Former Pawtucket Red Sox Manager and Boston Red Sox first base coach, Ron Johnson, has died of complications from COVID-19 in Tennessee, according to the Virginia-Pilot. The newspaper said family sources confirmed his death.
Johnson, 64, was a former major league first baseman and popular minor league manager with a career record of 1,752 wins and 1,770 losses in 24 minor league seasons. During his career he was credited with helping develop several future Major League stars.
He managed the Pawtucket Red Sox from 2005-2009, compiling a 357-359 record. He also served as the Red Sox first base coach for two seasons under former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona.
He went on to manage the Baltimore Orioles’ Triple-A Norfolk Tides from 2012-2018, becoming the winningest manager in Tides history with 491 wins. He was named International League Manager of the Year in 2015 and the Orioles’ Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award, given to the organization’s minor league staffer “who exemplifies Ripken’s qualities as an instructor.”
He was fired in 2018 when the Orioles went through an organization overhaul and decided to retire.
He also managed the Omaha Golden Spikes (1999) and Omaha Royals (1998). He joined the Red Sox organization in 2000 when he took over as manager of the Class A Sarasota Red Sox, went on to manage the Double-A Trenton Thunder in 2002. The franchise moved to Portland, Maine in 2003, where Johnson managed the team for two more seasons, before moving to the Pawsox.
A native of Long Beach, California, he was a graduate of Fresno State. He appeared in 22 major league games with the Kansas City Royals and Montreal Expos from 1982-1984. As a major leaguer he hit .261 and in 830 minor league games, he hit .289.
The Virginia Pilot described him as a loving husband and devoted father. He and his wife, Daphane, had five children, including former major league star Chris Johnson.
According to the Virginia Pilot, Johnson “became known at Harbor Park for his animated ejections, which usually ended with him tossing his hat into the stands as he entered the first base dugout. Few people knew that Johnson had a clubhouse attendant find the fan who caught the hat and retrieve it in exchange for an autographed version.”