Friday, June 23, 2017
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
McCabe Magazine’s Where Are You Now?
Season 19 Hall of Famer Denny Johnson
Philadelphia, PA (McC.com) - Where are you now? Season 19 Hall of Fame inductee, and six time All-Star, Denny Johnson 664 Home Runs, 1824 RBIs, and a 312 lifetime batting average. Born in Lexington, Illinois where he was a two-sport all-state star, lettering in basketball and baseball, signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as a 19-year-old pitcher/outfielder at a tryout camp in Peoria, Denny quickly moved through the Phillies organization being promoted to the major league club in season one. The amazing thing about Mr. Johnson is he spent his entire 18 year pro career with one organization, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Denny Johnson 56, now working in the Phillies organization as a roaming instructor, resides in Greenville, Delaware which is only 34 miles south of Philadelphia where he won the World Series in season 2 and where he was crowned a 2 time MVP. He lives in Greenville with his wife of 37 years Elizabeth and son, 38-year-old DJ Junior who's a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and is currently working in the Phillies organization as Chief Operations Officer in charge of baseball operations. He is second in command in the Phillies organization next only to owner sbank65. DJ like his dad was a two-sport all-state letterman in basketball and baseball. The younger Johnson a 6 foot point guard from Penn had tryouts with the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, eventually landing a 10 day contract with the Knicks where he played in 28 games averaging 2.1 points, 1.4 assists and 0.6 rebounds. He eventually gave up his dream of playing in the NBA and return to school to pursue his law degree.
Elizabeth and Denny met while he was playing in the Florida State League with the Clearwater Threshers a class A affiliate of the Phillies. According to Denny the wedding was a “shotgun wedding” however Elizabeth remembers it quite differently. Denny says Elizabeth was 8 weeks pregnant with DJ Junior when Elizabeth's father showed up in the clubhouse with a shotgun demanding that Denny make things right with his only daughter. A hastily rushed wedding quickly followed a 3-2 victory over the Daytona Tortugas, a game in which Denny says he went 4-4 with 3 homers. However, a quick check of the stats shows that on that day he actually went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. The wedding was performed at home plate in front of a crowd of 2,360 Threshers fans. Elizabeth claims Denny’s story is not true, she says Denny actually proposed to her two weeks prior to the wedding in the back of his pickup truck under a full moon and star filled night in parking lot D at Spectrum Field home of the Threshers. She also added she was not 8 weeks pregnant, only 5 1/2 weeks pregnant.
When we arrived in Greenville we found Denny and Elizabeth sitting in front of the television wearing Denny’s old number 25 throwback jersey watching his favorite team, the Philadelphia Phillies and his favorite player, season 32 Rookie of the Year first-baseman Shawon Mathews. They both watch intensely as Matthews goes 1-5, 1 run scored and the Phillies beat the Cleveland Indians 5-2. “That kid,” Denny shouts “is going to win MVP this year.” Matthews is batting .343 with 8 home runs in 15 games this season and he gives lots of credit for his success to Denny for working with him in spring training and during his occasional visits to the ballpark. When Matthews won the award he thanked Johnson publicly during his acceptance speech for working with him throughout the year and for helping him believe in himself. Shawon said he wanted to quit baseball two years ago and it was Denny who talked him out of it. Matthews “I became upset and frustrated when I spent three seasons at the AAA level and felt the Phillies was never gonna call me up to the bigs. I was ready to quit but thanks to Denny he believed in me and encouraging me stick it out.” Denny says “ I didn't understand why the call didn't come sooner, somebody was asleep at the switch in the front office, the kid averaged 40+ homers and 120+ RBIs in the three seasons at the AAA level and the call wasn't coming, I didn't understand it myself, however I knew it would come.” He went on to say “I enjoy working with the young ball players, I spend a lot of time during spring training working with these kids, going down to the big park just helping out with their swings, and the approach to hitting. I just enjoy putting on the uniform again and hanging out with the team, chatting with some old friends in the front office, it's been great, the Phillies have been really good to me and my family.” These days In addition to working as an instructor for the Phillies Denny says he enjoys going to see high school football, basketball and baseball games, helping coach some of the Little League teams in the area, and visiting old friends and family back in Lexington. He also has quite a baseball card collection with his favorite being his own rookie card from season one.
McCabe Magazine spent three days with the Hall of Famer and his family in Greenville and we truly enjoyed our stay. If you're ever in Greenville, Delaware and looking for Denny Johnson, you’ll find him and Elizabeth in their living room, wearing baseball jerseys and watching his favorite team making a run at a division title and another World Series championship.
We hope you enjoyed our featured article “Where Are They Now” and would like to invite you to write a story or two to be posted in McCabe Magazine, thanks for reading!