Friday, July 3, 2009

#126 -- Bart Johnson

Bart Johnson

The 1970's was a decade of a lot of things. Bell bottoms, hippies, tube socks, lava lamps and the White Man's Afro. Bart Johnson had a White Man's Afro and it seemed to work for him. There's a lot of information on Bart in this interview of him and it also shows all of his baseball cards. See as the decade went along that Bart seemed to aspire to become the albino Oscar Gamble.

Bart had a heck of a lot of athletic talent. He went to BYU and, in the days before freshman eligibility on the varsity basketball team, averaged 28 a game for the freshman team. John Wooden unsuccessfully recruited him for UCLA. Bart said he picked baseball over basketball because he had Cy Young stuff pitching, but would have "only" been a solid NBA player. He'd have given Randy Denton a run for his money on the hair front. (Here's a coincidence...I was looking at Johngy's blog to see if he'd interviewed Bart and I found this Youtube interview of the Ultimate White Man's Afro, Randy Denton!)

Bart had a blazing fast ball and had a great 1971 season. He had a lot of promise and thought he'd take off in 1972, but he hit like a thud. He gave up 8 runs in an extra inning game (written up here in the 1972 Feature). He'd hurt his knee playing basketball in the off-season, told the Sox about it and they said he'd "be fine." However, they didn't want him to shelve it, so he ended up playing outfield (and batting .316) in the Sox A and AA teams.

He came back to pitch in 1973 and was so-so, probably still recovering. He got into it with the Sox in Spring Training of 1974 because they wanted him to go to the minors. He threatened to quit and work publicity for the World Football League's Chicago Fire. He even had a tryout with the Seattle Super Sonics that summer, but nothing came of it. He finally decided to go back to pitching and had a great 1974 second half where he started to fulfill his potential. From July 7 to the end of the year he was 10-4, 2.74 and had back to back shutouts in late August.

He's going to make a top of the rotation pitcher in 1975 to combine with Wilbur Wood and Jim Kaat, right? No. He herniated a disc in his lower back during a spring training game because he slipped on a wet mound. They weren't able to do much back then and he missed the whole season. He was in the rotation all year in 1976 (along with Goose Gossage) and didn't do well. By 1977, he'd lost a lot on his fast ball and it was over.

Bart's been a scout since his playing days wrapped up. He's working for the Nationals now and, from what I've seen on other message boards, he can be spotted in establishments near his Oaklawn, IL home.

1972 Feature
Lots going on July 3, 1972. Hank Aaron had a big day with a homer, double, single, 2 walks and was hit once in a 13-9 win at Houston. Rick Wise got a complete game 4-2 victory over the Reds and hit a 2-run homer. The Orioles pasted Detroit 15-3, and had a 6 run inning and a 7 run inning in the game. They had 21 hits, 16 of them were singles. The Phillies got to Don Carrithers of the Giants for 4 runs and 5 hits in the first inning. They got nothing -- no runs and no hits -- the rest of the way, but it was enough because they Steve Carlton getting his 10th win. Willie Stargell hit a 2-run walk-off homer to power the Pirates past the Cubs.

My Game of the Day is in Disneyville, where Catfish Hunter of the A's had a pitching duel with Rudy May of the Angels. The A's had pushed across a run in the 7th. The Angels hadn't gotten anything off Hunter. Bert Campaneris singled to lead off the 8th and Joe Rudi was safe when Rudy May made an error on his sacrifice bunt attempt.

Now we get the big situation of the game. A's ahead 1-0 in the top of the 8th. Nobody out. Good speed at second with Campeneris and Rudi on at first. Coming to the plate is the A's best hitter and biggest slugger, Reginald Martinez Jackson. He does something that would never be done in today's game. He lays down a sacrifice bunt. Successfully. Can you imagine Tony LaRussa asking Albert Pujols to do that? If Joe Girardi asked Alex Rodriguez to sacrifice, could he get the bunt down? However, Big Ego Reggie moved the runners along. Captain Sal Bando was walked intentionally and Mike Epstein knocked a 2-run single to break the game open. A couple of batters later Dave Duncan got another 2-run single and the A's held on to win the game 5-0. Catfish had a 2-hitter.

I had to look it up. Reggie had 4 sacrifices in 1972 and 13 for his career, but after 1972 he only got down 1 sacrifice bunt.


  1. It was funny to see the evolution of Bart's afro on that interview link.

  2. Wow, who knew all that about Bart Johnson? That was a great interview. I just knew him as that guy with the weird hair on his '75 card that we used to make fun of as kids.

    His '74 card is fantastic. I'll have to dig that one out right now.

  3. I agree with Night Owl about the 74 card. I'll have to get my hands on one of them.

    Fun post!

  4. Hey, thanks for the plug. I have been trying to work an interview with Bart for a couple months. Hopefully, soon I will get the chance.
    Randy Denton is just a super-nice guy.

  5. 1980 Topps Bob Young (football). One of the few white man 'fro's to look badassed (mainly because the guy under it placed second in the first ever World's Strongest Man competition)

  6. Aw, c'mon, Bart didn't have an afro (i.e., a perm). He just had long, thick, curly hair. See also LaMarr Hoyt.

  7. Bart Johnson was a "super" prep athlete. A graduate of Torrance High, SoCal, 1967. He actually skipped 7th grade because he was so physically mature. He inherited his prowess from his father who was also a great athlete. CalPrep magazine rated Bart the #1 prep basketball player in the state in 1966, when he would've only been 16 yrs old. That was at a time when Sydney Wicks, Stan Love (Kevin's dad), Reynaldo Brown, Paul Westphal and many others were playing. Bart was All CIF, and broke the 3 yr scoring record @ 1917 pts on his last game. Baseball, he was equally empressive as a pitcher and hitter. His catcher was Fred Kendall (Jason's dad). Bart was always low key with his abilities, never a braggart. I know because I saw all his games his senior yr- great memories!