Monday, February 11, 2013

Final Card: Ken Johnson

Here is the final card for veteran pitcher Ken Johnson (#238).

Back in the day, the only thing I knew about Johnson was that he was "just another Braves pitcher NOT named Phil Niekro". But, he had a 16-year career dating all the way back to 1958 with the Kansas City Athletics (although his best years were 1963-67).

Johnson was signed by the PHILADELPHIA Athletics in 1952, and pitched in their minor-league system from 1952-59 (although missing the entire 1954 season).

Ken made his major-league debut in September 1958, and pitched 2 games with the A's in 1958 and 1959. Ken pitched the entire 1960 season out of the Athletics' bullpen, then was sold to the Toronto Maple Leafs (an unaffiliated AAA team) in May 1961. Two months later, he was traded to the Reds for pitcher Orlando Pena.

After the 1961 season, he was selected by the Houston Colt .45s in the NL expansion draft. For 3 seasons, Johnson was one of the top 2 starting pitchers (along with Turk Farrell) for the young franchise, winning 11 games in '63 and '64.

In May 1965, Ken was traded to the Milwaukee Braves (with outfielder Jim Beauchamp) for outfielder Lee Maye. Johnson joined a rotation featuring Tony Cloninger and Wade Blasingame (no, not THAT Wade Blasingame), and compiled a 13-8 record with the Braves.

In 1966, Ken and Cloninger each won 14 games and led the staff in most categories, although Johnson's ERA was almost a full point lower than Cloninger's. (Where was Phil Niekro, you say? He spent his first 3 seasons as a reliever, not joining the rotation until 6/13/1967.)

The Braves' rotation was in transition in 1967. Ace Cloninger only pitched 16 games that season, finishing at 4-7. Sophomore Pat Jarvis led the team in wins with 15, while last season's #3 starter Denny Lemaster led the staff in starts and innings pitched. Johnson won 13 games, while Niekro began the season as the closer, joining the rotation in mid-season.

Johnson had an off-year in 1968, and lost his starting job by mid-season (replaced by Milt Pappas and Ron Reed). In June 1969 he was sold to the Yankees, and 2 months later he found himself shipped off to the Cubs.

On the 2nd day of the 1970 season, Johnson was released by the Cubs and immediately signed by the Montreal Expos. Two months later, he was released, ending his 13-year career. His final game was a 2-inning relief appearance against the Cubs on April 18th.


tocque said...

Now, wait a minute. ERAs aren't points, they're runs.

Jim from Downingtown said...

Ahhh... you are correct. I was thinking of "points" the same way one would refer to "points" in a batting average.

(Reminds me of back when I was 8. After bicycling home from my baseball game, my Dad would ask who won, and occasionally I would use "points" when telling him the score. To which he would say "RUNS!, RUNS!"

(At least I didn't say "goals". lol)