Homer Happy: Deron Johnson
Hitting the ball hard was Deron Johnson’s specialty. Pete Rose said he never saw anyone hit the ball harder.
Playing for the Cincinnati Reds, Deron Johnson led the National League with 130 RBIs in 1965.
Johnson was signed by the New York Yankees in 1956, but there was no room for him in the Yankees’ powerful lineup of the late 1950s. He managed a token appearance with New York in 1960.
Thirteen games into the 1961 season, Johnson was traded with pitcher Art Ditmar to the Kansas City Athletics for pitcher Bud Daley. In 83 games with the A’s, he hit eight home runs with 44 RBIs but batted only .216. He spent most of the next two seasons in the minors and then was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds.
In Cincinnati, Johnson matured into the power hitter and run producer that he was to become. Batting in a lineup surrounded with hitters like Rose, Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson and Tony Perez, Johnson got to see more strikes (and fastballs), and he responded with RBIs. He hit .263 in 1964 with 21 home runs and 79 RBIs. In 1965, he led the major leagues with 130 RBIs while hitting .287 with 30 doubles and 32 home runs. In 1966, in a lineup that no longer included Robinson, Johnson hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs.
Following the 1967 season, Johnson was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Jim Beauchamp, Mack Jones and Jay Ritchie. His only season in Atlanta produced eight home runs and 33 RBIs, and he was purchased by the Philadelphia Phillies, where his power hitting revived. His best season in Philadelphia was 1971, when he hit .265 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs.
Like so many young sluggers in the late 1950s, Deron Johnson spent the early part of his career languishing in the New York Yankees minor league system. His ticket out of the Yankee farm system came in 1961 when he was traded to the Kansas City Athletics.
Over the next four seasons, Johnson played for five different teams (Philadelphia, Oakland, Milwaukee, Boston and the Chicago White Sox) and averaged 13 home runs and 51 RBIs per season. His best remaining seasons were 1973, when he hit 20 home runs with 86 RBIs for the Phillies and A’s, and 1975, when he hit 19 home runs with 75 RBIs, splitting the season with the White Sox and Red Sox. Johnson retired after the 1976 season.
In 16 big league seasons with eight different teams, Johnson hit 245 home runs and collected 923 RBIs.
Click Here for Instant Download