- For the 19th century baseball player, see Lou Johnson (pitcher).
September 22, 1934 |
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|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|
Louis Brown Johnson (born September 22, 1934), nicknamed "Sweet Lou" and "Slick", is a former Major League Baseball outfielder. From 1962 through 1969, Johnson played for the 1962 Milwaukee Braves, was back in the minor league for '63 and '64, then played for the Los Angeles Dodgers (1965–67), 1968 Chicago Cubs, 1968 Cleveland Indians, and the 1969 California Angels. Johnson both batted and threw right-handed.
Johnson was born on September 22, 1934 in Lexington, Kentucky. 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, members of the Southeastern Conference (of which Kentucky is an affiliate) were not recruiting black athletes. Some colleges did not even allow black students to enroll.
Early baseball career
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 Dodgers
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. 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 teams getting shut out three times, and only scoring two runs in the four games. Johnson finished the series with just four hits in 15 at-bats. He also flied out to Paul Blair for the final out of the Series.
Later baseball years
From this point on, Johnson's major league career rapidly wound down, as he 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.
Today, Sweet Lou is an integral part of the Dodgers’ Community Relations efforts and a member of the Dodgers Speakers’ Bureau, while remaining active with various charities in Southern California and nationally, as well. Johnson serves as a member of the advisory board of the Baseball Assistance Team, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping former Major League, Minor League, and Negro League players through financial and medical difficulties.
- Mark Maloney (July 31, 1999), Baseball Team Gets Thumbs Up From Local Star, Lexington Herald-Leader, p. D1, retrieved November 5, 2013
- "Lou Johnson page at Baseball-Reference". Retrieved 4 November 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.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Baseball Library - profile