Tuesday, October 27, 2009

1976 Topps #249 - Cliff Johnson

  • Cliff Johnson played for seven teams from 1972-1986. Cliff started out as a power-hitting catcher, but his best position was probably designated hitter. Johnson was drafted by the Houston Astros in 1966 and played in the minors through the 1973 season. He had late-season looks in 1972 and 1973. He was deemed ready for the majors after batting .302 with 33 HR for AAA Denver in 1973.
  • In 1974 Johnson played in 83 games. He batted .228 in 171 AB and homered 10 times (pretty good for playing home games in the Astrodome). During his Houston career his home/road home run splits were virtually equal. In 1975 Johnson improved to .276 with 20 HR in 340 AB. Cliff slipped to .226 with ten homers in 1976. The Astros didn't really know where to put him -- he caught in 66 games, played 20 games in the outfield, and 16 games at first base.
  • Johnson started the 1977 season with the Astros and was doing pretty well (.299 with 10 HR in 51 games) but he was traded to the New York Yankees on June 15 for three players. Cliff continued his fine hitting in New York (.296 with 12 HR in 56 games) and did well in the American League Championship Series (.400 in 15 AB). He made only one appearance as a pinch hitter in the 1977 World Series.
  • In 1978 Johnson fell off the cliff (sorry about the pun). He batted .184 with six homers in 174 AB. There aren't any large gaps in his playing time that year--he just wasn't used very much. He was 0 for 1 in the ALCS and 0 for 2 in the World Series.
  • The 1979 season also wasn't a good one for Johnson. He started off better offensively (.266 with six HR in 28 games), but he got into a fight with Goose Gossage in the clubhouse. Gossage was injured and missed several months of the season. Cliff was traded to the Cleveland Indans for Don Hood on June 15. He played in 72 games for the Indians and batted .271 with 18 home runs.
  • Johnson was used exclusively as a DH by the Indians in 1980. He was batting .230 with six homers in 54 games when he was traded on June 23 to the Chicago Cubs for cash and Karl Pagel. Cliff played in 68 games for the Cubs and did about the same (.238 with 10 HR). After the season he and Kevin Drumright were traded to the Oakland A's for a minor leaguer.
  • Cliff was mostly a DH for the A's in 1981. In 84 games he batted .260 with 17 homers. In 1982 he played in 73 games and batted .238 with only seven home runs. After the 1982 season Johnson was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for Al Woods.
  • Johnson was the regular DH for the Blue Jays in 1983 and 1984. In 1983 he batted .265 with 22 HR and 76 RBI. Cliff batted .304 with 16 homers (his only .300 season) in 1984. After the season Johnson became a free agent and signed with the Texas Rangers.
  • Cliff didn't stay with the Rangers for very long. He was the DH in 82 games and was batting .257 with 12 HR when he was traded back to the Blue Jays in late August for two minor leaguers and pitcher Matt Williams (not that Matt Williams). Johnson batted .274 with one HR in 24 games to finish the 1985 season. In the 1985 ALCS Cliff batted .368 in 19 AB.
  • Johnson's last season was 1986. He had one of his typical years (.250 with 15 HR in 336 AB) but wasn't signed by anyone after being granted free agency.
  • Cliff Johnson set the record for most career pinch-hit home runs (20).
  • Here is an audio interview (the Sports Mavericks show) with Cliff from December 18, 2007.
  • Liked to face: Scott McGregor (.338 with 5 HR in 68 AB); Tommy John (.342 in 38 AB); Floyd Bannister (.317 with 4 HR in 41 AB)
  • Hated to face: Ron Guidry (.149 in 47 AB); Jon Matlack (.170 with 12 strikeouts in 47 AB); Charlie Hough (.111 with 10 strikeouts in 27 AB)


  1. I remember him as a Blue Jay. Had no idea he set a record for pinch HR's. Wow, cool. And you know, I am probably the only one left on earth who misses those gaudy loud Astros uniforms and caps.

  2. I thought those Astros uniforms were great. They should break them out once in a while.