Friday, January 13, 2012

#312 - Deron Johnson

Deron Johnson has just popped one up that looks like its headed over to the home dugout at Oakland (or perhaps Yankee Stadium). Deron is another guy whose career enjoyed a resuscitation from the creation of the designated hitter and he put together a pretty good season after acquired by Oakland in early May. Like Terry Forster from a couple posts back, Deron was a Cali kid who was named Mr. Baseball there a few years before Mr. Forster. Also, like Terry, Deron had a pretty good sense of humor, although his was a bit drier. When a fan asked him in '73 how he was hitting them, Deron's response was "right handed."

Deron Johnson was a big multi-sport star in high school in San Diego. He was an excellent football player and had lots of colleges, including Notre Dame, hot on him. In baseball he was a big deal also, earning the Mr. Baseball honor in '55 as a junior. In '56 he opted for baseball, signing with the Yankees, and hitting the ground running that year in D ball where he had 24 homers and 78 RBI's in just 243 at bats. The next year he had 26 homers in A ball while keeping his average above .300. From '57 to '59 Deron had a home at Triple A Richmond where he maintained his great power - averaging 27 homers and 95 RBI's - as he segued from strictly an outfielder to having most of his starts at third base. After getting in a couple late games in NY in '60 he began the season there in '61 and after barely playing was traded to Kansas City that June.

For the A's his rookie season Johnson served as a fourth outfielder and although he posted a low average and high strikeout totals, his power was as good as any of the starters. Right after the season ended he returned to his army base - he'd spent six months there after the '58 season - and served there through August of '62, pretty much killing that season. After it he was sold to the Reds for anywhere between $20,000 and $100,000 depending on the source. Regardless of the price, it would be a good acquisition for Cincinnati. In '63 Deron went to Triple A San Diego - his hometown - for a year-long tune-up and he hit 33 homers with 91 RBI's while splitting time between the outfield and the infield corners. In '64 he moved to Cincy where he played primarily first and had a nice year. Then in '65 with the arrival of Tony Perez he moved to third and had a monster season, leading the NL in RBI's. In '66 he got moved around a bunch on defense and it impacted his season as his stats returned to their '64 levels. Then in '67 under new manager Dave Bristol Deron's stats and confidence shriveled and after the season he was sent to Atlanta for Jim Beauchamp and Mack Jones.

Johnson bottomed out for the Braves in '68 as he played the corners and even his power pretty much deserted him. That December he was sold to the Phillies for next to nothing and like with the Reds the sale heralded a revival. Bob Skinner, his first manager in Philly, was a big fan and made Deron a project, alternating him and Dick Allen between third and the outfield. Deron's confidence returned and the next three seasons he rediscovered his power. In '70 and '71 he played first base, a position he maintained the early part of '72 before a bout of peroneal palsy sapped his strength and killed his season. After a slow start to the '73 season he was sent to Oakland in May for a minor leaguer. There he had another brief revival even garnering some MVP votes. But in '74 his average tumbled to below .200 and that June he was sent to the Brewers for Tom Parsons. For Milwaukee he took over DH but his stats didn't get any better and in early September he was sold to the Red Sox to help their division run. He was released at the end of the season and the following April signed with the White Sox. For them he had his last decent year as primarily a DH - 18 homers and 72 RBI's - before he had a deja vu and returned to Boston in September. This time he batted .600 in a couple games down the stretch and the Sox kept him around until June of '76 when he was released. Deron ended up with a .244 average with 295 homers and 923 RBI's. His sole post-season of '73 he hit .200 in ten games.

Johnson moved pretty much right into coaching in the minors and then managing a Triple A team for California in '78. He then worked exclusively up top: with the Angels ('79-'80), the Mets ('81), the Phillies ('82-'84), the Mariners ('85-'86), and back with California ('87-'92). He was still with the Angels when he learned he had lung cancer and then shortly thereafter passed away. He was 53.

Those are a couple good star bullets and I'd have liked to see Deron go up against Bill Sudakis on the lanes. In honor of Deron I am listing all the California Mr. Baseball winners below. Look at the list from around the time of this set. Every guy from '52 to '85 with the exception of Craig Landis had a significant career in baseball ('66 is Ken Brett - Kemer is his nickname - and I believe we know the '84 winner as Kevin Mitchell) or somewhere else (check out the '79 winner). Pretty impressive.

2011 - Henry Owens, Huntington Beach Edison, P
2010 - Cory Hahn, Santa Ana Mater Dei, P-OF
2009 - Tyler Matzek, Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley, P-1B
2008 - Aaron Hicks, Long Beach Wilson OF-P
2007 - Mike Moustakas, Chatsworth INF
2006 - Tyler Robertson, Fair Oaks Bella Vista OF-P
2005 - John Drennen, San Diego Rancho Bernardo OF
2004 - Matt Bush, San Diego Mission Bay INF
2003 - Ian Stewart, Westminster La Quinta INF
2002 - Delmon Young, Camarillo OF (Jr.)
2001 - J. P. Howell, Carmichael Jesuit P
2000 - Mike Stodolka, Corona Centennial DH-P
1999 - Ryan Christianson, Riverside Arlington C
1998 - Sean Burroughs, Long Beach Wilson 3B
1997 - Jon Garland, Granada Hills Kennedy P
1996 - Eric Chavez, San Diego Mt. Carmel SS-P
1995 - Eric Chavez, San Diego Mt. Carmel SS-P (Jr.)
1994 - McKay Christensen, Fresno Clovis West OF
1993 - Derrek Lee, Sacramento El Camino OF
1992 - Jason Kendall, Torrance C
1991 - Dmitri Young, Oxnard Rio Mesa 3B
1990 - Mike Lieberthal, Westlake Village Westlake C
1989 - Todd Johnson, Fresno Bullard C-P
1988 - Scott Davison, Redondo Beach Redondo Union P-DH
1987 - Tom Redington, Anaheim Esperanza SS
1986 - Brian Johnson, Oakland Skyline C
1985 - Gregg Jefferies, San Mateo Serra SS
1984 - James Mitchell, El Cerrito OF
1983 - Kurt Stillwell, Thousand Oaks SS
1982 - Bret Saberhagen, Reseda Cleveland P
1981 - Lenny Dykstra, Garden Grove OF
1980 - Darryl Strawberry, Los Angeles Crenshaw OF
1979 - John Elway, Granada Hills OF
1978 - Lloyd Moseby, Oakland 1B
1977 - Craig Landis, Napa Vintage SS
1976 - Rickey Henderson, Oakland Technical OF
1975 - Carney Lansford, Santa Clara Wilcox SS
1974 - Lonnie Smith, Compton Centennial OF
1973 - Robin Yount, Woodland Hills Taft SS
1972 - Scott McGregor, El Segundo P
1971 - Keith Hernandez, San Bruno Capuchino 1B-Semipro
1970 - Terry Forster, Santee Santana P
1969 - Jeff Burroughs, Long Beach Wilson OF
1968 - Tim Foli, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame SS
1967 - Bill Buckner, Napa 1B
1966 - Kemer Brett, El Segundo P
1965 - Bob Boone, San Diego Crawford P
1964 - Willie Crawford, Los Angeles Fremont OF
1963 - Bob Tolan, Los Angeles Fremont P-OF
1962 - Rudy May, Oakland Castlemont P
1961 - Bob Bailey, Long Beach Wilson SS
1960 - Wade Blasingame, Fresno Roosevelt P
1959 - John Boccabella, Kentfield Marin Catholic 3B
1958 - Dick Ellsworth, Fresno P
1957 - Johnny Callison, Bakersfield East OF
1956 - Mike McCormick, Alhambra Keppel P
1955 - Deron Johnson, San Diego OF
1954 - Don Drysdale, Van Nuys P
1953 - Frank Robinson, Oakland McClymonds 3B
1952 - Jim Gentile, San Francisco Sacred Heart 1B
1951 - Ed Cereghino, Daly City Jefferson P
1950 - J.W. Porter, Oakland Technical C
1949 - Paul Pettit, Harbor City Narbonne P
1948 - Karl Olson, Mill Valley Tamalpais OF
1947 - Gus Triandos, San Francisco Mission C
1946 - Jim Baxes, San Francisco Mission 2B
1945 - Jack Harshman, San Diego 1B
1944 - Jackie Jensen, Oakland OF
1943 - Herb Gorman, San Francisco Balboa 1B
1942 - Charlie Silvera, San Francisco St. Ignatius SS
1941 - Bob Brown, San Francisco Galileo SS
1940 - Duane Pillette, San Diego P
1939 - Ferris Fain, Oakland Roosevelt 1B
1938 - Bob Lemon, Long Beach Wilson SS-P
1937 - Rugger Ardizoia, San Francisco Commerce P
1936 - Bobby Doerr, Los Angeles Fremont 2B (Pro)
1935 - Ted Williams, San Diego Hoover OF
1934 - Frankie Hawkins, San Francisco Sacred Heart SS
1933 - Chet Smith, San Diego P
1932 - Gordon Maltzberger, Colton P
1931 - Joe DiMaggio, San Francisco Galileo SS (Semi-pro)
1930 - Athos Sada, San Diego OF
1929 - Arleigh Williams, Oakland Technical C
1928 - Frank Dobranksy, San Diego P
1927 - Willard Hershberger, Fullerton C
1926 - Dick Bartell, Alameda SS
1925 - Louie Almada, Los Angeles P
1924 - Joe Cronin, San Francisco Sacred Heart SS
1923 - Gene Hollister, San Francisco Mission P
1922 - Walter Berger, San Francisco Mission 3B
1921 - Babe Herman, Glendale 1B
1920 - Bernie Viveiros, Oakland Technical 2B
1919 - Ren Kelly, San Francisco Poly P
1918 - Brick Muller, San Diego OF
1917 - Johnny Gillespie, Oakland Technical P
1916 - Ray Lorrigan, San Francisco Poly P
1915 - Frank Schellenback, Hollywood P
1914 - Bert Cole, San Francisco Lowell P
1913 - George Kelly, San Francisco Poly 3B
1912 - Harry Heilmann, San Francisco Sacred Heart SS
1911 - Will James, Oroville P
1910 - Eddie French, San Francisco Sacred Heart P
1909 - Babe Hollis, San Francisco Cogswell P
1908 - Oscar Vitt, San Francisco Wilmerding SS
1907 - Lloyd Burton, Alameda SS
1906 - Mowatt Mitchell, Los Angeles 1B
1905 - Walter Johnson, Fullerton P
1904 - James Schaeffer, Berkeley C
1903 - Mead Hamilton, San Francisco Lowell P
1902 - Mead Hamilton, San Francisco Lowell 2B
1901 - Heinie Heitmuller, San Francisco Lick 1B
1900 - Orvall Overall, Visalia 1B-Town team
1899 - Will Moreing, Stockton P

Johnson and Grote would have probably appreciated each other as they both had reputations for being rednecks:

1. Johnson and Felix Millan '68 Braves;
2. Millan and Jerry Grote '73 to '77 Mets.


  1. I always liked Deron Johnson when he was with the Phillies. He's the reason Greg Luzinski became an outfielder.

    That's an impressive list of "Mr. Baseball" winners!

  2. Based on the green color of the top of the Dugout, I'd have to say this pic was taken in the Oakland Coliseum. Possibly during the 73 WS.