Howard Johnson was an extremely popular baseball
player for the New York Mets
and several other teams in the 1980s and 1990s. Johnson, nicknamed "HoJo
", was a speedy, power-hitting infielder who was never able to consistently perform at the major league
level, but had some flashes of brilliance.
Johnson came up through the Detroit Tigers organization as a highly touted shortstop prospect. He broke into the majors in 1983, and was a reserve on Detroit's championship team in 1984. After that season, he was shipped to the Mets for pitcher Walt Terrell. Johnson was a key reserve on the Mets' 1986 championship team, backing up shortstop and third base. In 1987, Johnson was given a chance to play full-time when Ray Knight left the Mets via free agency. Johnson responded with 36 home runs and 101 runs batted in. Johnson was the Mets' regular third baseman from 1987 to 1991, hitting 20 or more home runs in each season. His most productive year was 1991, when he singlehandedly provided the Mets' offense with 38 home runs, 117 runs batted in, and 38 stolen bases. Johnson's defensive weaknesses led the Mets to convert him to an outfielder for the 1992 season. Johnson struggled mightily, hitting only 7 home runs while batting .223. After a similarly disappointing 1993 campaign, the Mets gave up on Johnson. He played a season each for the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies as a pinch hitter before retiring.
Johnson attempted a comeback with the Mets in 1997, but hit poorly and was cut from the team after spring training. He currently manages a minor-league team in the Mets' farm system, and has also worked for the Mets as a batting instructor.