Story by Alan Cannon, Athletics Communications
Davey Johnson, who played and lettered in both baseball and basketball at Texas A&M, has been named the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award winner by the Texas A&M Lettermen’s Association. The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an Aggie letterman who has reached the pinnacle of success in their chosen field.
Davey Johnson not only reached the pinnacle of his baseball profession as a player, but as a manager as well.
As a second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, Johnson helped Baltimore to four American League pennants and two World Series Championships. The Orioles beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966 and defeated the Cincinnati Reds in 1970 with Johnson hitting .313 in the series. Johnson played in the same infield as first baseman Boog Powell, shortstop Mark Belanger and third baseman Brooks Robinson.
The slick fielder also won three Gold Gloves as a second baseman. Johnson, a four-time All-Star selection, played in major league baseball from 1965 through 1975 before playing two seasons in Japan and then finishing his MLB playing career in 1977 and 1978. After being traded to the Atlanta Braves (1973-75), Johnson hit a career-high 43 homeruns in the 1973 season which stood as a record in MLB baseball for a second baseman in a single season until the Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semein hit 45 last year.
“One interesting note about my playing career,” Johnson explained. “I was the last player to get a hit off of Sandy Koufax. He retired after the 1966 World Series.”
As a manager, Johnson led the New York Mets to the World Series Championship in 1986. He served as the skipper of the Mets from 1984-90, managed the Cincinnati Reds (1993-95), the Baltimore Orioles (1996-97), the Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2000), and the Washington Nationals (2011-13). He was named Manager of the Year in 1997 with the Orioles and in 2012 with the Nationals and he managed the National club in the 1987 All-Star Game. Taking away partial seasons, Johnson only had one club finish below second place and he took four different franchises to the post-season.
A self-proclaimed Army brat, Johnson moved with his family to Army bases in Germany, Georgia, Wyoming and Texas. His family settled in San Antonio, Texas, and Johnson attended Alamo Heights High School where Aggie head baseball coach Tom Chandler recruited him.
“I consider Tom Chandler one of the best coaches of all-time,” Johnson said. “He recruited me and offered me a four-year scholarship. I wanted a good education and a chance to play baseball and so he came to San Antonio to take me to dinner and handed me a piece of paper and the scholarship said for one year. I told him, ‘Coach, you said this is for four years.’ Coach Chandler replied, “that’s the problem with youth today, they are always looking for security instead of an opportunity!”.
Johnson would stay at Texas A&M for two years before signing a professional baseball contract.
Johnson was also a good basketball player and played for Coach Shelby Metcalf on the Fish basketball team (1960-61) averaging 8.6 points in 12 games as the Fish finished 9-3, before playing on the Fish baseball team for Coach Chandler (1961). The varsity Aggie hoopsters were undefeated at G. Rollie White in the 1960-61 and 1961-62 seasons.
“I was a fair basketball player and played with Bennie Lenox and Carroll Broussard,” Johnson said. “The next thing I know I am on a basketball scholarship and getting to stay in Henderson Hall with the football and basketball players. That also helped Coach Chandler so he could go recruit some more guys for our baseball team.”
Johnson’s sophomore year in Aggieland he lettered in basketball for the 1961-62 season.
“We are playing at Texas Tech and they have a guy averaging 35 points a game,” Johnson explained. “I was a pretty good defender and I held the guy to five points at halftime, but I had a couple of fouls. Coach Rogers does not start me in the second half and the guy just blows up and they beat us. After the game, Rogers hits me on the head, “I forgot about you Johnson!”
One of the other things Johnson loved about coming to Aggieland was fishing with Coach Metcalf.
“Shelby and I would go down to the river and drop some trot lines in the river,” Johnson stated. “He and I loved to fish so any chance we got to go anywhere close to town, we did.”
Johnson also started at shortstop and lettered for Coach Chandler in 1962. Johnson hit .309 with six homeruns and had 20 RBI to help the Aggie diamond club finish 18-7 overall and 11-4 in Southwest Conference play. A pitcher on the squad was none other than 2022 Texas A&M Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Chuck McGuire. McGuire led the club in innings pitched (62.2) and posted a 5-2 record with a 2.28 ERA.
“I love Texas A&M and I will say Coach Chandler was a classic, a guy who taught me real respect for the game of baseball and gave me an opportunity to show what I could do on the baseball diamond,” Johnson said. “It’s been a while since I have been to Aggieland and I am looking forward to coming back.”
As a major league baseball player, even Johnson’s trip to play baseball in Japan had a little Texas A&M flavor.
“I cleared waivers in 1975 and Japan was going to give me a $160,000 bonus with a $100,000 salary,” Johnson explained. “So Charlie Finley from the Oakland A’s calls me and wants me to come play for his club. When he calls he tells me he is with a friend of mine, Coach Bear Bryant from Alabama. Coach Bear Bryant was at Alabama but knew I played at Texas A&M. We had talked a few times when I was in Atlanta. So Finley gives the phone to Coach Bryant. Coach Bryant says, ‘you’re an Aggie, you’re an American, you need to stay and play baseball in America.’ When I told Coach Bryant about my offer from Japan, he turns to Finley and says, ‘You can’t afford him!’
Johnson earned a mathematics degree and was ahead of his time in many areas of baseball, especially when it came to computers and analytics. He would input data into a computer and determine different lineups to maximize production.
Burgess Banquet Ticket Information
If you would like to purchase tickets to the 44th Annual Burgess Banquet on Friday, Sept. 2, visit aggielettermen.org/burgessbanquet.