Thursday, February 19, 2009

#35 & 36 -- Jerry Johnson & "In Action"

Jerry Johnson

In 1971 Jerry was the top reliever on the Giants team that won the NL West. His 18 saves were 4th in the league. To make the All-Star team now, you’ve got to have more saves than that by the break. Of course in 1971 (1) more pitchers were throwing something called a complete game, so they didn't need relievers and (2) managers didn't give a rat's ass if a pitcher got a stat or not. The only important stat for Charlie Fox in 1971 was something called a "win."

Jerry didn’t repeat his success in 1972, going 8-6 4.42 with 8 saves. The Giants waived him. Didn’t even try to trade him. He had MVP votes the previous year and they didn’t think they could get any value for him. I guess you could do that when you had a few thousand tied up in a guy rather than a few million. Again, the rationale for whether to play or waive a guy in the early 1970's had nothing to do with contracts, but was all about winning. Today, a guy can lose his effectiveness as a closer, but he stays around. Heck, Eric Gagne just signed a minor league deal with the Brewers. Gagne was a great reliever before arm problems, but if you look at his anticipated effectiveness for 2009, you would think he would be a little less desirable than somebody like Jerry Johnson.

Unfortunately, the rest of Jerry’s career was mediocre at best. He bounced around with the Phils, Cards, Indians, Astros, Padres and Blue Jays. He was the winning pitcher in the Blue Jays first game, helping bail out Bill Singer, who we saw recently.

I can’t tell anything about the "action" in the In Action card. I know the game isn’t in June, because this photo was taken in Candlestick Park, the shadow suggests it’s late in the day and the few fans in the background aren’t huddled in blankets. But what’s Jerry doing? Is he walking off the mound after getting an inning-ending strikeout? Did he just get caught finishing his windup in warm-ups? Is he going to cover first on a bouncer to McCovey? It’s a good thing they’ve cropped this to close up on Jerry so we can’t see the rest of the field because the shadow keeps us from seeing Jerry’s face.


  1. This is awesome! I love the 1972 set. The Seaver card is my favorite of all time!

  2. 8-6 4.42 with 8 saves
    That would be a good year for a lot of pitchers now.