Deron Johnson, the San Diego native who spent 16 seasons in the major leagues and most recently was batting instructor for the Angels, died Thursday after fighting lung cancer for nearly a year.
Johnson, 53, learned of the condition last summer and refused hospitalization and treatment, choosing to retain what he called a quality lifestyle by remaining in the company of his family at their home, where he often was visited by Angel players, coaches and longtime baseball colleagues.
“DJ was always a player’s player, a man’s man,” Angel Manager Buck Rodgers said. “He played this battle like every other. You have to admire the way he and his family handled it. All of us in the Angel organization will miss him.”
Last season marked Johnson’s third year coaching the Angels’ hitters. After being diagnosed with cancer last June, Johnson was named a bench coach for this season.
A former San Diego High baseball and football standout, Johnson spent 16 seasons in the major leagues, playing for nine organizations. He had a career average of .244 with 245 home runs and 923 runs batted in.
He hit 32 home runs and drove in 130 runs to lead the National League as a member of the Cincinnati Reds in 1965 and hit 34 homers with 95 RBI for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1971, when he tied a major league record with four home runs in consecutive plate appearances. He hit 20 or more homers five times and drove in 80 or more runs six times.
He played on the 1973 and 1974 world champion Oakland Athletic teams.
Johnson served as the Angels’ batting instructor in 1979 and coached with the New York Mets, Phillies, Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox before returning to the Angels in 1988.
The Angels will wear the initials “DJ” on their uniform sleeve for the remainder of the year.
Johnson is survived by his wife of 30 years, Lucy Ann; their two sons, Deron Jr., a golf professional, and Dominick, a pitcher with the Angels’ Class A farm club at Palm Springs; and their daughter Dena, a high school senior.
Visitation is scheduled Monday at Poway Bernardo Mortuary, with services to be held Tuesday at San Gabriel Church.