09/28 17:58 CDT Johnstone, 2-time WS champ and popular prankster, dies at 74
Johnstone, 2-time WS champ and popular prankster, dies at 74
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) --- Jay Johnstone, who won World Series championships as a
versatile outfielder with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers while
being baseball's merry prankster, has died. He was 74.
He died last Saturday of complications from COVID-19 and also had suffered from
dementia in recent years, according to his daughter Mary Jayne Sarah Johnstone.
He died at a nursing home in Granada Hills, she said Monday.
"COVID was the one thing he couldn't fight," his daughter said by phone. "It's
really kind of shocking."
His family noted that Johnstone's time of death last Saturday occurred around
the same time Dodger Stadium was plunged into darkness because of a power
"He may have had a hand in it or a victory lap of remembrance," said Rick
Monday, Johnstone's former teammate and current Dodgers broadcaster.
Besides the Yankees and Dodgers, Johnstone played for the California Angels,
Chicago White Sox, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Chicago Cubs during a
20-year major league career that began in 1966 and ended in 1985. He had a
career batting average of .267, with 102 home runs and 531 RBIs.
In the 1981 World Series, Johnstone had a pinch-hit, two-run homer in Game 4
that rallied the Dodgers to an 8-7 win over the Yankees. That tied the series
at two games apiece, and the Dodgers won the next two games to claim the title.
"When the game was on the line, he was able to transform that little 7-year-old
child that was always in a playful mood into serious," Monday said. "Jay was
always bigger than life. If the team was in a spot where you felt your backs
were against the wall, he was one of the reliable guys."
In his first postseason experience, Johnstone went 7 for 9 as the Phillies got
swept by Cincinnati in the 1976 NL Championship Series. He played for the
Yankees when they beat the Dodgers to win the 1978 crown.
With the Angels, Johnstone preserved Clyde Wright's no-hitter against Oakland
on July 3, 1970. He caught a flyball by Reggie Jackson to straightaway center
field just in front of the wall in the seventh inning.
Johnstone possessed a sense of humor that he used to keep his teammates loose
with pranks. He would nail their cleats to the floor or set them on fire. He
cut out the crotch area of Rick Sutcliffe's underwear. Johnstone once replaced
the celebrity photos in the office of Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda with pictures
of himself, Jerry Reuss and Don Stanhouse. He locked Lasorda in his office
during spring training.
Another time, Johnstone and Reuss dressed up as groundskeepers to drag the
infield during a game. Returning to the dugout, they were fined on the spot by
Lasorda, who then asked Johnstone to pinch hit. He responded with a home run.
"Jay came back and wanted to know if he could get a discount on the fine,"
His daughter said Johnstone's pranks didn't end at the ballpark. She recalled
rubber snakes in their pool and spiders by the bathtub. She said her friends
loved being around her father because "he always made us laugh."
"He wanted to find the humor in life no matter how serious things got," she
said. "That was his motto to everything, bring a smile to people's faces.
Everyone loved him."
Johnstone's daughter said her favorite photo is one of her being held up by her
father in the Dodgers clubhouse after winning the 1981 World Series. The
Dodgers, who won their last World Series in 1988, begin the playoffs on
"I hope the Dodgers win it for him this year," she said.
After retiring, Johnstone briefly worked as a radio color commentator for the
Yankees and Phillies. During an interview with Yankee players Deion Sanders and
Mel Hall, he got them to uncover a restaurant bread basket containing a snake,
startling both players who jumped out of their seats.
Born John William Johnstone Jr. on Nov. 20, 1945, in Manchester, Connecticut,
he moved to Southern California a few years later. He grew up in West Covina
and attended Edgewood High, where he lettered in four sports. He was signed as
an undrafted free agent by the Angels in 1963 and made his major league debut
Johnstone appeared in the hit movie "The Naked Gun" as a member of the Seattle
Mariners in a game against the Angels. He wrote three books about his playing
days and the pranks he pulled.
He was active in the MLB Alumni Association, participating in charity events
and speaking engagements across the country. He attended old timers' games with
the Yankees and Dodgers as recently as 2018.
Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 52 years, Mary Jayne
Johnstone; sister Sandy Clairmont; and son-in-law Ryan Dudasik.
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