was little need for developing a player of Johnson's caliber. Kansas City was a mess and who could figure anything Charlie O. Finley did during the 1960s. The Reds knew what they had. However, in 1967 Johnson's power had fallen off to 13 homers and he only hit .224. In addition, Lee May was waiting in the wings and ready. Johnson became very expendable. 

Johnson didn't hit in Atlanta and the Braves picked up Orlando Cepeda so moving him on to the Phils was easy. He regained his stroke in Philadelphia and was again back in the power numbers with 17, 27 and 34 home run seasons to follow, with another 20 in the year they shipped him off to Oakland. 

His stops in Milwaukee, Boston (twice), and with the White Sox were all career ending moves where he was used as a pinch-hitter and clubhouse experience-guy. At age 36 he did have a final year of power with 19 dingers but called it a career after the next season. 

It was just one of those careers where he was in the right place at the wrong time, and for a short period of time at that. His 245 career home runs and 923 RBI were decent numbers for a guy who spent time with so many clubs during 17 years in the big leagues.  Among his accomplishments was hitting four consecutive homers over two days against Montreal. He followed his playing career by serving as a coach and in 1992 while coaching the Angels he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at age 53.

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1 comment:

  1. Johnson is the reason the Phillies converted minor-league 1st baseman Greg Luzinski to an outfielder.