Tuesday, July 24, 2012

#403 - Darrell Johnson/Red Sox Field Leaders

I do not believe this card is airbushed. If it is, it’s an awfully good job. If not, then Topps either pulled out an old photo or a very new one because Darrell Johnson was not the manager of the Red Sox in ’73. That guy was Eddie Kasko, but he was fired right when the season ended, even though he did a pretty decent job managing the team. Darrell had a good ’73 also, managing the Sox Triple A affiliate Pawtucket to a league championship. The reason I believe this could be an old shot is because he coached for the Sox up top under Dick Williams in ’68 and ’69, so this photo may be from then. In any case, his success at Pawtucket led to his being named Kasko’s replacement. While his ’74 wouldn’t be terribly dissimilar to Kasko’s ’73, Darrell would sure enjoy a momentous year in ’75 when he took the Sox to Game Seven against the Reds and won that year’s Manager of the Year. Right here he just looks happy being anywhere associated with baseball, whether he’s airbrushed or not.

Darrell Johnson was born in Nebraska and relocated to California from where he was signed out of amateur ball by the Browns in ’49 when he was 20 (or by the birthdate on this card, 21). A catcher, he would have some decent offensive seasons while moving from D ball to Double A the next four years and in ’52 split a season as a backup guy up top for the Browns and the White Sox, to whom he was traded that summer. He spent ’53 in Double A for Chicago and then returned to the Browns/Orioles – as part of a deal for Virgil Trucks before the ’54 season. After it he went to the Yankees in the same deal that got NY Don Larsen and in ’55 and ’56 hit over .300 as the regular catcher in Triple A. He then spent ’57 and ’58 playing behind Yogi, which meant almost zero at bats, in NY. After a ’59 back in Triple A where his average melted a bunch, he moved around a lot: to St. Louis, the Philles, the Reds, and finally back to Baltimore in ’62. Each year from ’60 to ’62 he got some token at bats up top. He also helped out in coaching which would be a prelude to his new career after he was released in ’62. He hit .234 up top and finally got some Series action in ’61, when he hit .500. In the minors he hit .287.

Johnson then began managing in the Orioles system, beginning with Triple A Rochester in ’63. In ’64 he took them to the title and after a disappointing follow-up in ’65, switched spots with the Double A manager, a guy named Earl Weaver. Darrell then scouted for the Yankees in ’67 before taking over as Boston pitching coach in ’68 and ’69. In ’70 he became a roving minor league coach before taking over Louisville/Pawtucket from ’71 to ’73. Despite his success in ’75 he was pretty quickly replaced after a slow start to the ’76 season by Don Zimmer. But he wasn’t out of work too long as later that summer he was named the manager for the new Seattle franchise. He avoided last place two of his three full years with that team and was replaced toward the end of his fourth season by Maury Wills. He became a coach for the Rangers – under Zimmer – and mid-way through the ’82 season replaced him as manager. That was his final stint in that role and he finished with a record up top of 472-590 and in the minors was 548-473. He then took a series of jobs for the Mets: coach (’83); scout (’84-’93); coordinator of minor leagues (’85-’86); and special assistant to the GM (’93-’99). He then retired and passed away in 2004 at age 75 after a bout with leukemia.

Don Bryant had just segued from being a player to a coach when this card came out. A Florida-born catcher, he was signed by Detroit in ’59, and spent three years in D ball – he missed some time for the service – hitting .272 with 65 RBI’s his final season at that level in ’62. He then spent most of the next two seasons in Double A and then after hitting .179 to start the ’65 season in Triple A was sold to the Cubs, where he didn’t hit much better the rest of the way at the same level. But in ’66 he hit .313 in Triple A and .308 in a few games up top for Chicago in his debut. Before the next season he moved to the Giants in a trade, hit pretty well for them back in Triple A in ’67 and then not so well at that level the following year. He was then drafted by Houston as a Rule 5 guy and spent all of ’69 with the Astros and some of ’70 as well although neither year did he see much action. In the majors he finished with a .220 average with 13 RBI’s in 109 at bats. He spent the rest of the ’70 season back in the minors and before spring training the following year was sold to Boston. For them he hit OK at Triple A that year and then saw diminished time behind the plate as he worked more with the younger guys and became a de facto coach in ’73. In the minors he hit .250 with 35 homers. When Johnson came up he brought Don with him as bullpen coach and he did that through ’76 and then moved with him to Seattle from ’77 to ’80. He seems to have at some point relocated full time to Florida but after his coaching days his professional ones are a bit of a mystery.

Technically Eddie Popowski could have had this manager card since he managed – and won – the Sox’ final game of the ’73 season after Eddie Kasko was dismissed. Eddie was a Red Sox forever. Born in NJ he was a second baseman who got his pro ball start with the House of David team after he’d already worked at various jobs since he left school in eighth grade. A tiny guy at maybe 5’5”, he was signed by Boston in ’36, finished up that year with the HOD guys, and then hit .281 his first season in A ball the next year. A second baseman, he spent the next four years at that level as his average faded over that time, bottoming at .176 in ’41. The next year he was in the service where he broke his knee badly enough that he never had to do any overseas time during WW II. He returned in ’43 to Double A where he hit only .225 when he was 29 so an MLB career wasn’t in the cards. Instead he continued to play – he topped out at .321 in B ball in ’45 – and began managing in the minors. He finished with a .258 average and lots of fielding titles. He would put in some long seasons, managing in both the regular season and the instructional one and through ’66 put up a record of 1,568-1,357. In ’67 he came up as a coach for Boston which he did through ’75; he also managed after Dick Williams left at the end of the ’69 season and finished with a record up top of 6-4. He coached in the minors to kick off ’76 and then returned to Boston when Don Zimmer replaced Darrell Johnson in ’76. From that year to ’89 he was a special instructor in the Instructional League and from ’89 to 2001 an infielder coach at that level as well as a spring training coach for the Sox. He was still working for Boston when he passed away in 2001 from lung cancer at age 88.

Lee Stange was born and raised in and near Chicago where in high school he was his school’s quarterback, point guard, and pitcher. He then went to Drake University with the intent of playing all three sports but got shut out in hoops and baseball because at some point he badly injured his knee. After leaving school after his junior year he signed with the Senators in ’57 and had a rough start that summer in D ball. But he improved significantly the next year and then did the same routine the next couple seasons in B ball, going 20-13 in ’60. After spending most of the ’61 season in Triple A he made his debut up top in Minnesota later that year, winning his first game. Since he was a pretty small guy – about 5’9” – pretty much everyone viewed him as a reliever, his primary role his first couple seasons up top. In ’63 he got some time in the rotation and responded with his best season, going 12-5 with a 2.62 ERA. After a rough start to the next season he went to Cleveland as part of the deal that brought Mudcat Grant to the Twins. After a nice ’65 for the Tribe, he moved to Boston during the ’66 season. Then in ’67 he put in the best ERA of the starters – 2.77 – on the AL pennant-winner and got some Series time. For the Sox the next three seasons he worked primarily out of the pen where in ’68 he had 12 saves. In ’70 he was traded to the White Sox where he finished things. He went 62-61 up top with a 3.56 ERA, 32 complete games, eight shutouts, and 21 saves and in his only post-season work gave up zero earned runs in his two innings. He then became a coach, primarily with Boston: in the minors (’71, ’80, and ’85-’94); and the majors (’72-’74, ’81-’84). He also coached for the Twins (’75) and Oakland (’76 in the minors and ’77 –’79 up top). In the mid-Nineties he relocated to Florida where he coached for Florida Tech, a D3 school, which he did formally through about 2007 and continues to do on a volunteer basis.

Don Zimmer is another baseball lifer who also happened to be a pretty small guy, at least in terms of height. Born and raised in Cincinnati, he was signed out of high school by the Dodgers in ’49 and did a pretty good job working up the ladder: in ’52 he hit over .300 in Double A and the next two seasons did the same thing in Triple A, all three years with pretty good power for a small middle infielder. He debuted up top in ’54 but barely played, for obvious reasons. He got a bunch more time in ’55 due to Jackie Robinson ratcheting things down a bunch and also got some Series work, winning a ring. His ability to play second, short, and third helped keep him in the line-up and in ’57 he returned to get some regular work there. In ’58 he had probably his best season, hitting .262 with 17 homers and 60 RBI’s in 127 games.  He stuck around for another ring in ’59 and then was traded to the Cubs where he was a regular the next two seasons. He was then drafted by the Mets following the ’61 season and after a few games at third base for those guys went to Cincinnati, where he finished out the season. In ’63 he spent a little time back in LA before he was sold to the Senators where he played the next three seasons, finishing things up in ’65 – a year he actually caught 33 games and threw out half attempted steals - with a .235 average, 91 homers, and 352 RBI’s. He hit .200 with a couple RBI’s in five post-season games. In ’66 Zim went to play in Japan where he did not have a great season. When he returned to the States in ’67 he managed in the Cincinnati system as a player-coach for a year – and even pitched – before finishing as a player at that level with a .287 average. He continued to manage in the minors for the Reds (’68); the Cubs (’69), and San Diego (’70). He then moved to the majors as a coach for Montreal in ’71 and San Diego in ’72. Later that second year he took over as Padres manager which he did through ’73. He then coached for Boston from ’74 to ’76 before replacing Johnson as manager. He remained with the Sox through ’80, nearly winning a division in ’78, and then went to Texas as its manager from ’81 to ’82. After a year coaching with the Yankees in ’83 he returned to the Cubs, first as coach (’84-’86) and then as manager (’88-’91), with stints back in NY (’86) and San Francisco (’87). In ’89 he won his division and Manager of the Year. After that it was almost strictly coaching: back in Boston (’92); Colorado (’93-‘95); again with the Yankees (’96-2004); and then with Tampa (’04-present). For a bit in ’99 he took over as manager of NY while Joe Torre was out for surgery. Outside of that bit Zim went 885-858 as a manger up top. He is the last guy still in baseball who played for Brooklyn.

With a manager card we get the double hook-up. First for Darrell as manager:

1. Johnson managed Bob Robertson on the ’78 Mariners;
2. Robertson and Jim Rooker ’73 to ’76 Pirates.

Now for Darrell as a player:

1. Johnson and Jerry Lynch ’61 to ’62 Reds;
2. Lynch and Willie Stargell ’63 to ’66 Pirates;
3. Stargell and Jim Rooker ’73 to ’80 Pirates.

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