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Alex Johnson wins the batting title

The Angels acquired Alex Johnson (along with utility infielder Chico Ruiz) from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitchers Jim McGlottextLgin, Vern Geishert and Pedro Borbon during the winter of 1969.

In securing Johnson, the Angels knew they were getting a talented player, a batter who had hit .315 and .312 in his last two seasons with the Reds. They also knew Johnson had a reputation for moodiness, a trigger like temper and an ability for creating stormy confrontations.

During the two short seasons Johnson spent with the Halos, he lived up to both expectations.

In 1970, Johnson became the first (and only) Angel ever to win a batting title when he edged Boston's Carl Yastrzemski on the last day of the season. The date was Oct. 1, 1970. The place, Anaheim Stadium. The opponent, the Chicago White Sox.

Johnson entered the contest needing two hits in no more than three at bats to wrest the batting crown from Yastrzemski. And he immediately complicated his task by grounding out in his first trip to the plate.

However, Johnson followed with a single to right in the third inning, thus setting the stage for a dramatic at bat in the fifth. "I didn't feel any pressure," he said of the moment. "I knew I had a big job to do."

And he wasted little time in accomplishing it.

On Jerry Janeski's first pitch, Johnson sent a high bouncer over third base that was backhanded by Bill Melton. The White Sox third baseman arched a long throw across the diamond but Johnson managed to cross the bag by more than a stride before the ball reached first base.

Soon after, manager Lefty Phillips sent in Jay Johnstone as a pinch-runner; he knew Johnson had edged Yastrzemski by a .0003 margin - .3289 to .3286.

"This is my biggest individual achievement," Johnson would say later. "The silver bat will be an elegant addition to my trophy case. I think I'll put it in my tropy case and let it do my talking."

During that 1970 campaign, Johnson recorded a pair of four-hit games, had three-hit outings nine times and a whopping 55 two-hit performances. In the 156 games in which he appeared, Johnson failed to get at least one hit on only 34 occasions.

He climaxed the year by hitting .381 (43/133) in the month of September, including a sizzling .468 (22/47) during the last 12 games. A model of consistency, he hit .327 at home and .331 on the road. His average was .329 prior to the All-Star Game, and .330 after.

"Winning the batting title is the biggest achievement of my life," Johnson said proudly. Alas, it would be his lone achievement as an Angel.

Immediately following a 1971 season plagued by fines, suspensions, discontent, unfulfilled promise, lack of hustle and strained nerves -- which alienated both his teammates and writers -- Johnson was traded to the Cleveland Indians.

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