Darrell Johnson
Johnson with the Boston Red Sox in 1974
Catcher / Manager
Born: (1928-08-25)August 25, 1928
Horace, Nebraska, U.S.
Died: May 3, 2004(2004-05-03) (aged 75)
Fairfield, California, U.S.
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 20, 1952, for the St. Louis Browns
Last MLB appearance
June 6, 1962, for the Baltimore Orioles
MLB statistics
Batting average.234
Home runs2
Runs batted in28
Managerial record472–590
Winning %.444
As player
As manager
As coach
Career highlights and awards

Darrell Dean Johnson (August 25, 1928 – May 3, 2004) was an American Major League Baseball catcher, coach, manager and scout. As a manager, he led the 1975 Boston Red Sox to the American League pennant, and was named "Manager of the Year" by both The Sporting News[1] and the Associated Press.[2][3]

Playing career

Johnson was born in Horace, Nebraska, and graduated from Harvard, Nebraska, High School in 1944. He was signed by the St. Louis Browns as an amateur free agent in 1949 and made his Major League debut with the Browns on April 20, 1952. A reserve catcher during his six-year Major League career (1952; 19571958; 19601962), Johnson also played for the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles, who released him on June 12, 1962, ending his playing career. He was listed as 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) tall and 180 pounds (82 kg) and threw and batted right-handed. In 134 MLB games played, he batted .234 lifetime, with his 75 hits including six doubles, one triple and two home runs.

Johnson's playing career was interrupted by an eleven-month stint as an MLB coach with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1960–1961. After playing in eight games, with three plate appearances, for the 1960 Cardinals, he was released as a player on August 5 and added to the coaching staff of manager Solly Hemus, then reappointed for 1961. When the Redbirds fired Hemus on July 6, 1961, Johnson was released along with him. Three days later, he signed a player's contract with the last-place Philadelphia Phillies and caught 21 games for them in five weeks before being sold to the pennant-contending Cincinnati Reds on August 14.

The Reds were then 2+12 games behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, but over the final six weeks of the season they overtook the Dodgers to win the National League championship by four full contests. Johnson appeared in 20 games (including 17 as the club's starting catcher, with the Reds going 8–9).[4] In limited duty, he batted .315 with 17 hits, including his second and last big-league home run, hit off the Dodgers' Johnny Podres on August 16.[5] He appeared in the 1961 World Series against his former team, the Yankees, and had two singles in four at bats (both of them off Baseball Hall of Famer Whitey Ford) as the Reds lost to the slugging Yanks of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle, four games to one. He started Games 1 and 4, both of them Cincinnati defeats.[6]

The Reds released Johnson only a few days into the 1962 season, and he signed with the Orioles as a backup catcher before retiring as a player in June and serving out the year as Baltimore's bullpen coach.

Manager of Red Sox, Mariners and Rangers


He then became a minor league manager in the Orioles system and won championships with the Rochester Red Wings of the Triple-A International League in 1964 and Elmira Pioneers of the Double-A Eastern League in 1966. His demotion was the result of an exchange requested by Red Wings president Morrie Silver, who was disappointed with a losing 1965 campaign and wanted the Pioneers' Earl Weaver, coming off a winning season, to manage his team instead.[7]

After a year spent scouting for the 1967 Yankees, Johnson was named pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox on October 31, 1967, succeeding Sal Maglie who had been released after the World Series.[8] When manager Dick Williams was fired in September 1969, Johnson was retained by the Red Sox as a scout in 1970,[9] then managed Boston's Louisville Colonels International League affiliate in 1971–72. In 1973, he became the first manager of the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, finishing 78–68 and winning his second Governors' Cup, emblematic of the International League's playoff championship, in his only PawSox season. That championship earned him a promotion to the parent club as Red Sox manager.

Johnson (left) with President Gerald Ford and Sparky Anderson in 1975

As a big-league manager, Johnson led three different teams over eight seasons. His career began when he succeeded Eddie Kasko following the conclusion of the Red Sox's 1973 campaign on September 30.[10] His biggest success came during his Red Sox posting when he compiled a win–loss record of 220–188 for a .539 winning percentage. He guided Boston to a 95–65 (.594) mark in 1975 and a first-place finish in the AL East. The Sox then swept the three-time defending world champion Oakland Athletics in the playoffs, 3–0, to win the American League pennant. But they lost to the Cincinnati "Big Red Machine" in the thrilling 1975 World Series, four games to three. In an interview conducted by Tim Russert on CNBC in 2003, Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk named Johnson as the biggest influence in his professional life.[11] Johnson also had his detractors, such as Bill Lee, who stated that the team won "despite our manager", who did not communicate well with his players and even had his pitching coach stationed in the Red Sox bullpen rather than the dugout during the 1975 Series.[12]

In 1976, Boston started poorly, losing 15 of its first 21 games, then rallied and finally climbed above the .500 mark on July 6 (38–37). As the incumbent pennant-winning manager, Johnson skippered the 1976 American League All-Star team (with the Junior Circuit losing 7–1 at Veterans Stadium on July 13). But by then the Red Sox were mired in another slump, and only five days later on July 19, Johnson was fired in favor of third-base coach Don Zimmer after the team had lost eight of its last 11 games. At the time of his dismissal, Boston was out of contention with a 41–45 record, in fifth place and 13 games behind the Yankees.[13] Johnson then briefly returned to scouting for the Red Sox.

Johnson was hired to become the first-ever manager of the expansion Seattle Mariners on September 3, 1976.[14] Lou Gorman, Seattle's director of baseball operations, stated that Johnson would also assist in scouting players for the upcoming expansion draft. Johnson said that he was looking for players with "pride, aggressiveness, and the right mental attitude."[15] Johnson skippered the Mariners for approximately three and a half seasons until he was fired on August 3, 1980, and posted an overall win–loss mark of 226–362 (.384).

Johnson then worked as third-base coach for the Texas Rangers, under Zimmer, starting in 1981 before taking over as interim manager on July 30, 1982.[16] Six years earlier, the roles had been reversed when third-base coach Zimmer succeeded Johnson as manager in Boston on July 18, 1976. In his final managerial role, Johnson's Rangers went 26–40 (.394) in the 1982 season's final two months. He finished with a 472–590 record for a .444 career percentage as an American League skipper.[17]

He then moved to the New York Mets as minor league coordinator of instruction and a longtime scout. He also served as the Mets' bench coach on the staff of Dallas Green from May 20, 1993,[18] through the end of that season.[19]

Johnson died from leukemia at the age of 75 in 2004 in Fairfield, California.[20]

Managerial record

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Games Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
BOS 1974 162 84 78 .519 3rd in AL East
BOS 1975 160 95 65 .594 1st in AL East 6 4 .600 Lost World Series (CIN)
BOS 1976 86 41 45 .477 fired
BOS total 408 220 188 .539 6 4 .600
SEA 1977 162 64 98 .395 6th in AL West
SEA 1978 160 56 104 .350 7th in AL West
SEA 1979 162 67 95 .414 6th in AL West
SEA 1980 104 39 65 .375 fired
SEA total 588 226 362 .384 0 0
TEX 1982 56 23 33 .411 6th in AL West
TEX total 66 26 40 .394 0 0
Total[17] 1062 472 590 .444 6 4 .600

See also


  1. ^ Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 8, 1975
  2. ^ The Associated Press, October 28, 1975
  3. ^ Nowlin, Bill. "Darrell Johnson". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved February 3, 2019.
  4. ^ 1961 regular season fielding log from Retrosheet
  5. ^ 1961-8-16 box score from Retrosheet
  6. ^ Baseball Reference
  7. ^ Gorman, Lou. High and Inside: My Life in the Front Offices of Baseball. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2008. Retrieved August 17, 2019
  8. ^ "Darrell Johnson Named Bosox Pitching Coach," The Associated Press (AP), Tuesday, October 31, 1967. Retrieved August 17, 2019
  9. ^ Darrell Johnson to stay with Boston
  10. ^ "Darrell Johnson New Sox Leader," The Associated Press (AP), Monday, October 1, 1973. Retrieved August 17, 2019
  11. ^ [1]. Retrieved March 14, 2021
  12. ^ "Forgotten Game 7 of Reds-Red Sox '75 World Series Still Haunts Players, Coaches". Bleacher Report.
  13. ^ "Red Sox Fire Darrell Johnson, Promote Don Zimmer," The Associated Press (AP), Tuesday, July 20, 1976. Retrieved August 17, 2019
  14. ^ "Darrell Johnson named as coach of Mariners," The Associated Press (AP), Friday, September 3, 1976. Retrieved August 17, 2019
  15. ^ Stars and Strikes: Baseball and America in the Bicentennial Summer of '76, Dan Epstein, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2014.
  16. ^ Don Zimmer replaced by Darrell Johnson
  17. ^ a b "Darrell Johnson". Baseball Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved October 5, 2015.
  18. ^ Sexton, Joe, "It's Lights Out for Torborg ..." The New York Times, May 20, 1993
  19. ^ Nobles, Charlie, "Season is History, So is Stottlemyre." The New York Times, October 4, 1993
  20. ^ Former Red Sox Manager Darrell Johnson dies
Sporting positions
Preceded by Rochester Red Wings manager
Succeeded by
Preceded by Elmira Pioneers manager
Succeeded by
Preceded by Boston Red Sox pitching coach
Succeeded by
Preceded by Louisville Colonels manager
Succeeded by
Franchise relocated
Preceded by
AAA franchise established
Pawtucket Red Sox manager
Succeeded by
Preceded by Texas Rangers third-base coach
Succeeded by