Johnson, 1970 AL batting champion, dies

Detroit native won crown on final at-bats for Angels; also stood out with Reds, Indians, Rangers

Johnson, 1970 AL batting champion, dies

Alex Johnson, the 1970 American League batting champion, died Saturday at age 72, reportedly due to complications from cancer.

The Detroit News and WXYZ-TV in Detroit reported Johnson's death, and visitation and memorial information was posted by a funeral home in his native Detroit.

Johnson, a right-handed-hitting outfielder who debuted in the Major Leagues with the Phillies in 1964, batted .329 for the California Angels in 1970 to lead the AL in batting. Johnson singled in his final two at-bats before leaving the Angels' last game of the season to finish with an average .0003 higher than that of Carl Yastrzemski, whose Red Sox had finished their season the previous day.

Johnson remains the only Angels player to win a batting title.

Traded five times from October 1965 through March 1973, Johnson never spent more than two seasons with any one team and played for eight of them in 13 big league seasons. He recorded a career .288 batting average, drove in 525 runs and stole 113 bases. He was an All-Star and finished eighth in AL Most Valuable Player voting in 1970.

After going from the Phillies to the Cardinals to the Reds, Johnson hit .312 and .315 in 1968 and '69 before being traded again, this time to the Angels. He was also a full-time player for the Indians (1972) and Rangers (1973-74), and finished his career with the Yankees (1974-75) and Tigers (1976).

Johnson was a high school teammate of Tigers great Willie Horton and also played sandlot ball with former Tigers star catcher Bill Freehan. Johnson's brother Ron was a halfback for the University of Michigan, finishing sixth in the 1968 Heisman Trophy voting, and was a two-time NFL Pro Bowler who played six seasons for the New York Giants.

Bobbie Dittmeier is an editor for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.