Former major league outfielder Jay Johnstone, who was known as both an elite pinch hitter and one of baseball’s most famous pranksters of his day, has died at age 74.
Los Angeles television station FOX 11 reported he died of complications from COVID-19, which his daughter Mary Jayne Sarah Johnstone confirmed in separate reports.
In 20 seasons (1966-85), he played for eight teams but perhaps is best remembered for a home run he hit in Game 4 of the 1981 World Series, when his Dodgers beat the New York Yankees in six games.
“The Dodgers are saddened by the passing of former Dodger Jay Johnstone and offer their deepest condolences to his family and friends,” the Dodgers wrote on Twitter.
The Major League Players Association also remembered him on social media and touched on his reputation for being a prankster.
“Jay Johnstone’s spunky spirit and zest for life will never be forgotten. Rest in peace to the two-time World Series champ,” the union posted on Facebook.
Born in Connecticut, Johnstone grew up in West Covina, Calif. He made his major-league debut with the California Angels in 1966 at age 20.
After five seasons in Anaheim, Johnstone played for the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs in addition to the Dodgers.
He also won a World Series in 1978 with the Yankees over the Dodgers. But in 1981, when he was in the opposing dugout, his sixth-inning, pinch-hit home run in Game 4 helped the Dodgers to an 8-7 win and a tie in the series with the Yankees at two games each. The Dodgers won the championship in six games.
Johnstone finished with a career .267 batting average with 102 home runs and 531 RBIs in 1,748 regular-season games.
–Field Level Media