If you were a New York Mets fan in the mid to late 90’s, you’ll likely remember the speedy centerfielder, however you may not know that the true lefty actually entered and re-entered the draft three separate times before he would eventually sign with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1984.
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 6th, 1963, Johnson first entered the draft in 1981 and was drafted in the 30th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, however Johnson would decline to sign with the Bucs and instead bet on himself and try again in the future. Unfortunately, 1982 would not be the year as he would get drafted in the 31st round by the Seattle Mariners out of Triton College in River Grove, Illinois.
Again, Johnson would decide not to sign the contract and instead would go to the University of South Alabama. However, in the 1984 MLB June Amateur Draft, Johnson would be drafted in the 6th round by Cardinals and would finally sign a deal to play professionally.
Nicknamed “One Dog”, Johnson would make his MLB debut with Cardinals just three years later and went 0-2 against the San Francisco Giants. On February 9th, 1988, the Cardinals would eventually trade the centerfielder to the Chicago White Sox alongside Ricky Horton for Jose DeLeon.
The Mets would finally sign and acquire “One Dog” on December 14th, prior to the 1996 season.
Johnson would go on to have a career year in 1996 as he owned a slash line of .333/.362/.479/.841 with a league leading 227 hits, 31 doubles, a whopping and league leading 21 triples, 9 home runs while crossing the plate 117 times and driving in 69 RBI’s with 50 stolen bases to top it off.
In 1997, Johnson played in 72 games for Mets before he would be traded to the Chicago Cubs. He would end up hitting .309/.385/.404/.788 with 10 doubles, 6 triples, 1 home run, with 43 runs scored and 24 RBI’s with 15 stolen bases in 265 at-bats for the Orange & Blue.
On August 8th, 1997, the Mets and the Cubs would agree to a deal that would send Lance Johnson, Mark Clark, and Manny Alexander to Chicago for Brian McRae, Turk Wendell and Mel Rojas. I recall being upset and not really understanding why the trade was made but I also do recall rumors of Lance Johnson and manager Bobby Valentine bumping heads in the clubhouse.
In a season and a half, Johnson slashed at .326/.369/.458/.827 which is exactly what you need coming from your lead off batter. In 947 at-bats, “One Dog” had 41 doubles, 27 triples, 10 home runs with 160 runs scored, 93 RBI’s and 65 stolen bases during his Mets career.
While Lance Johnson didn’t stick around in Flushing, Queens for a long period of time, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of your favorite players during his tenure. I surely was one of mine and his numbers while with the Mets are pretty damn insane.