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Sunday, August 29, 2021

Johnny Lipon felt good and enjoyed the game over five decades as player, then manager

Johnny Lipon had more than 2,100 victories as a manager by the start of 1992, all but a few of those in the minors - but some in the majors, The Detroit Free Press wrote.

He'd counted such players influenced along the way as Tommy John, Luis Tiant and Bobby Bonilla, The Free Press wrote.

"I've had some good clubs and a lot of good players over the years," Lipon told The Free Press as he started his fifth season helming the Tigers' entry at high-A Lakeland. "I've been toiling from year to year, but the big thing is that I still feel good and enjoy the game."

Lipon's enjoyment of the game as a professional began as a player himself in 1941. He eventually saw parts of nine seasons in the majors, even as he spent three years in the military during World War II.

His enjoyment then continued as a manager and as a coach, a career that included 59 games spent as interim manager of the Indians in Cleveland in 1971.

Lipon originally signed as a player with the Tigers as an 18-year-old in 1941 out of Chadsey High School in Detroit. Lipon was also credited as John Lipon.

Lipon started at Class C Muskegon and A1 Beaumont. In 1942, he made the jump to Detroit. He got into 34 games and hit .141 before he signed up for the Navy.

In March 1943, he visited the Tigers' Briggs Stadium as a seaman second class, stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station.

"Boy, I like the Navy fine," Lipon told The Free Press then. "I like the food, the fellows - everything. It is a great branch of the service."

He eventually served in the Pacific.

The war over, Lipon returned to playing in 1946, getting 16 games with the Tigers. He then played full seasons from 1948 to 1953, including a 1950 campaign where he hit .293 over 147 games. He last played in the majors in 1954, one game with the Reds.

Lipon continued to play regularly in the minors through 1958. He then turned to managing, as he took over at Class D Selma with the Indians. He'd also seen two seasons managing in winter ball in Mexico.

Introducing himself to Selma in March 1959, Lipon expressed admiration for then-Baltimore manager Paul Richards' player problem understanding style. He also declared his club would hustle and be aggressive, The Selma Times-Journal wrote.

Lipon then made his first stop at Lakeland for part of 1960. He managed at AAA Toronto for 1961 and AAA Portland with the Indians from 1964 to 1967.

He returned to the majors in 1968 as an assistant coach with the Indians and  he continued in that role until July 1971, when he was promoted to manager mid-season.

Lipon stayed on for the rest of the season. He saw his club go 18-41 and he was let go. Afterward, he told UPI he hoped his replacement would get Cleveland a winner.

"They deserve a winner," Lipon told UPI, "but I didn't get the chance to provide it for them."

Lipon then returned to the minors. He managed two seasons at AAA Toledo with the Tigers, then spent 12 seasons managing in the minors with the Pirates. He rejoined the Tigers in 1986 and managed at Lakeland from 1988 to 1992, his last season credited as a manager.

He passed away in 1998 at the age of 75.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,727
Made the Majors:1,263-33.9%-X
Never Made Majors:2,464-66.1%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:522
10+ Seasons in the Minors:309

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