Louis Brown Johnson (born September 22, 1932), nicknamed Sweet Lou, is an American former Major League Baseball outfielder. Johnson's professional baseball career lasted for 17 seasons, and included eight years in the majors: parts of 1960–1962 and 1965, and then the full seasons of 1966 through 1969. He threw and batted right-handed and was listed as 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) tall and 170 pounds (77 kg).
|Born: September 22, 1932|
|April 17, 1960, for the Chicago Cubs|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 6, 1969, for the California Angels|
|Runs batted in||232|
|Career highlights and awards|
Johnson did not establish himself as a big-league regular until he was almost 33 years of age. He had trials with the Chicago Cubs (34 games played in 1960), Los Angeles Angels (only one appearance in 1961), and Milwaukee Braves (61 games in 1962). Only after he was summoned to the Los Angeles Dodgers from Triple-A Spokane after the Dodgers lost regular outfielder Tommy Davis to a broken ankle on May 1, 1965, did Johnson earn a foothold in the major leagues. He became the Dodgers' regular left fielder during their 1965 world championship season, started over 60 games in both left and right fields in 1966 (during which the Dodgers captured their second straight National League pennant), and started another 85 games in the Dodger outfield in 1967. He remained in the majors for two more years as a reserve player, returning to the Cubs (1968) and Angels (1969) to bookend a stint with the Cleveland Indians (1968).
He is currently employed by the Dodgers' Community Relations Department.
Johnson was born on September 22, 1932 in Lexington, Kentucky to Sidney Bell & Shirley Johnson. He has 3 brothers and 1 sister. At Dunbar High School in Lexington, he played both basketball as well as baseball. Johnson desired to play basketball at the University of Kentucky under the coach Adolph Rupp. However, at the time, not only were members of the Southeastern Conference (of which Kentucky is an affiliate) not recruiting black athletes, most of its universities were segregated.
Early baseball careerEdit
Johnson was signed by the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1953. After moving around from team to team in the minor leagues for about a decade, he finally played in 61 games for the 1962 Milwaukee Braves. However, after that, the Braves traded Johnson to the Detroit Tigers system, which sent him back to the minor leagues for the 1963 and '64 seasons. They then traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for the pitcher Larry Sherry.
Los Angeles DodgersEdit
Johnson made it to the major leagues to stay for a stretch beginning in 1965 with the Dodgers when a broken ankle in early May sidelined Tommy Davis, their regular left fielder, for the remainder of the season. Johnson filled in for Davis, playing in 130 games for the Dodgers that season, scoring 57 runs and batting .260 with 58 runs batted in. In that season, Johnson also scored the only run in Sandy Koufax's perfect game victory when he walked, went to second base on a sacrifice bunt, stole third base, and then scored on a throwing error by the Chicago Cubs catcher, Chris Krug. The Dodgers made it to the 1965 World Series versus the Minnesota Twins, and in this Series, Johnson had eight hits, including two home runs, the second one being the game-winning one in the decisive seventh game.
Johnson's high-water season in the major leagues was 1966. With Tommy Davis back in left field, and Willie Davis in center field, Johnson played mostly in right field. Frequently batting third in the order, right ahead of the dangerous hitter Tommy Davis, Johnson set career highs by playing in 152 games, getting 526 at-bats, 143 hits, 17 home runs, scoring 71 runs, and batting in 73. Johnson's batting average that season was .272, and the Dodgers made it to the World Series once again.
This was also Koufax's last year in baseball before retiring because of his damaged and getting-worse left arm. In this World Series, against the Baltimore Orioles, the Dodgers' offense hit rock-bottom, with the team getting shut out three times, and only scoring two runs in the four games. Johnson finished the series with four hits in 15 at-bats. He also flied out to Paul Blair for the final out of the Series.
Later baseball yearsEdit
From this point on, Johnson's major league career rapidly wound down, as he broke his leg sliding into Joe Torre and played in just 104 games for the Dodgers in 1967, a combined 127 for the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians in 1968, and just 67 for the California Angels in 1969, with only a .203 batting average. In 1970, at the age of 35, Johnson was out of professional baseball for good.
- "Lou Johnson page at Baseball-Reference". Retrieved 4 November 2013.
- Weisman, Jon (8 May 2015). "Remembering '65: Tommy Davis goes down, 'Sweet Lou' comes up". Dodger Insider. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
- "Front Office Directory". MLB.com.
- Mark Maloney (July 31, 1999), Baseball Team Gets Thumbs Up From Local Star, Lexington Herald-Leader, p. D1, retrieved November 5, 2013
- "Adolph Rupp: Fact and Fiction". Bigbluehistory.net. Retrieved 2012-04-13.
- Murray, Jim (27 August 1965). "Lou Johnson keeps Dodgers in pennant race". Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 7. Retrieved 4 June 2010.