50 cents a pack: John Henry Johnson

I've been meaning to post a link to this article about the demise of baseball cards for a while. Sadly, I came up in the same era of collecting as the author. I still have about 40 too many Bobby Bonilla rookie cards. Sigh.

At least I still have my 1987 Topps John Henry Johnson card to keep me happy. This particular year of Topps cards has to be among the ugliest baseball cards of all time. I mean, wood grain? C'mon. I'm sure they were going for a retro feel, but they failed.

I don't have a whole lot to say about the man with three first names -- other than, what the fuck is up with that hair? Seriously. White boy fro! It looks as if someone gave poor Johnny the Wooly Willy treatment.

Johnson's eight-year career was so forgettable that the amazing factoid Topps provides on the back of his card is ... drum roll ... wait for it ... "John Henry participated in Little League ball." Well that surely distinguishes him from the pack.

To be fair, there were a few high points to his career. For starters, he was traded along with seven others by the Giants to the A's to acquire Hall of Fame hurler Vida Blue (who may have his own 50 cents entry later). He debuted in the majors the year of the trade ('78), and had a decent rookie year: better-than-average 3.39 ERA, 11 wins, and 186 innings pitched. He was actually seventh in the league in hits allowed per nine innings. He stunk it up for the A's the following year and was traded mid-season to the Rangers, where he continued to stink. In 1980, the Rangers said "to hell with you starting" and moved him to the pen, where he posted a sparkling 2.33 ERA and better than a K per inning in limited duty, probably saving his major league career in the process.

I'm guessing injuries did him in in '81, as he only pitched in 24 games and missed all of '82. Interesting side note: Johnson went from striking out 1.2 batters per inning in '80 to 0.3 in '81 -- probably due to an arm injury that caused a drop in velocity. Texas dealt him to Boston, where Johnson regained his K-form and became a serviceable reliever. Again, he missed an entire season in '85, however. I'm not sure if it was injury again, or what. He was released by the BoSox in April of '85, and signed ten days later by the Pirates, who then released him in late July without him ever taking the mound. Must have been another injury or a rehab gone wrong. But a month later, Johnson was signed by the Brewers -- his third team in one season despite never playing in a major league game. Hmmm...

Johnson (and his hair) was healthy enough to pitch in 19 games for the '86 Brewers, in which he posted a 2.66 ERA. For his services, he netted $60,000. The following year he got bombed to the tune of a 9.57 ERA in 26 innings, and his career was over. John Johnson never pitched for a division winner, so there's no postseason stats to examine. Oh well, maybe he won a championship in Little League.


Listmaker said...

pitchfork improbably ranked this card at number 78 of it top 200 cards from the 80's list.

thenoiseboy said...

"That's the funniest thing I've heard all week," says man guilty of taking things too seriously today.