Northwest Coach Profiles: Darrell Johnson

MLB Baseball – Darrell Johnson

Born: August 25, 1928
Place of birth: Horace, Nebraska

  • Memorable Moments: 1961 NL champion Cincinnati Reds
  • The Sporting News Major League Manager of the Year (1975)
  • The Associated Press American League Manager of the Year (1975)

Do you ever find yourself thinking “What would Darrell Johnson do”?  Neither do I.

However, Seattle Mariners fans asked themselves that question a lot leading up to the inaugural season.

It had taken quite the effort to get baseball into the emerald city…again.

Everyone wondered what this team would be like and who would lead them.

Who was this manager Darrell Johnson anyway?

If you were to use one word to describe Johnson’s life it would be committed.  He dedicated the entirety of his adult life to the game of baseball. He would dip his toe into pro ball as a 22 year old in 1949 and wouldn’t leave the pool of the pros until 1999.

In his 50 years in the game he was employed by 12 different major league teams.  Seven teams as a player and five as a coach/manager.  There were even some odd situations where he was coaching and then activated as a player.

Are teams still allowed to do that?

Maybe the Mariners could activate their current hitting coach Chris Chambliss.

Johnson’s playing career wasn’t anything too spectacular.  In his 10 years of major league playing time he accumulated 320 at bats, which is less than most players get in one season.  He hit 2 home runs, one of which was an inside the park variety, and he had 28 career RBI and a 10 year average that accumulated to .234.

For a mediocre player, he was involved in all sorts of trades.  It could be because of his rocket arm, referred by many as the best in the game in 1959.  Apparently his double jointed thumbs gave him a strange, but fantastic throwing motion.

But more likely, and as it turned out, he was a baseball mastermind and could really teach the game well to youngsters which is why he spent so much time in the minor leagues and as the bullpen catcher.

Darrell Johnson

Darrell Johnson Northwest Coaching Profile

This made him a natural choice as a scout and a minor league manger he eventually got his real big shot as the skipper of the Boston Red Sox.

Under his guidance he held a .539 winning percentage, was named manager of the year in 1975 and led the Sox all the way to game 7 of the World Series before the Bambino ruined the day yet again.

After the World Series loss Johnson became known as a surely, angry and bitter old man.  He turned to drinking to sooth his woes and a drunk driving charge left him jobless even though he had represented the American League as manager of the all-star game in 1976.

All of these traits made him a perfect pick up for the fresh new franchise in Seattle.

After all, they had nothing to lose as a new club with zero expectations and he had everything to gain in a new beginning.

The M’s were thrilled not to finish in last place in 1977 which has carried on as a tradition in Seattle ever since.

As good as a fit as it may have been Johnson did not see the same success that he had in Boston as his winning percentage was only .384 as so became the first in a long line of managers that would be fired for not leading the team to victory.

After he departed from Seattle he spent some time with the Rangers and then with the NY York Mets where he would finally be a part of a team that won it all in 1986, ironically over the Red Sox.

The baseball gods are so weird sometimes.  Johnson would stay with the Mets until he retired in 1999.

He passed away on May 3, 2004 at the age of 75 from leukemia.  He would never see the Red Sox win the World Series, unless of course they have a good cable package in the afterlife.

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