Tim Johnson (baseball)
July 22, 1949 |
Grand Forks, North Dakota
|April 24, 1973 for the Milwaukee Brewers|
Last MLB appearance
|September 28, 1979 for the Toronto Blue Jays|
|Runs batted in||84|
Timothy Evald Johnson (born July 22, 1949) is a former professional baseball player and manager. A shortstop and utility infielder in Major League Baseball from 1973 to 1979, he became better known as a manager when he was caught lying about his service in the Vietnam War.
After signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1967 as a free agent, Johnson was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for Rick Auerbach prior to the 1973 season while still a minor leaguer. Johnson played everyday for the 1973 Brewers at shortstop, but lost his starting job next season to Robin Yount, thus forcing him to settle in as a utility infielder. He was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays during the 1978 season where he retired a year later with a lifetime .223 batting average in 516 career games.
Scouting, coaching and managerial career
1998 Toronto Blue Jays season
The Blue Jays named Johnson as their manager for the 1998 season following the firing of Cito Gaston and the interim management of pitching coach Mel Queen. Johnson beat out several higher-profile candidates, most notably Davey Johnson (no relation), Larry Bowa, Paul Molitor and Buck Martinez.
Queen remained on as pitching coach under Johnson and the two reportedly feuded extensively, despite Johnson's reputation as a good communicator. Johnson also had rumoured differences with several of his players, including Pat Hentgen, Ed Sprague, and Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, all of whom left the team after the 1998 season.
Despite this lack of chemistry, Johnson guided the 1998 Blue Jays to a respectable third place finish in the AL East with an 88–74 record, just four games out of a tie for the wild card. It was the team's first winning season since they won two World Series in a row in 1992 and 1993.
Vietnam War stories controversy
This success was partly attributed to the stories Johnson would tell his players about his battle experiences in the Vietnam War. For example, he told Hentgen a story about his war experiences to get him to accept a different place in the pitching rotation.
However, in late November, Johnson told several Toronto newspapers that all of these stories were completely made up. In truth, Johnson had been in the Marine Corps reserves throughout the war, and trained mortarmen at Camp Pendleton while playing in the Dodgers' farm system. He'd also claimed for over 20 years that he'd been an All-American high school basketball player, and turned down a scholarship to attend UCLA.
During the 1998 baseball winter meetings, Johnson said that admitting the truth was like having "a 50,000 pound weight" taken off his shoulders. He said he'd lied because he felt guilty about going to spring training with the Dodgers while many of his friends fought in the war. He entered therapy, and called several of his players to apologize for lying. 
Departure from the Blue Jays
The Blue Jays were initially willing to stand by Johnson and let him return for 1999. During spring training, he apologized to the entire team, and later said that he didn't seem to detect a credibility problem. However, the next month brought a steady diet of questions about Johnson's credibility, as well as outside attacks (Sprague, for instance, called Johnson a "liar" and a "backstabber"). Finally, on March 17, less than a month before opening day, Blue Jays general manager Gord Ash fired Johnson and replaced him with Jim Fregosi. Ash said that Johnson's presence had become so much of a distraction that he felt he would have to fire Johnson "if not now ... 30 or 45 days from now." He decided that he had to act in order to save the season. In the years since Johnson's one season at the helm, the Blue Jays have never had an equal or better record than Johnson's 88–74 mark.
Following his dismissal from the Blue Jays, Johnson spent seven seasons as manager in the Mexican League, with the Mexico City Diablos Rojos in 1999-2002, Obregon Yaquis in 2002-03 and then with the Mexicali Aguilas in 2004-05.
In 2003, Johnson became manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs of the Northern League. In 2006, the Lincoln team joined the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. On September 25, 2008, Johnson resigned after six years. His career record as the Saltdogs' manager was 315–255.
On July 9, 2011, Johnson resigned from his Lake County Fielders Managerial Position
- Diamos, Jason (December 15, 1998). "Jays' Manager Is Hounded by War Tales". New York Times (New York Times Company).
- Neyer, Rob (2006). Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Blunders. New York City: Fireside. ISBN 0-7432-8491-7.
- CNN. December 17, 1998 http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/news/1998/12/17/johnson_vietnam/. Retrieved May 25, 2010. Missing or empty
- Chass, Murray (March 18, 1999). "False War Tales Lead Jays to Drop Johnson". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved July 20, 2007.
- "Former Blue Jays manager to lead Toros". Arizona Daily Star (Lee Enterprises). December 16, 2008. Retrieved December 16, 2008.
- "Fielders Tab Ex-Brewer as New Skipper". Lake County Fielders (Lake County Fielders). November 12, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2010.
- "Fielders trade nine players, release 14 others". Chicago Sun Times. July 11, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2011.