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Greg Johnston

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Gregory Bernard Johnston

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[edit] Biographical Information

Greg Johnston played parts of three seasons in the majors.

Johnston was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 12th round of the 1975 amateur draft. He made his pro debut the next year with the Fresno Giants, hitting .256/.314/.324 with 86 runs and 19 steals in 25 tries. He was 6th in the California League in strikeouts (103) and tied Kim Allen and Jack Perconte for 10th in steals. He was a busy man in the outfield, leading the league's flyhawks in putouts (311, 26 more than #2 Thad Bosley) while his 12 errors tied Ray Cosey for second behind Jeffrey Leonard. In 1976, the Los Angeles native produced at a .260/.337/.392 clip for the Waterbury Giants, with 89 runs, 30 doubles, 36 stolen bases (caught just 4 times) and 61 walks. He was third in the Eastern League in runs (behind Harry Spilman and Billy Severns), 4th in doubles (30), tied for 6th in hits (143, even with Lanny Phillips), first in steals (4 ahead of Jose Moreno), second in outfield putouts (308, 9 behind Severns), tied for third in outfield assists (12) and second in outfield errors (14, a distant 5 behind Nate Chapman).

Greg hit .274/.329/.372 for the 1978 Phoenix Giants and stole 34 bases in 46 attempts. Back with Phoenix the next year, he batted .296/.363/.458 with 10 triples, 10 home runs and 16 steals in 19 tries. He was 5th in the 1979 Pacific Coast League in triples. He got the call to the majors in late July and backed up Terry Whitfield, Bill North and Jack Clark the rest of the way for the 1979 Giants. He made his MLB debut pinch-running for 41-year-old Willie McCovey but was stranded. His first at-bat came as a pinch-hitter for John Curtis, fanning against Gaylord Perry. His first hit was a double off Mike Krukow August 14, scoring Curtis. He homered off Doug Capilla August 16 for his lone MLB dinger. He hit .203/.224/.270 in 76 plate appearances and 42 games for the '79 Giants.

Johnston was sold to the Minnesota Twins in the offseason. He spent most of 1980 with the Toledo Mud Hens, where he batted .296/.346/.434 with 14 homers and 22 steals in 29 tries. He tied Mike Richardt for 9th in the 1980 International League in stolen bases, tied for fifth in homers (with Sam Bowen, Rick Lisi, Jesus Vega and Greg Wells), was 5th in average (between Hubie Brooks and Mookie Wilson), was 7th in slugging (between Dan Duran and Terry Harper), was 5th in OPS (between John Valle and Wally Backman) and was 5th in outfield fielding percentage for players with 100+ games. He was named to the IL All-Star outfield alongside Dave Engle and Wilson. He was a September call-up to the 1980 Twins and went just 5 for 27 with 3 doubles, two walks, three runs and a RBI.

In 1980-1981, he hit .233/?/.312 with 29 runs and 19 RBI in 56 games for the Venezuelan League's Tigres de Aragua, swiping 10 bases. He was 2 for 16 with two walks and two runs for the 1981 Twins (his last MLB hit coming off Floyd Bannister) then was demoted. His offensive numbers were down for Toledo in 1981 (.235/.293/.348, 9 SB, 9 HR, 39 R). He tried moving on to Japan in 1982 but hit .256/.290/.415 for the Hanshin Tigers, with only four steals in six tries. He hit 10 home runs, scored 40 runs, drove in 37 and tied for 5th in the Central League with five triples. On August 31, he argued a call with home plate umpire Isao Okada and kicked dirt on the plate; Okada made him clean off the plate. It was one of a couple incidents that day that were precursors to the Violent Tiger Incident where two Hanshin coaches attacked Okada and 3B umpire Wataru Wakiya.

He had hit .276/.333/.403 with 81 steals in 106 runs, 235 runs and 248 RBI in 481 minor league games, fielding .973. He had pitched 3 shutout innings (1 H, 1 BB, 1 K) for Toledo in 1980-1981. In the majors, he had fielded .985 but hit only .188/.226/.256 with 10 runs and 8 RBI in 63 games. For a player noted for speed in the minors, he never tried to steal in the majors.

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