Bob Johnson (Infielder): The N.L'.s Top Pinch Hitter in 1967 (1967)

Robert Wallace Johnson was born March 4th, 1936, in Omaha Nebraska. His father was a hardware salesman who would move the family to Minneapolis when Bob was 11. 

His father Wally & Mother Lillian had two children, Bob & his sister Janet. 

A star baseball player in high school, he also played basketball & football due to the urging of his baseball coach who also coached the football team & needed a tail back.

He & his friend George Walters were both signed together. The five-foot ten infielder began his career in the Detroit Tigers organization but was drafted away (Rule V) by the Kansas City A's.

MLB Debut: In 1960 he played 76 games for the Kansas City A's batting .205. Bob hit his first career HR in the last week of the season against the Tigers Frank Lary.

He was then chosen by the Washington Senators in the 1960 expansion draft & spent two years there in D.C.

In 1961 he batted .295 playing in 61 games. Johnson was the Senators main third baseman in 1962, batting .288 second best on the club to Chuck Hinton (.288) for a team that finished tenth in the AL. 

That off season he was traded along 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. Bob Johnson played mostly at second base behind Jerry Adair, who later went on to be the first base coach for the Oakland A's during their Dynasty years (1972-1974).

1966 World Champion: In 1966 Johnson won a World Series with the Orioles, although he did not play in any Series games. The O's went on to sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers in four games. 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. 

NL's Best Pinch Hitter: 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, Bob was also 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 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. Two days later he started the game at short, collecting a pair of hits, both doubles, driving in two runs helping Jack Fisher in the Mets 3-1 victory in St. Louis. 

On May 31st he got his first Mets HR, the only Met run in a 6-1 loss at the Astrodome. On June 11th in the second game of double header, in a wild 18-10 Mets loss at Wrigley Field, Johnson had a three-hit day, hitting one of four Met HRs while driving in two runs.

On June 24th he came to bat as a pinch hitter in the top of the 8th inning, after the Mets had tied a game up in Atlanta. His RBI single scored the go ahead run in what was to be a 5-3 win.  

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 as well. 

Walk OFF HR: 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. 

On August 17th Bob had a four-hit game & drove in two runs at Pittsburgh in the 6-5 win in the nightcap of a doubleheader. That month he batted .341 with two HRs & eight RBIs, collecting 29 hits in 85 at bats. In September he collected 20 more hits in 55 at bats for a .364 average.

That season Johnson hit for a career best .348 (which was best on the team, although he was only a reserve player getting 230 at bats). Bob hit 5 HRs with 8 doubles 3 triples 27 RBIs 12 walks & a team leading .377 on base % & 851 OPS. 

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

Post Mets Career: Johnson played 1968 with both the Cincinnati Reds & the Atlanta Braves batting .262. In Spring of 1969 he dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals then was sent to Oakland where he hit .343 in 51 games. Bob then ended his career in Oakland with the A's in 1970.

Career Stats: In an eleven-year career he hit .272 with 628 hits 88 doubles 11 triples 44 HRs 230 RBIs. He walked 156 times & struck out 291 times. He posted a .320 on base % & .697 OPS. 

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.

After baseball he became a liquor salesman in Minnesota & then a real estate agent. He worked for a local Lutheran church as well. In the 1980's he was a salesman in advertising.

Family: Bob & his wife Karen were married in the early sixties; they had three children & seven grandchildren.

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


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