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Wednesday, May 5, 2004
Johnson's Red Sox lost classic Series in '75
BOSTON -- Darrell Johnson, who managed the Boston Red Sox to the 1975 World Series and was the first manager of the expansion Seattle Mariners two years later, has died at age 75.
Johnson died Monday of leukemia at his home in Fairfield, Calif., the Red Sox announced.
"He was easygoing. We played well under him," said Bill Lee, the starting pitcher in Game 7 of the 1975 World Series won by Cincinnati. "He was a very knowledgeable baseball guy. He handled players well. He was one of my all-time favorites."
Johnson was fired during the 1976 season and replaced by Don Zimmer. Lou Gorman, the Mariners' first general manager, hired him to manage the expansion club in 1977.
"The first guy I hired was Darrell Johnson. I had great admiration for him," Gorman said. "He was an excellent baseball man. He was great at handling players. He had a great deal of patience."
Johnson, who played 134 games in the majors, was a catcher with the St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox in 1952. From 1957-62, he played for the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles.
He retired in 1962 with a .234 batting average and two homers in 320 at-bats.
In eight major-league seasons as a manager, three with Boston, four with Seattle and one with Texas, Johnson was 472-590.
After retiring as a player, Johnson managed in the Baltimore system, where Gorman was director of minor league scouting.
From Seattle, Gorman went to the New York Mets, where he recommended that Johnson be hired. Johnson joined the Mets as a major league scout in 1983.
"He was actually an underrated manager," Gorman said. "The toughest thing in the world is to manage an expansion club. I thought he was exactly the guy for that task."
He recalled one long losing streak in which the Mariners played many close games. After one loss, Gorman told Johnson, "That's as good as our ballclub can play."
"He said, 'Lou, I agree, but I'm going in the clubhouse and yelling at them.' I said, 'Why, would you do that?' He said, 'I don't ever want them to get in the frame of mind of losing.' "
His Seattle teams were 226-362. He was fired with a 39-65 record in 1980 and replaced by Maury Wills.
Johnson had poor eyesight and refused to wear glasses on the bench, Randy Adamack, the Mariners' public relations director at the time, said Tuesday.
Adamack recalled that when one reporter asked Johnson how he knew when to remove a Seattle pitcher, Johnson said, "I don't have to see what he's doing. I just go by the crack of the bat."
Adamack remembers him as "the strong, silent type. He was a John Wayne type of manager. ... He worked hard and he had a lot of fun when it was over."
Johnson's only teams with winning records were the Red Sox, who were 84-78 in 1974 and 95-65 in 1975. The 1975 team had Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Dwight Evans, Luis Tiant and rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice.
"He was very patient, not only with the two rookies. He was that way with everyone," said Rico Petrocelli, the third baseman on the 1974 and 1975 teams. "He was very good at managing pitchers."
Johnson was fired in 1976 with the team at 41-45. On May 20, 1976, Lee injured his arm during an on-field brawl with the New York Yankees and finished the year at 5-7 with a 5.62 ERA after winning 17 games in each of the previous three seasons with no ERA above 3.95.
"He had no bearing on the outcome of that season. It was injuries," Lee said of Johnson. "He was a kind guy. I liked him a lot. He'll be sorely missed."
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