Two memorable games from the Sheboygan A’s Yearbook/Record Book:
July 10, 1999 (A’s won 3-0 in Janesville) – Mike Johnson threw a 3-hit shutout with six strikeouts as the A’s hung a rare loss on Tom Klawitter.
June 13, 2000 (Janesville won 4-0 in Sheboygan) – Tom Klawitter, the Wisconsin State League’s all-time winningest pitcher and strikeout king, shut out the A’s on one hit, a 2-out 7th inning single by Jason Bartelt, to leave the veteran just one hitter away from a no-hit game. Mike Johnson was the hard-luck loser.
That 3-0 win launched a sweep weekend on the road for the A’s who ran up a 29-11 league record that year. But that season may have had the best collection of Wisconsin State League’s teams ever assembled and the A’s finished third that year as Chicago Prairie Gravel and the Lombard Orioles both went 29-8 to share the title. The 4-0 loss hurt some, but not so much; the A’s went on to win the pennant that year.
Mike Johnson was elected to the Sheboygan A’s Hall of Fame and will be inducted next summer.
When pressed for his top personal career memory of his career, Johnson, who considers a blue collar contributor and the farthest thing from a “star” player, reluctantly, almost bashfully cited the Klawitter games.
“I’ll never forget beating Klawitter,” he said. (The Janesville lefthander made the Minnesota Twins roster and holds just about every State League pitching record.) “Then the next year he almost threw a no-hitter at me.
But shutting out Klawitter’s Aces on that hot July evening isn’t what put Johnson in the Hall of Fame. It was his overall contribution.
He was 21-11 with a 2.84 earned run average as a pitcher.
He hit .293 in 334 games and 1,131 plate appearances.
He played a solid second base finishing his 7-season career handling a 1,089 chances with a .936 fielding percentage. He participated in 125 double plays.
He managed in 2006, guiding the A’s to a 38-23 record and depending on how you look at it either a second or a fourth place finish. Eau Claire, Kenosha and Lombard shared the title at 19-9, the A’s were next, 17-11.
He was happy to talk about his favorite overall memory though.
“The year we won it, 2000,” he immediately responded. “That was far and away my top memory – the players were really tight. I’ll never forget that season and the guys on that team (Randy) Wilke, Barty (Jason Bartelt), (Michael) Casper, Chad (Gorman), Bisch (Jason and Nick Bischoff), all of them,” he said.
“Those teammates had a lasting effect on me. The time and effort they put in taught me a lot about what it takes to succeed in life.”
Highlight reel aside, Johnson insisted on his view of his career.
“I’d say I was a player who showed up every day, tried to help the team, worked hard. I never thought of myself as an all-star kind of player. I enjoyed my time with the A’s,” he said.
Craig Kloes, who managed Johnson for two seasons, remembered him as a true competitor who would do whatever you asked, even though he might not have been happy about it..
Kloes relates that he really wanted to play second base.
“He wanted to be out there. As effective as he was he really didn’t want to pitch, he wanted to be at second base. One night, I think we were in Oshkosh, I had him DHing. He didn’t like that plan. As I remember, he did it, but we had quite a discussion on the bus ride home,”Kloes said. “MJ was a battler; he was a good one.”
Johnson played seven seasons with the A’s finishing with a .293 average, Johnson had three .300+ seasons, .333 in 2006, .332 in 2002, and .304 in 2000. In addition he had two near miss seasons, .293 in his rookie 1998 season and .299 in 2003.
His best years on the hill were 1998 (7-2, 367), 1999 (6-5, 2.02, 3 shutouts) and 2001 (3-0, 2.59).
Among his highlights are:
- A 5-hit game against Green Bay Aug. 19, 2001. He had four singles and hit a grand slam home run that ended the game by the mercy rule
- One of 12 A’s pitchers to throw a 1-hitter. He 1-hit the Lombard Collegiate Orioles July 17, 1999. The hit was a lead-off single. He threw a no-hitter the rest of the way
- He participated in 35 double plays in 2003, the most ever in a season by a non-first baseman
- He appears in several top 10 lists. One season - hitting: games played 64, 2002; plate appearances 260, 2002; at bats 232, 2002; sacrifice hits 7, 2002; fielding: double plays 35, 2003; pitching: shutouts 3, 1999. Career - hitting: games played 334; sacrifices 21; hit by pitch 19; fielding: games played 293, assists 546, double plays 125; pitching: complete games, 17
Johnson is employed by the Sheboygan Parks Department. He resides in Cedar Grove with his wife Darcy and daughters Madisyn and Aubrey.
The Sheboygan A's are members of the Wisconsin State League and Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball League. The A's have helped develop more than 41 players that have reached professional baseball, including 2002 World Series Champion Jarrod Washburn (Anaheim Angels). All Sheboygan A's home games are played at Wildwood Baseball Park in Sheboygan. Connect with the A's on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.comments powered by Disqus