Our Dodgers in time series covers important people within the Dodger organization, which include players, managers, coaches, executives, owners, concession workers, scouts, and fans. On this lazy Sunday afternoon, our Dodgers in time piece will be covering former Dodger outfielder Jay Johnstone, also known as the “Prince of Prank”.
Jay Johnstone was an outfielder, and pinch-hitter who played as a part time player for eight different MLB teams over a 20 year career. Johnstone is most well known for his hilarious pranks he pulled on his teammates, and managers throughout his long career. Dodger legend, former manager, and site namesake Tommy Lasorda was a favorite victim of Johnstone’s antics.
Johnstone is the guy who made “hot-footing” famous at the ball park. If you have never seen one of these, a hot foot is when a player sets a teammate’s cleats or shoes on fire. Johnstone had many more pranks he pulled during his tenure with the Dodgers. He once put a soggy brownie in Steve Garvey’s glove. Other notable jokes include cutting a hole in the crotch of pitcher Rick Suttcliffe’s underwear. He nailed teammate’s cleats to the floor, and once dressed up as a Dodger Stadium groundskeeper and swept the field between innings. He loved to prank Lasorda.
Johnstone once locked Tommy in his office during spring training, while removing the receiver of the phone, so nobody could hear him if he tried to use the phone. There was one time where he dressed up as Tommy wearing fake padding underneath his uniform and waddled out to the mound pretending to make a pitching change carrying a can of slim fast, and Tommy’s book. He replaced some of the photos of famous people in Tommy’s office with pictures of teammates Jerry Reuss, Don Stanhouse, and himself. Perhaps the craziest of his stunts, was the time he climbed into the stands to get a hot dog. Before one game at Dodger Stadium, Johnstone was hungry, so he decided to climb up over the dugout in full uniform, and stand in line to get a hot dog. My Uncle still was sharing his season tickets behind the Dodger dugout, and told me Tommy poked his head to yell at him to get back in the dugout. That’s just classic hilarity right there. Imagine being there first hand, waiting in line to get a hot dog, and seeing Jay Johnstone in full uniform standing right behind you. Well played Jay. Well played.
Johnstone was a left handed hitting outfielder originally signed by the Angels as an amateur free agent back in 1963. Johnstone while born in Connecticut, was a local boy, who attended Edgewood high school in West Covina, California. Johnstone made his MLB debut in 1966 with the Angels, and played his first five seasons with the Angels. Johnstone would go onto play for the White Sox, A’s, Phillies, Yankees, Padres, Dodgers, and Cubs.
During his career, Johnstone was a .267 hitter with 102 home runs, 531 RBI in 5229 plate appearances. He finished with 1,254 hits. Johnstone played two different stints with the Dodgers. The first stint was from 1980-1982 in which he was a member of the Dodger’s 1981 World Series championship team. The second was in 1985, during his final Major League season in which he only served as a pinch-hitter. Johnstone played most of his career as a right fielder, but played all three outfield positions.
Johnstone had a few memorable moments on the field as a player. He preserved Clyde Wright’s 1970 no-hitter against the A’s, when he made a nice catch against the center field wall to rob Reggie Jackson of a home run in the seventh inning. During the 1976 NLCS, he went 7 for 9 as a Phillies in a losing cause versus the Reds. But as a Dodger his best achievement was a pinch-hit two run home run in the sixth inning of game four of the 1981 World Series against the Yankees. The two run shot put the Dodgers within one run, eventually helping the boys in blue to a game four and series win over their World Series rivals. Those would be Johnstone’s most memorable moments on the field, otherwise he’s more known for his practical jokes off the field. Later on after his playing days were over, Johnston became an announcer, and continued his zany antics. He co-wrote three books about his playing days, and details about how to effectively make a hot foot.
Johnstone is also remembered for singing the Queen song “ We are the Champions” along with teammates Jerry Reuss, Steve Garvey, and Rick Monday on the T.V. show Solid Gold, after the Dodgers won the 1981 World Series. Speaking of his teammate Monday, both men share many odd similarities. Both have the same birthday, Both served in the marines, and both were members of the Cubs, Dodgers, and A’s around the same time.
Johnstone will forever be remembered for his funny pranks, especially his pranks on Lasorda. For that, we salute you Jay, a true blue Dodger in time.