06/08/10 10:50 AM ET
Johnson's collection included Ryan
D-backs second baseman a fan of the Hall of Fame pitcher
By George Castle / Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
But long before he appeared on a card, leadoff man Johnson was an avid card collector.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Who were your favorite players to collect?
Johnson: I bought the plastic cases that were so thick, and I still have many of them today. I had as many Barry Bonds cards and as many Ken Griffey Jr. cards as I could get. I had very few Giants cards with Bonds, but I never went out of my way to get that Upper Deck Griffey rookie card from 1989. My brother [Will] and I got a Will Clark rookie card because he was a guy we both liked a lot.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What was the best thing about collecting cards?
Johnson: It was fun. I do remember talking about how many cards guys had. I remember buying the big box and counting them, and writing on each row how many were in each row. I can't even pretend to know how many, but I still have them somewhere. When you're a kid, it's about how many cards you have.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Were there any teams that you tried to collect?
Johnson: I grew up in Austin, Texas, and had grandparents in Houston. The first game I went to was in the Astrodome. I had some team cards from going to games. My dad loved Ken Caminiti. Roger Clemens was a Texas boy, so we had some of him. [Kelly] Gruber grew up in Austin, so we had some Gruber stuff. A lot of Cubs and Braves games were on TV, so we had some Braves and Cubs cards. And every time I got a Nolan Ryan card, you'd put them in those special plastic cases.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you ever get any of your cards signed by players?
Johnson: If I find any Mark Grace [now a Diamondbacks broadcaster] cards, I'll have him sign every one of them. He had that surfer look going back then. Keith Moreland, now an Austin resident, was our summer ball coach. Only after I played for him did I go back and look for some of his cards. Between he and Lee Tunnell, I set some aside.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you trade cards with your friends?
Johnson: Yes. Everybody's got their own favorites and who they liked. There always was lopsided trades one way or another. It was fun. I have a lot of memories of it. I wish it was something that still went on in the way it did for us.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Where did you first appear on a card?
Johnson: When I was in the Gulf Coast League, I remember being in a Braves uniform. The Braves owned almost all their Minor League teams. The only team they didn't own was the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans. They had the teal and yellow, gold and black unis. Those were the only uniforms we had that were crazy. Everything else was Braves uniforms.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What's your favorite big league card?
Johnson: They had a retro-card series where they blurred your picture into kind of a like a drawing. There's one of them that had a green border that looked like it was from the 1950s. I picture someone like Sandy Koufax being on that card. They were great cards.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.