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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Dominick Johnson followed his father into the pros; He couldn't follow him to the majors

Originally published Feb. 14, 2013
Dominick Johnson arrived with a new organization in 1992, the same one his father Deron Johnson worked for, the Angels.

But, as the younger Johnson tried to impress his new organization, he also had to deal with his father's failing health. Johnson's father, Deron Jonson, played 16 years in the majors and later had a decade-plus coaching career, was dying of cancer.

"I know that my thoughts will be at home, that there's more important things than baseball and that my father is certainly one of them," Dominick told The Los Angeles Times that February, two months before his father passed. "I'd be lying if I said I won't be thinking of him, but I'm also paid to pitch and I'm looking forward to being back on the mound. The Angels have told me I'm going to pitch a lot, and that's all I can ask. I want the ball."

Johnson went on to pitch that year with the Angels' high-A team at Palm Springs. But, while he never could follow his father to the major leagues, he did eventually follow his father into coaching, the younger Johnson later becoming a coach in high school, for his hometown school.

Dom Johnson's career began in 1987, signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent. He played his first year at rookie Pocatello, his next at single-A Clinton. Johnson's name was also spelled Dominic Johnson.

In 1989, between single-A Salinas and Clinton, Johnson went 6-8, with a 4.40 ERA in 21 starts. He moved to high-A San Jose for 1990, getting 19 starts, 25 outings, his ERA hitting 5.40.

The 1990 season over, Johnson had surgery on his pitching shoulder. He came back for 1991, but spent the season back at high-A, on loan from the Giants to Reno.

"I was ready to go, and they thought differently, so they sent me here," Johnson told The Times that August.

Johnson ended up getting into 25 games that year, starting nine. For 1992, Johnson made his move to the Angels system, playing that year and the next at high-A Palm Springs. He stayed with the Angels through 1994, getting his first look at AA, with Midland.

Johnson's final year as a pro came in 1995, starting with the Red Sox at AA Trenton, then finishing out the year at independent Mobile, ending his career.

Johnson went on to serve as pitching coach at Poway High School in California. He also coached higher-level players. In 2007, he helped major leaguer Brett Tomko, who lived in Poway, work out flaws in his pitching motion, according to The Associated Press.

In 2008, Johnson was touched by cancer again, when his daughter Alexis Johnson was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The Poway community, though, stood behind the family, donating blood and performing other acts of support, according to Voice of San Diego.

By April 2012, Alexis could be counted as a cancer survivor, raising awareness of the disease with a local Relay for Life, according to The Pomerado News.

"It was so out of the blue when they said it was cancer," the father told Voice of San Diego in 2008. "I hope no other parent has to go through this, but the team and the Poway community have been so great with their love and support. I get teary-eyed when I think about it."

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Curley 'Boo' Johnson never played pro baseball, he played basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters

Growing up in Peoria, Ill., Curley 'Boo' Johnson got up-close looks at the Harlem Globetrotters through is father, who was close with a member of the team, according to The Frederick News-Post.

When the team came to town, Johnson got to serve as a ball boy and players stopped by the house. His father even dreamed about him playing beyond college, professionally, Johnson told The News-Post in August 2000.

"A couple months after college, I became a Globetrotter," Johnson told The News-Post then. "It's the only job I've ever had. It's who I am."

Johnson joined the Globetrotters in 1988 and he stayed with them for two decades. Along the way, the Peoria native became the "world's quickest dribbler" and he entertained children around the country and the world.

(He was also honored with a card in the 1990 Peoria Chiefs baseball team team set.)

Johnson graduated from Peoria High School in the early 1980s and went on to Spoon River College and Loras College.

He played baseball in high school, his card noted. The card also cited a pitch that hit Johnson in the head as ending his brief time playing the game.

By the time his career with the Globetrotters was over, Johnson had played on six continents and in 81 countries, according to The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.

"How lucky can you be," Johnson told The Virginian-Pilot in 2013, "to travel like that and have the privilege of meeting Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela?"

YouTube has a highlight film from his career.

Since his retirement from the Globetrotters, Johnson has gone on to work with children through his Curley Boo Johnson Skills for Life Basketball Academy Camps.

In 2010, Johnson spoke with a Chicago-area high school team that won its league title about the importance of hard work and determination, according to The Austin Weekly News.

"Every time someone told me I couldn't do something, I did it," Johnson told the students then, according to The Weekly News. "If you don't believe in yourself, no one else will."
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,224
Made the Majors:1,163-36.1%
Never Made Majors:2,061-63.9%
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 482
10+ Seasons in the Minors:284

Tom Spencer played and coached in the majors, but he really wanted to manage there

Originally published Feb. 15, 2013
A frustrated Tom Spencer spoke to Cox News Service in 1991 about his situation and the situation of other black managers in baseball.

By that time, Spencer had been in the game for more than two decades, both as a player and as a manager. He had seen major league time as a coach, but hadn't gotten a look at a major league managerial post.

"Right now, all they're looking for when it comes to possibly getting a black manager is a name," Spencer told Cox, "and I'm not in that category. I keep hearing baseball people say that blacks haven't worked themselves up through the ranks to become managers. Hey, this is my 22nd year in baseball. I've done a lot of things in the game, and I haven`t gotten a call to be a major-league manager yet."

In a career that has continued in the two decades since, Spencer didn't ever get that shot at a major league managerial post. But he did get a couple more seasons as a first base coach and later spent at least seven seasons helming squads a step away from the majors, at AAA.

Spencer's career in baseball began back in 1970, signed by the Reds out of Gallia Academy in Gallipolis, Ohio.

With the Reds, Spencer started at single-A Tampa, moving to AA Trois-Riveres in 1971. He got his first look at AAA Indianapolis in 1972. In 12 professional seasons, Spencer ended up playing at AAA in nine of them.

In 1978, he made his only trip to the majors as a player, with the White Sox. Spencer got into 29  games, hitting .185.

His playing days over, Spencer started his coaching career, managing 1983 at single-A Asheville. That November, Spencer told his hometown Gallipolis Sunday Times-Sentinel how the game had changed since he first started, or at least the players changed.

"The athlete of today defies orders," Spencer told The Times-Sentinel. "He likes to question why certain things are done. When I tell a guy to do something, I like to take an extra step and explain why it's being done."

Spencer moved up to AA Pittsfield, managing there for 1985 and 1986. In 1988, he returned to the majors for a season as first base coach for the Indians.

He went on to serve as first base coach for the Mets in 1991 and the Astros in both 1992 and 1993. His first AAA managerial job came in 1997 and he continued managing at AAA through 2004, going through five cities, from Calgary to Memphis. Spencer most recently is credited as serving as manager at high-A Lancaster in 2011.

In 1997, Spencer served as manager at AAA Nashville, with the White Sox system. That July, Spencer oversaw the AAA rehab assignment of major leaguer Robin Ventura, Spencer liking Ventura's approach to the assignment.

"I told him I wouldn't hit-and-run with him or have him bunting, so he didn't need to learn the signs. He wanted to know them," Spencer told The Chicago Tribune. "He said, 'If you want me to bunt, I'll bunt, no big deal.' That's pretty surprising. I have guys on my team who don't like me telling them what to do, and here's a big-leaguer who doesn't mind."

Monday, November 18, 2019

Jim Murphy went back to school after baseball and became an author and motivational speaker

Jim Murphy took the field for the independent Surrey Glaciers in 1995 and hardly seemed to miss a step as he resumed his pro baseball career, according to The Langley Advance.

He did so as he went 3 for 4 with a home run in the team's first pre-season game, The Advance wrote

Murphy's play at Surrey came as he attended graduate school at the University of British Columbia. It was there that he started his new career, one as an author and motivational speaking.

Murphy's baseball career began in 1988, taken by the Cubs in the 13th round of the draft out of Portland State University.

Murphy started with the Cubs at short-season Geneva. He hit .229 in 67 games there with four home runs. Murphy tried a bit of a trick play that June, according to The Chicago Tribune, by pretending to catch a ball over the fence.

Murphy moved to single-A Charleston for 1989. He hit .225 over 113 games. For 1990, he played between single-A Peoria and high-A Winston Salem. He hit .257 on the year, his final season in affiliated ball.

He then went back to school, at British Columbia. He even continued playing sports, but not baseball, football.

In 1995, he returned to baseball at nearby Surrey. In 85 games there, he hit .307. He also made the league all-star game and was mentioned as a bright spot in Surrey's only season in pro ball.

He then played one more season in independent ball at Tri-City in 1996. He hit .295 over 78 games to end his career.

Along the way, though, he studied. At British Columbia, he wrote his master's paper off interviews with 38 baseball people, including major league managers and GMs, he wrote later. 

Those interviews then turned into a book, "Dugout Wisdom: The Ten Principles of Championship Teams." He then wrote "Inner Excellence: Achieve Extraordinary Business Success through Mental Toughness" and went into motivational speaking. More on his career can be found at his website:
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,223
Made the Majors:1,163-36.1%
Never Made Majors:2,060-63.9%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 482
10+ Seasons in the Minors:284-X

Jim Jones executed a well-orchestrated hit-and-run at Modesto in 1989; Played five pro seasons, not in bigs

Originally published Feb. 11, 2013
Jim Jones already had two hits in the game, the first of a double-header. Now, in the bottom of the seventh, his San Jose Giants needed a run for the win.

With a runner on first, Jones knocked a single, a "well orchestrated" hit-and-run, The Modesto Bee wrote. The runner ended up on third, then, after being set up by Jones, came home with the winning run.

Jones was in his third professional season that year in 1989. He ended up getting just two more, hitting AA, but getting no higher.

Jones' career began in 1986, taken by the Giants in the second round of the January Draft, out of Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon.

Jones started at short-season Everett, hitting .209 in 35 games, stealing six bases. He moved to rookie Pocatello and single-A Clinton in 1987, getting into just 47 games, hitting .244 between them.

Jones isn't recorded as playing in 1988. For 1989, though, he returned, hitting single-A San Jose. On the year, he hit .275 in 135 games. He also hit four home runs and knocked in 49 in arguably his best season.

For 1990, Jones returned to San Jose, getting 53 games and hitting .224. He also got 19 games at AA Shreveport, getting seven hits in 29 at bats. But it was his final season in the Giants' organization.

Jones played one more season, in 1991, for independent Reno of the California League. He hit .204 in 43 games, ending his career.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Royce Clayton got his call to the bigs, then celebrated with his dogs; Played 17 years in bigs

Originally published Sept. 26, 2010
Royce Clayton had been named the top prospect in the minor leagues by The Sporting News earlier in 1991, but Clayton still didn't expect his call-up to come so soon, The Los Angeles Times wrote that September.

He got the call and it was time to celebrate, The Times wrote. But Clayton was alone.

"No one was there," Clayton told The Times. "I ran out back and celebrated with the dogs. I paced up and down saying to myself, 'I'm going to the show, I'm going to the show.' "

It was a celebration that began a major league career that would span 17 seasons and end on another celebration, watching his teammates win the World Series.

Clayton was originally taken by the Giants in the first round of the 1988 draft, directly out of high school. Clayton had committed to USC, but the Giants' offers proved too much for the 18-year-old, taking the $195,000 and signing, The Times wrote.

Clayton made the Giants in 1991, playing in nine games that September, going 3 for 26. He returned for 1992, spending a good portion of the year with San Francisco, hitting .224.

By 1993, the shortstop was in the majors for good, stealing 11 bases, batting in 70 and hitting .282. In 1995, Clayton stole 24 bases while hitting .244. He also batted in 58, four of those coming in a May game against the Padres.

"I know I don't have to hit the ball out of the park to drive in runs," Clayton told reporters after the game. "The RBIs were out there and I'm aggressive."

But by 1996, Clayton had moved on, traded to the Cardinals. The shortstop was also given the almost impossible task of replacing the aging Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Clayton did an adequate job at short for the Cardinals, hitting .277 with six home runs and 33 stolen bases in 1996. He stayed through mid 1998, but his efforts weren't good enough. Some Cardinal fans even blamed his arrival for forcing Smith into retirement earlier than he wanted to, according to The New York Daily News.

Clayton left St. Louis, traded to Texas, becoming the Rangers' everyday shortstop. That was until it was Clayton who made way for a possible future Hall of Famer, Alex Rodriguez. Clayton was traded to the White Sox for 2001, a prospect Clayton looked forward to.

"Once I found out I was traded to the White Sox, I was basically overwhelmed," Clayton told the Associated Press in December 2000. "I was very positive about going to a place where I could win. That was my first and foremost concern."

Clayton still had seven seasons left in the big leagues. He would spend that time with eight different franchises. There were two years with the White Sox; one each with Milwaukee, Colorado and Arizona; then partial years with Washington, Cincinnati, Toronto and Boston.

Going into what would be his final season, 2007, Clayton felt confident. He signed a one-year deal with Toronto and referenced his durability.

"I know I'm getting up there in age," Clayton told CBC Sports. "But in the past 15-16 years, I've been able to play over 140 games every year."

But Clayton wouldn't last the year. The Blue Jays released him in August. He soon signed on with Boston, coming on in September to play his last eight games in the majors.

Clayton has since gone on to other pursuits, including a small part in the new Moneyball movie. He also has teaches the game and oversees charitable efforts, according to his Web site

His brief time with the Red Sox appears to have been the high point of his career, featured prominently on his site. He didn't get to play for the Red Sox in the post-season, but he did get to celebrate along side his new teammates as the Red Sox won the World Series, according to The Providence Journal.

Clayton even got doused with champagne by Kevin Youkilis as the Red Sox won the American League Championship Series with Youkilis acknowledging that Clayton made it, The Journal wrote.

''There’s no better feeling in the world,'' Clayton told The Journal. ''I've played a long time to get to this point. I've worked extremely hard and this is what you play for."

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Marvin Cole learned to relax more, but couldn't take it to the bigs; Played 12 pro seasons

Between injuries and playing time in 1989, Marvin Cole admitted to his hometown Alexandria Town Talk later that he pressed himself too hard.

But he hoped his 1990 season to be different, Cole told The Town Talk.

"I never could relax," Cole told The Town Talk of his 1989 campaign. "I've learned to relax more. That's my game. If you press, you become too mechanical."

Cole played the previous season at single-A Charleston, got into 76 games and hit .234. He played 1990 at single-A Peoria, but could do little better. He played one more season in affiliated ball, then went on to a career on the independent circuit, including seven seasons with his hometown Alexandria Aces.

Cole's career began in 1988, taken by the Cubs in the 42nd round of the draft out of Alexandria High School in Louisiana.

Cole started with the Cubs at rookie Wytheville. In 51 games there, he hit .315. He then moved to Charleston and then to Peoria.

Back spasms delayed his arrival at Peoria. He hit .250 over 60 games. He knocked a late two-run single in a July game to put his team on top.

Cole played 1991 at Winston-Salem. He hit an RBI double in a May win and hit .272 over his 86 games there. But that season turned out to be his last with the Cubs and in affiliated ball.

Cole then settled in Denver, but then heard about the new independent Alexandria Aces in the Texas-Louisiana league, he told The Town Talk. He returned home, got himself in shape and got signed.

Upon signing Cole, Alexandria manager Pete Falcone offered praise to The Town Talk.

"I liked the way he handled himself in the field. He has smooth, soft hands. He hit good to all fields," Falcone told The Town Talk.

Cole hit .331 in 72 games his first year there, then .299 in 97 games his second and made the league all-star team.

Cole then continued with Alexandria through the 2000 season. He hit .296 in 104 games his final year there. He played 2001 with Springfield/Ozark. He hit .285 in 95 games there to end his career.
1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,222
Made the Majors:1,163-36.1%
Never Made Majors:2,059-63.9%-X
5+ Seasons in the Majors: 482
10+ Seasons in the Minors:284-X
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