But sometimes, you just have to look beyond the numbers. And The Great Pumpkin’s resume may be as impressive as anybody that has every worn a Rays uniform.
- September, 2008— The Rays improbable run appeared to be losing steam having lost three in a row. And with the lead down to a half-game, Johnson was called up from triple-A. He was originally supposed to start that game, but missed his flight. He arrived at Fenway Park mid-game, and was called as a pinch-hitter to lead off the 9th inning with the Rays trailing by one and Jonathon Papelbon on the mound. Johnson homered off of Papelbon, the Rays held their lead and went on to win their first division title.
- August, 2010— After being called up earlier that month, Johnson hit a walk-off home run off the Red Sox in the tenth inning to keep the Rays tied for first place.
- September, 2010— With the Rays trailing the Yankees by a half-game, Johnson went deep twice, including the go-ahead 2-run home run in the seventh inning.
- September, 2011 — And of course, the Great Pumpkin rose again last night with his game-tying home run with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning.
That is four games and five home runs of epic importance.
We tend to think teams honor too many players and retire too many numbers. But there is something special about what Johnson has done for this franchise to help bring a level of respect to the team.
A statue for Johnson seems extreme. But should the Rays retire his number when his career is over? Should the Rays created a monument dedicated to great moments in franchise history? We don’t know what the answer is. But it seems like he should be honored in some way.
* A player too good for triple-A but not good enough for the majors