Major League Managers with 27 World Series Titles Connected to Puerto Rico’s Winter League (Part VII)

Nineteen Major League managers who once played or managed in the Puerto Rico Winter League (PRWL) or barnstormed in Puerto Rico led their big league teams to a combined 27 World Series crowns,  from José Méndez, who led the 1924 Kansas City Monarchs to the first Negro World Series (aka 1924 Colored World Series) title, to Bruce Bochy, who managed the San Francisco Giants to 2010, 2012, and 2014 titles, plus the 2023 Texas Rangers to their first World Series title. Part VI covered Tom Lasorda (1981 and 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers). Part VII covers Davey Johnson (1986 New York Mets).

Johnson, born in Orlando, Florida, was a math wizard on January 30, 1943. He graduated from high school in San Antonio, Texas, in 1960 before attending Texas A&M University for two years and receiving a $25,000 signing bonus from Baltimore (1962). His minor-league career began at shortstop before playing second base. Earl Weaver managed Johnson at Elmira (1963), 1967-68 Santurce Crabbers, and 1968-1972 Baltimore Orioles. Johnson’s degree was from Trinity College in San Antonio, studying during off-seasons. By 1969, he shared computer printouts featuring line-up possibilities with Weaver. He shared thoughts on improving control with Dave McNally when the lefty was wild, per Johnson’s SABR bio by Mark Armour.

Santurce Dethroned by Caguas, 1967-68 PRWL Season

Davey Johnson reinforced the Santurce Crabbers, managed by Earl Weaver. Pitchers Jim Hardin and Dave Leonhard came down, as did Paul Blair and Larry Haney, due to the working agreement between Santurce and the Baltimore Orioles. Elrod Hendricks also caught for Santurce. Blair tore the ligaments in his right ankle on December 26, 1967, and was lost for the season. Davey Johnson stayed healthy for the Crabbers, hitting .271 with six HR and 30 RBIs. Orlando Cepeda, 1967 NL MVP, was activated just before Thanksgiving. Third baseman Tony Pérez posted a .307 BA, seven home runs, and 53 RBIs. Home attendance was 144,707, 4,130/game, 1,000 more per game than their 1966-67 championship season under Earl Weaver. Santurce won the regular season title, per Table I.

Table I: 1967-68 PRWL Standings

Santurce Crabbers47-22.681 
Caguas Criollos43-27.6144.5
San Juan Senators36-34.51411.5
Ponce Lions34-36.48613.5
Arecibo Wolves28-41.40619
Mayagüez Indios21-49.30026.5

Sources: Jorge Colón Delgado and José Crescioni Benítez.

Johnson had a .333 BA in the semi-final series win over Ponce and .250 in the finals, won by Caguas in six games. The last game was a 17-2 win by Caguas at Bithorn Stadium. Ted Savage robbed Cepeda of a three-run homer. Johnny Briggs took away another three-run home run by Cepeda. “I remember the beer that was thrown in my face at Bithorn,” recalled Savage. “Those Santurce fans were not pleased.” A two-hour rain delay compounded the agony. Julio Navarro was the winning pitcher, and relief ace Tom Timmerman pitched the final three frames. “It meant a lot,” said Navarro. “They [Santurce] were defending champions and very strong. We had a fine team with the league’s best reliever, Tom Timmerman, plus Grant Jackson, Tom Burgmeier, Cleon Jones, José Pagán, Jerry Morales, Guillermo Montañez, Félix Millán…” When Caguas radio announcer Héctor Rafael Vázquez proclaimed, “Timmerman was warming up,” it sent chills through Santurce fans.

Timmerman was the league leader with a 0.88 ERA. He recalled: “I had been in the minors since 1960; recently earned my college degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. I almost quit baseball when Dr. [Emigdio] Buonomo, Caguas’s owner, called me and changed my mind. He made arrangements to live in a beautiful three-bedroom Caguas house. The neighbors were nice; we had a lot of barbecues. A doctor took me lobster fishing in Fajardo.” For part of the season, Arturo López, Caguas outfielder, received a $250 check via mail in his New York home after the Criollos bested Santurce. The $250 was the winner’s final share. Earlier that season, he pitched batting practice to some Caguas youngsters, including Jerry Morales, Guillermo Montañez, and Jimmy Rosario.

Four World Series with Baltimore

Johnson earned his first World Series ring for the 1966 Baltimore Orioles after hitting .286 in the World Series versus the Dodgers. He got the final hit off Sandy Koufax, a single in Game Three. Hank Bauer, Orioles manager, gave Johnson the second base job in 1966. Harry Dalton, Orioles GM and a friend of Santurce owner Hiram Cuevas, opined: “We feel that this boy [Johnson] is going to be a big hitter among big-league second basemen. He has done everything that we have asked him to do. He has the intelligence to apply himself.” Johnson took graduate-level computer classes at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He won three straight AL Gold Gloves, 1969-to-1971, and was a 3x AL All-Star, 1968-to-1970. His best season for Baltimore was 1971: .282 BA, 18 HR, and 72 RBIs. Baltimore lost a memorable World Series to Pittsburgh, led by Roberto Clemente, after winning the 1970 Fall Classic versus Cincinnati. Johnson played in four Fall Classics, including the 1969 event won by the Mets. When LF Cleon Jones caught his fly ball, Johnson made the final out, Caguas’s 1967-68 left-fielder. Johnson was traded to Atlanta after the 1972 season when it became apparent that Bobby Grich would be Baltimore’s second baseman.

Davey Johnson’s 1973 Power Surge

At age 30, he hit 43 homers for the 1973 Atlanta Braves, the first Major League team with three players slugging 40 plus HR: Johnson (43), Darrell Evans (41), and Hank Aaron (40). They played in the PRWL: Aaron, Caguas, 1953-54, .322 BA, nine homers, 42 RBIs; Johnson, Santurce, 1967-68; and Evans, Bayamón, 1975-76, .276 BA, eight homers, 39 RBIs. (The author saw them play in a Braves home game while a Berry College Freshman in Rome, Georgia.) The PRWL was a launching pad for numerous big leaguers, from Hank Aaron to Richard Zisk! Table II has the Top 25 single-season home run totals by big league second basemen. Table III includes the most single-season big league HR by 34 ex-Santurce Crabbers players.

Table II: Top 25 Single-Season Homers, Major League Second Basemen

Marcus Semien2021TOR16245102.265
Davey Johnson#1973ATL15743>99.270
Brian Dozier2016MIN1554299.268
Rogers Hornsby^1922SLC15442152.401
Ryne Sandberg1990CHC15540100.306
Brandon Lowe2021TB1493999.247
Robinson Canó2016SEA16139103.298
Alfonso Soriano2002NYY15639102.300
Rogers Hornsby^1929CHC15639149.380
Rogers Hornsby^1925SLC13839143.403
Alfonso Soriano2003NYY1563891.290
Jay Bell#1999ARI15138112.289
Jeff Kent2002SFG15237108.313
Bret Boone2001SEA15837141.331
Dan Uggla2011ATL1613682.233
Aaron Hill2009TOR15836108.286
Alfonso Soriano2005TEX15636104.268
Max Muncy2019LAD1413598.251
Bret Boone2003SEA15935117.294
Javier Báez#2018CHC16034111.290
Brian Dozier2017MIN1523494.271
Ozzie Albies2023ATL14833109.280
Jorge Polanco2021MIN1523398.269
Roughned Odor2016TEX1503388.271
Robinson Canó2012NYY1613394.313

# Báez (2014-15), Bell (1987-88), and Johnson (1967-68) played with Santurce.

>One Johnson homer came as a pinch-hitter. ^Hornsby managed Ponce, 1950-51.

Johnson and Hornsby share the NL record for second basemen with 42 homers.


Table III: Most Single-Season Big League Homers for 34 Former Santurce Crabbers+

Player and PositionSeasonTeamGamesHRRBIsBAOBPSLGOPS
Roy Campanella-C1953BRO14441142.312.395.6111.006
Orlando Cepeda-1B1961SFG15246142.311.362.609.971
Davey Johnson-2B1973ATL1574399.270.370.546.916
Tony Pérez-3B1970CIN15840129.317.401.589.990
Jay Bell-SS1999ARI15138112.289.374.557.931
Juan González-LF>1993TEX14046118.310.368.6321.000
Willie Mays-CF1965SFG15752112.317.398.6451.043
Frank Robinson-RF#1966BAL15549122.316.410.6371.047
Reggie Jackson-DH^1969OAK15247118.275.410.6081.018
Sandy Alomar Jr.-C1997CLE1252183.324.354.545.900
Joshua Gibson-C1937HG392073.417.500.9741.474
Jorge Posada-C2003NYY14230101.281.405.518.922
Carlos Delgado-1B1999TOR15244134.272.377.571.948
Willie Montañez-1B1971PHI1583099.255.327.471.798
George Scott-1B1975MIL15836109.285.341.515.857
Bill White-1B1963SLC16227109.304.360.491.851
Roberto Alomar-2B1999CLE15924120.323.422.533.955
Javier Báez-2B2018CHC16034111.290.326.554.881
Ron Cey-3B1977LAD15330110.241.347.450.797
Robin Yount-SS1982MIL15629114.331.379.578.957
Dusty Baker-LF1977LAD1533086.291.364.512.876
Don Baylor-LF-DH1979CAL16236139.296.371.530.901
Paul Blair-CF1969BAL1502676.285.327.477.804
Willard Brown-CF1937KCM651165.368.417.6321.049
Gorman Thomas-CF1979MIL15645123.244.356.539.895
Roberto Clemente-RF1966PIT15429119.317.360.536.896
Rubén Sierra-RF1987TEX15830109.263.302.470.771
Darryl Strawberry-RF1987NYM15439104.284.398.583.981
Bob Thurman-RF/PH1956CIN741640.247.306.542.848
Benny Ayala-DH/PH1980BAL761033.265.335.500.835
Héctor Villanueva-DH1991CHC711332.276.346.542.887
Don Zimmer-UT1958LAD1271760.262.305.415.720
Roger Freed-PH<1977SLC49521.398.463.6271.090
Dave Kingman-DH1979CHC14548115.288.343.613.956

+Partial list. >Juan González played 129 140 games in LF (1993). #Frank Robinson

managed Santurce for eight seasons (1968-1971, 1972-75, and 1978-1980). ^Reggie Jackson

played RF for Santurce (1970-71). <Roger Freed had 83 AB in 1977. He hit six homers in

1971 and 1972. Sources: Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference, Stats Crew, and StatMuse.

Johnson played with Atlanta in 1974 but left for Japan after one Braves AB in 1975. He was with the Yomiuri Giants (Japan Central League) for two seasons, hitting .197 with 13 homers in 1975 and doubling his output to 26 HR in 1976. His most famous teammate was Sadaharu Oh, who hit 868 HR in his 22-year career with Yomiuri. Johnson finished his extensive league career with the 1977-78 Philadelphia Phillies and 1978 Chicago Cubs. His 13-year MLB slash line was .261/.340/.404/.744, with 136 HR and 609 RBIs. How many big leaguers were Hank Aaron’s teammate for two NL seasons and Oh’s teammate for two campaigns? One—Davey Johnson.

Johnson managed the Miami Amigos to a 51-21, .708 PCT, six-team Inter-American League. Play began on April 11, 1979, and ended June 30, 1979. Panamá Banqueros and Puerto Rico Boricuas, managed by José “Palillo” Santiago—disbanded on June 17. When play ended, Miami had a 10-game lead over the 37-27 Caracas Metropolitanos. Other teams were Santo Domingo Azucareros and Petroleros de Zulia. Bobby Maduro was the league founder. Palillo Santiago opined that 36-year-old Johnson showed “a lot of baseball smarts” as the Amigos skipper. Johnson played in 10 Amigos’ games, with six hits in 25 AB (.240 BA), two doubles, one home run, and two RBIs. His minor league slash line was .272/.351/.475, and .825 OPS.

In 1981, the New York Mets hired him to manage their Double-A affiliate in Jackson, Mississippi, Jackson Mets. They won the 1981 Texas League championship. Darryl Strawberry was their star player in 1982, with a .283/.419/.602 slash line, and 1.021 OPS. He cracked 34 homers and drove in 97. In 1995-96, Strawberry briefly played for the Santurce Crabbers, with a .355 BA, six homers, and 10 RBIs. Johnson managed the 1983 Tidewater (Triple-A) Tides, who won the league playoffs with a series win over the Richmond Braves behind Dwight Gooden, a post-season addition. Tidewater won the Triple-A World Series, a round-robin event. Jim Craig, former co-worker of the author in Mississippi, saw Johnson manage 1981 Jackson Mets contests, noting that Strawberry once stated: “The year [1982] in Jackson is when I really progressed.”

Johnson won 90 plus games each of the first five years he managed the New York Mets, 1984-to-1988, including 1986—108-54, with a World Series win over Boston. He successfully managed Cincinnati, Baltimore, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Washington Nationals. His seven years with the Mets showed a 595-417, .588 mark. Cincinnati was 204-72, .543, under Johnson, 1993-to-1995. He replaced Tony Pérez—his ex-1967-68 Santurce teammate—as Reds manager in May 1993. His 1996-1997 Orioles were 186-138, .574. The 1999-2000 Los Angeles Dodgers posted a 163-161 mark, .503, and the 2011-2013 Washington Nationals had a 224-183, .550 record. Overall, Johnson was 1,372-1,071 in 17 seasons, .562.

Johnson led Team USA to a Bronze Medal in the 2008 Olympics, hosted by China, and managed Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Reggie Smith (San Juan, 1966-67) and Mike Schmidt (Caguas, 1972-74) were two of his coaches. They finished fourth after losing to Venezuela for third place. Team USA was a combined 4-2 in the first two rounds, including an 11-1 loss to Puerto Rico. In the second round, they rebounded to defeat Puerto Rico, 6-5, to advance to the Final Four. Puerto Rico (4-2) and Cuba (4-2) finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Japan won this event.

1986 New York Mets Connection to the PRWL

Earl Weaver influenced Johnson’s managing style, including the Mets 1986 championship season when the latter effectively used his entire roster. Weaver was a proponent of and supported, winter ball experience and the 1955-56 second baseman for Águilas Cibaeñas (AC) in the LIDOM—Dominican Winter League. Here are six 1986 New York Mets players with their connection to the PRWL and LIDOM:

  • Catcher Gary Carter—Caguas, 1973-75; All-Star Catcher, February 1974 Caribbean Series, Mazatlán, Mexico.
  • First baseman Keith Hernández—1975-76 Ponce Lions, part of the season, managed by Ken Boyer.
  • Infielder Howard Johnson—1982-83 AC and 1983-84 Licey Tigers, LIDOM; performed superbly, 1983 Caribbean Series (Venezuela) and 1984 event (Puerto Rico).
  • Outfielder Mookie Wilson, 1979-80 Arecibo, led the PRWL with 28 SB. He stole 12 in 1980-81 when Rickey Henderson stole 44 for Ponce.
  • Outfielder Darryl Strawberry (Santurce) and hurler Dwight Gooden (San Juan) were on the comeback trail in 1995-96.


Before the 1995-96 PRWL season, the author interviewed Dwight Gooden at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, where Johnson played his 1967-68 home games. Gooden pitched three games for San Juan before returning to the States. This was a positive step for Gooden, who was 24-14 for the New York Yankees during 1996, 1997, and 2000. “I heard good things about the PRWL,” said Gooden. “I want to get in shape and continue my big league career.”  


With gratitude to Jim Craig, Dwight Gooden, Arturo López, Julio Navarro, Ray Negrón, José “Palillo” Santiago, Ted Savage, and Tom Timmerman. Jorge Colón Delgado did the editing and photo placements.

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