The The 100 Greatest Colorado Rockies: 89 Charles Johnson
We continue our look at the top 100 Colorado Rockies of all time in this article. Here, we look at No. 89 on our list, Charles Johnson.
Charles Johnson was already great before he got to Colorado. Johnson was the fourth catcher in the majors to win a Gold Glove in his rookie season. The only others are Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Sandy Alomar Jr. While he didn’t have the offensive skillset that those all-time catchers did, he was a phenomenal catcher. His best year came for the World Champion Florida Marlins in 1997 where he had a 4.4 overall WAR. That year he set a record where he didn’t commit one error deservingly making it to his first All Star game that year. In the World Series he turned it on even further by leading the team with 10 hits and a .357 batting average. He won four consecutive gold gloves with the Marlins becoming a Miami sports legend.
Johnson’s first bout of history with the Rockies came long before he made his debut with the club. Al Lieter threw a no hitter against the Rockies in 1996 and Johnson caught the game. That was no small feet as the lineup included Eric Young, Walt Weiss, Dante Bichette, Andres Galarraga, Ellis Burks and Vinny Castilla just to name a few. The next year Johnson caught another no hitter against the Giants.
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Like every other player on that 1997 World Series team, Johnson got traded to Los Angeles. He went to Baltimore and the South Side of Chicago before returning to the Marlins where he played until 2002. In his second stint with the Marlins he caught his third no hitter and made his second All-Star appearance. This is where Johnson’s Colorado story begins.
Johnson was traded again by the Marlins before their 2003 World Series championship, along with Preston Wilson for Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre. Johnson made a solid performance in his two year stay in Denver with a 2.1 WAR. He hit 33 homers in those two years showing as much power as any Rockies catcher outside of Wilin Rosario. Johnson made a bit of history of his own against the Marlins when he hit a home run after teammates Matt Holliday and Jeromy Burnitz did before him in a row.
While he never matched his level of play in Colorado that he did in Florida, he brought semblance to the position. Joe Girardi and Jeff Reed did it in the early days for the Rockies. Johnson bridged the gap between that generation and the Rockies catchers that helped the club make it to the playoffs and beyond.