21. Davey Johnson, 2B (1965-1972)
All-Star: 1968, 1969, 1970
Gold Glove: 1969, 1970, 1971
Davey Johnson was signed by the Orioles in 1962 and started for four pennant winners and two World Series champions (1966, 1970) in his time with the Orioles.
Born January 30, 1943, in Orlando, Johnson took over at second base in 1966 for the O's, hitting an anemic .257/.298/.351 in 131 games. He improved to .247/.325/.376 the next season, a line that would be terrible now but was, at the time, above the league average OPS (.674). Johnson's put up just a .667 OPS in '68, but it was still better than the league (.659).
Offense went up in 1969, of course, and Johnson went with it, staying roughly as good as he had been before compared to the league. Johnson hit .280/.351/.391 with 34 doubles. His real improvement was in his BB/K ratio, which was 57/52 a year after going 44/80. He had an almost identical season in 1970, hitting .281/.360/.392.
1971 was Johnson's best season as an Oriole, as he hit .282/.351/.443 with 18 homers and 72 RBI.
In 1972, Johnson missed 44 games and hit only .221/.320/.335. He was traded because Earl Weaver felt he had lost range at second base. While the move did allow Bobby Grich to take over, Johnson exploded with the Braves in 1973 at age 30. He hit .270/.370/.546 with 43 homers and 99 RBI. Teammates Darrell Evans and Hank Aaron also hit 40 homers for Atlanta, making those Braves the first team ever to have three players with 40 homers in a single season.
But Weaver was right: Johnson was uncharacteristically error-happy at second base that year, committing 30 errors. The most he'd ever had in a season before then was 19, in his first full season. In 1974, he split time between first and second base, and his numbers came back to reality: .251/.358/.390 with 15 homers. He had just one at-bat in 1975 and signed with the Yomiuri Giants of Japan for two years, where he became the only player to be a teammate of both Hank Aaron and Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh. In his first season in Japan, Johnson hit just .197, but in 1976 he hit .275 with 26 homers.
Johnson came back to the majors in 1977 with Philadelphia, hitting well over 156 at-bats, and split 1978 between Philly and the Cubs. He retired after and immediately became a manager, winning pennants in each of his first three seasons in the New York Mets system. Having learned greatly from Weaver, Johnson wound up taking over the Mets in 1984. His Mets teams went 90-72 and 98-64 in his first two seasons, then won the World Series in 1986. After three more strong seasons with the Mets, Johnson was fired on May 29, 1990, after the Mets started 20-22. In 1993, he took over the Reds midway through the season and went 53-65. He had the team in first place when the strike hit in 1994, and won the NL Central in 1995.
In 1996, Johnson returned to the Orioles, managing the team to an 88-74 record and lost in the ALCS to the Yankees. In 1997, the Orioles won the AL East with a 98-64 record, but lost again in the ALCS. After not receiving a vote of confidence from Peter Angelos, Johnson resigned. Hours later, he was named the American League Manager of the Year.
1997 was the last season the Orioles had a winning record.