Bob Johnson: The NL's Top Pinch Hitter in 1967 (1967)

Robert Wallace Johnson was born March 4th 1936 in Omaha Nebraska. The five foot ten infielder began his career with the Detroit Tigers but was drafted away (Rule V) by the Kansas City A's.

He played in 76 games there in his rookie season, batting .205. He was then chosen by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft & spent two years there.

He was the Senators main third baseman in 1962, batting .288 second best to Chuck Hinton (.288) on a team that finished tenth in the AL. That off season he was Traded with Pete Burnside to the Baltimore Orioles for Marv Breeding, Art Quirk and Barry Shetrone.

In Baltimore he played as reserve infielder for four seasons on some good Orioles teams backing up the likes of Brooks Robinson, Luis Aparicio, Jerry Adair & future Mets manager Davey Johnson. Johnson played mostly at second base behind Adair, who later went on to coach the Oakland A's at first base during their Dynasty years (1972-1974).

In 1966 Johnson won a World Series with the Orioles, although he did not play in any Series games, as they went on to sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1967 after just four games Johnson's contract was purchased by the New York Mets.

Mets Career: Bob Johnson was one of two Mets career players to have that name. This Bob Johnson, would be used in 90 games by the 1967 Mets as a second baseman, short stop & at first base. He was most successful as a pinch hitter. He batted .383 going 13 for 34 in that role. Not only was he the Mets best pinch hitter that season, he was the top pinch hitter in the National League, leading the league in pinch hits.

On May 12th,1967 he debuted as a Met drawing a walk in a pinch hit at bat, in a game against the Cardinals.

Two days later he got a pair of hits, both doubles, driving in two runs helping pitcher Jack Fisher in the Mets 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. On June 11th in a wild 18-10 Mets loss at Wrigley Field he had a three hit day, with a HR & a pair of RBIs.

 On August 8th he had his biggest Mets moment as he hit a walk off HR against the Atlanta Braves, Jay Ritchie for a dramatic 3-2 Mets victory. 

In the final two months he saw more playing time and hit well enough to keep his average well above .300 and produce 15 multi hit games.

He put together three five game hit streaks in that time and had a four hit day against Pittsburgh on August 17th in the nightcap of a doubleheader. That season he hit for a career best .348, (which was best on the team, although he was a reserve player) getting 230 at bats with 5 HRs 8 doubles 3 triples 27 RBIs 12 walks & a team leading .377 on base %. 

That November he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for outfielder Art Shamsky who would be a key part of the 1969 Champion Mets.

Johnson played just three more seasons, moving from the Cincinnati Reds to the Atlanta Braves, to the St. Louis Cardinals. 

He then ended his career in Oakland with the A's in 1970. In 1969 he batted .302 overall in 70 games, finding success as a pinch hitter in Oakland.

In an eleven year career he hit .272 with 628 hits 88 doubles 11 triples 44 HRs 230 RBIs & a.320 on base %. 

On the field he played every infield position, 201 games at short (.956 fielding %) 167 games at seasons (.983 fielding %) 166 games at third (.946 %) & 107 games at first (.986 %). He also played two games in the outfield.

Passing: Johnson passed away at age 83, in November 2019.


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