Dave Johnson (johnsda04)

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David Wayne Johnson

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Biographical Information[edit]

Dave Johnson starred as a pitching "Joe Hardy" for the Baltimore Orioles in 1989.

Johnson had had a cup of coffee with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1987, appearing in relief 5 times and accumulating an ERA above 9. A Baltimore, MD native, Johnson had been released by the Pirates after leading the 1988 American Association in wins (15). Baltimore traded for him from the Astros at the end of 1989 spring training. While the 1988 team lost their first 21 games and 107 games in total, the 1989 Orioles got hot in late May, rose to the top of the mediocre AL East and stayed there with a 5-to-7 game lead through June and into July. An 8-game losing streak in late July, followed by a win and another 3 losses to close the month, brought the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox to within 3 games of Baltimore, and 6 teams were within 5 1/2 games of each other in the East when Johnson was called up on August 1st to pitch in Boston in the second game of a doubleheader. Johnson was serviceable, but unspectacular in a 6-2 loss. But when the Orioles returned to Baltimore, Johnson would begin his rise to cult-hero status.

Johnson faced the Minnesota Twins on August 8th, gave up a lead-off triple, but allowed only that runner to score in a complete game 8-hit win (6-1). Five days later, again in Baltimore, Johnson faced the Red Sox, who'd closed to a game and a half back. Johnson repeated his previous home performance, giving up a first-inning run and nothing else in his second consecutive complete game, 6-1 victory (this time a 6-hitter). Johnson's next two starts were also at home. He lost to Toronto, but came back 4 days later to pitch his 3rd complete game victory in 4 starts, a 4-2 (5-hit) win over the second-place Milwaukee Brewers. Following Johnson's first start, the Orioles, who had lost 13 of 14 before his arrival, had gone 19-11 through the balance of August. Johnson, coming from out of nowhere and being a Baltimore native, became the darling of the city.

The Orioles went into the final series of the season in Toronto, one game behind the Blue Jays. Toronto won the first game and Pete Harnisch was scheduled to pitch on Saturday. But Harnisch reportedly stepped on a nail walking from the stadium to the hotel after Friday's game, and Johnson started the game on 3 days' rest for the second straight start and 5th time in 2 months. The Orioles led 3-1 when Johnson was lifted after walking the lead-off hitter in the 8th. Toronto scored 3 runs that inning and clinched the pennant with a 4-3 win.

The reversal of the '89 Orioles, going from "worst to [almost] first" captured the imagination of the city, and Johnson's myth of the local truck driver who came out of nowhere to help the hometown team carried special resonance for Baltimore fans. He was in fact not the only story of this type for the team, as reliever Kevin Hickey also contributed an excellent season after being out of baseball for a while.

Bill James Baseball Book (1991) said that Johnson had allowed only one stolen base in his major league career, and that only "a few" runners had ever tried to steal on him and most had been thrown out.

Dave Johnson lost a no-hitter with 2 outs in the 9th in the final home game for the Alexandria Dukes of the Carolina League at Four Mile Run Park.

His son Steve Johnson reached the major leagues with the Orioles in 2012. Steve Johnson took the mound August 8, 2012 for the Orioles against the Seattle Mariners. Little did the crowd know, this would be an extra-special night for the Johnson family. Making his first career start, Steve Johnson was extremely impressive as he dazzled the Baltimore crowd. After pitching six innings, the rookie recorded nine strikeouts while giving up just two earned runs. His performance was more than enough to secure his first MLB victory. The Orioles came away with a 9-2 win, but that was not the special news of the night. Steve Johnson’s victory came exactly 23 years after Dave Johnson recorded his first MLB win. Dave recorded his first Major League win on August 8, 1989, as he pitched a complete game, defeating the Minnesota Twins 6-1. Like father, like son.

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