Flashback Friday: Cliff Johnson
|Image courtesy of Mop Up Duty|
In today’s roster construction, I think the art of putting together a great bench is a long-forgotten art. A short bench has come back to bite the Blue Jays several times this season, but back in the 80’s and 90’s, the men in the trenches went to war at the plate.
Cliff Johnson was one of those soldiers who dredged through the trenches with the Blue Jays, and he is the focus for this week’s Flashback Friday.
I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t know all that much about Cliff Johnson aside from his spectacular moustache. In fact, I started using a photo of him as my Twitter avatar last year and enjoyed it so much that I’ve kept it ever since.
It turns out that Cliff Johnson brought a lot to the Blue Jays squad in the 80’s. He made two tours with the Blue Jays, from 1983-1984 and 1985-1986. Heathcliff was used primarily as designated hitter and pinch hitter during his tenure with the Blue Jays.
During his very first season in Toronto in 1983, Bobby Cox used Cliff Johnson primarily as a platoon DH with Jorge Ota. Together they combined to slug 34 home runs and drive in 113 runs. Not too shabby for a two-headed DH, right?
In 1984, Johnson’s home run total dropped off a bit, but he managed to raise his batting average 39 points year over year to .304. Cliff Johnson saw very limited time on the field, as he started only 9 games over two years with the Blue Jays.
On August 5th 1984, Cliff Johnson set a new Major League record for pinch hit home runs as he picked up his 19th career pinch hit home run. He would later add to that record by hitting his 20th pinch hit home run in 1986, but Matt Stairs would break that record in 2010.
Cliff Johnson signed a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers in 1985 before being traded back to the Blue Jays on August 29th. Johnson would wrap up his career in a Blue Jays uniform, but as I alluded to, not before hitting his 20th career pinch hit home run.
An interesting set of circumstances lead to Cliff Johnson ending up with the number “00” when he returned to the Blue Jays in 1985. Johnson’s go-to number was 44, but it was occupied by Jeff Burroughs.
I guess Johnson’s second choice was 0, but that was used by Al Oliver. So instead, Cliff Johnson opted to go with 00, which meant the Toronto Blue Jays had players with both the number “0” and “00” on the roster at the same time.
And I can’t remember who exactly it was who brought this video to my attention on Twitter, but it also turns out one of Cliff Johnson’s hallmark is that he refuses to smile for his baseball card photos: