It seems like yesterday, but Brian Johnson’s epic game-winning homerun took place nearly a decade ago, almost to the day. Has it really been ten years?
Johnson grew up in Oakland, attending Skyline High School. He lettered in the three major sports, and was even Gary Payton’s backup on the hoops team. Interestingly enough, his best sport was probably football, as he earned a full scholarship to Stanford, where he was the starting quarterback during his first three seasons. In the meantime, he led the Cardinal baseball team to a pair of College World Series championships. The fun part: he played seven positions–all but catcher and second base.
Johnson was drafted by the Yankees in the 1989 Draft. He soon returned to catching duties, despite not playing catcher since high school. He cracked the big leagues in 1994, with the San Diego Padres.
But his moment in the sun was September 18, 1997. We’ll let the Giants official site do the honors:
After more than four hours of baseball, the teams were still stuck at five runs each when Johnson came to the plate to lead off the bottom of the 12th. Reliever Mark Guthrie threw one pitch, and Johnson clobbered it. It rode toward the wall in left, but having already seen an earlier Dodgers blow to nearly the same spot look like a sure home run, only to be knocked down by the Candlestick Park wind, the 52,140 in attendance held their breath.
When the ball cleared the fence and landed in the left-field bleachers, the ballpark erupted. It’s possible cars on nearby Highway 101 thought an earthquake was happening as the frenzied crowd celebrated wildly while Johnson circled the bases. The catcher later said he didn’t even feel his feet hitting the ground as he ran, and when he crossed the plate, his teammates mobbed him. The scoreboard itself almost seemed alive as it displayed the current NL West standings, with the Giants and Dodgers in a flat-footed tie.
That was the season of Dustiny. And no one epitomized that feeling more than Brian Johnson.