|Birth||July 17, 1938 (San Diego, San Diego County, California, U.S.A.)|
|Death||April 23, 1992 (Poway, San Diego County, California, U.S.A.)|
Deron Roger Johnson (July 17, 1938 – April 23, 1992) was an American professional baseball player. Born in San Diego, California, he played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball as an infielder, outfielder, and designated hitter for the New York Yankees, Kansas City & Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, and Milwaukee Brewers during his 15-year major league career.
He later served as a coach for 13 seasons with the California Angels (1979–80; 1989–92), New York Mets (1981), Philadelphia Phillies (1982–84), Seattle Mariners (1985–86), and Chicago White Sox (1987). Johnson was serving as a coach with California when he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which claimed his life on April 23, 1992, at the age of 53.
Deron Johnson first appeared in a major league game on September 20, 1960. The 22-year-old was called upon to pinch hit in the ninth inning of a 1-1 tie between New York and Washington, facing Senators southpaw Hal Woodeshick. Mickey Mantle flied out to right and Bill Skowron doubled. Johnson advanced Skowron to third with a flyout to center. The Yankees won 2-1 in the 11th. He got his first two career hits on October 2, 1960 in the Yankees' last game of the regular season, an 8-7 win over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Johnson batted twice in the game—the first resulted in a fifth-inning double off Red Sox pitcher Jerry Casale, and in the seventh he singled off Arnold Earley.
Johnson's contract was purchased from Kansas City by the Cincinnati Reds on April 5, 1963. Playing for Triple-A San Diego, he topped the Pacific Coast League with 33 home runs, tied for fifth with 91 RBI, and was picked as first baseman on the PCL All-Star team. 1964 was his first full season in the major leagues with the Reds where he posted a .273 average with 21 home runs and 79 runs batted in.
The 1965 season with the Cincinnati Reds was one of his best during his career. Along with Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Vada Pinson, Tony Pérez and Leo Cárdenas. Johnson at age 26 hit .287, blasted 32 home runs, and drove in a National League leading 130 runs. Rose was quoted in 1983, "I had never seen anyone hit the ball harder than Deron Johnson."
While playing for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1971 Johnson clubbed 34 homers and drove in over 90 runs. Further proof of Johnson’s long-ball skill was evident on July 10 and 11, 1971, as he belted four consecutive home runs against the Montreal Expos, three of them coming on the 11th. Johnson hit .300 in the 1973 World Series while playing with the Oakland A's. He opened 1974 with the A's, but on June 24, 1974, he was released on waivers to the Milwaukee Brewers. On September 7, Johnson was sold to the Boston Red Sox, who were in the middle of a pennant fight they ultimately lost. The following April he signed with the White Sox.
In 148 games for the White Sox, Johnson hit 18 home runs, and drove in 72 RBI. On September 21, after Jim Rice had been injured earlier in the day, the Red Sox once again needed supplemental power and reacquired Johnson. Johnson's last home run of his career came on September 27, 1975 off of Indians pitcher Rick Waits at Fenway Park.
Personal life & legacy
Johnson was a baseball and football star at San Diego High School. He was offered numerous college football scholarships but opted to sign with the Yankees. In 1979, Johnson was inducted by the San Diego Hall of Champions into the Breitbard Hall of Fame honoring San Diego's finest athletes. From 1958 to 1959 for six months he served in the U.S. Army under the Reserve Training Program, the first of several military stints during his baseball career.
After retiring as a Major League player, along with coaching in the majors, he owned a construction company in San Diego and operated a 40-acre cattle ranch.
When he died of cancer in 1992 he was survived by his wife Lucy Ann, sons Deron Jr. and Dominick and daughter Dena. Deron Jr., at the time, was a golf professional.