Former Foxes and Sox pitcher Bart Johnson dead at 70

Former Chicago White Sox pitcher and scout Bart Johnson, who spent parts of three seasons playing for the Appleton Foxes, died Wednesday at age 70. He had Parkinson’s disease.

Johnson was the White Sox’s top pick in the 1968 draft, and he made his professional debut with the Foxes later that year. He went 3-5 with a 2.69 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 67 innings (12 games/10 starts) for the ’68 Foxes. He returned to Appleton in 1969 and posted impressive numbers (16-4, 2.17 ERA, 200 strikeouts in 170 innings/22 starts) — and was the winning pitcher in the Midwest League All-Star Game — before the 19-year-old righthander was called up to the major leagues in September, just 15 months after signing with the team.

(Side note: The ’69 Foxes earned the MWL championship by winning both halves of the season. The league consisted of nine teams and did not have divisions at that time.)

Johnson ended up back in Appleton in 1972 when an injured right knee adversely affected his pitching. He pitched in only five games, posting a 0.53 ERA, 14 strikeouts and two saves in 17 innings, but also played 38 games as an outfielder after telling the White Sox he thought he could hit well enough to make it back to the majors as a position player. He batted .329 with 23 extra-base hits and 29 RBI for the Foxes, and .277 in 13 games for the Double-A Knoxville Sox that year, but went back to exclusively pitching when he returned to the big leagues the following season.

He became a scout for the White Sox after retiring from playing in 1980, and worked in that capacity through 1997. He later scouted for the Tampa Bay Rays.

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