By The Old Sachem
This week we look at another old-time All-Pro, Ron Johnson, a running back of the New York Giants from 1970 to 1975. But first I would like to discuss two items that appeared recently.
The first is the issue of boys playing on girls’ high school teams. The field hockey team from Somerset-Berkley recently became state champions with a pair of boys on the squad: Lucas Crook, a high scoring junior, son of coach Jen Crook, and a defender, and another junior overpowered opponents while achieving a record of 23 wins and a single loss. Jen Quinn, coach of Walpole and Kim Meehan of King-Phillip are working to have the MIAA change the rules about boys playing on girls teams where they have a distinct advantage.
As coach Quinn stated, “You take a 110 pound boy and a 110 pound girl, he’s still going to be bigger, stronger, faster. It is totally evident in the Somerset-Berkley boys.”
They would like to see all-boys teams of field hockey in their own leagues, or set a special league for the mixed teams. Pennsylvania has made it difficult for boys to play on girls’ teams, and has established boys’ field hockey teams. It is time for the MIAA to set up boys’ hockey leagues and keep the girls competing with girls.
The second item is American League MVP, won this year by Mookie Betts. But did you know that he is the 11th Red Soxer to attain that achievement? The list contains Dustin Pedroia in 2008, Mo Vaughn in 1995, Roger Clemens in 1986, Jim Rice in 1978, Fred Lynn in 1975, Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, Jackie Jensen in 1958, Ted Williams in 1946 and 1949, Jimmie Fox in 1938 and Tris Speaker in 1912. Babe Ruth did not win MVP with the Sox; he won his with the Yankees. But he did pitch for the Red Sox and became the only player to be the champion home run hitter and toss a no-hitter.
Now to Ron Johnson, the All-Pro running back, who was the first player in New York Giants history to gain 1,000 yards or more rushing yards in a season, and he did it twice. He was found to have Alzheimer’s disease in 2008, and a few have since been reportedly found to have the disease related to play in the NFL connected with damage to the brain from concussions. Ron was an All-American halfback at Michigan and was the first black player to be named captain. He scored 19 rushing touchdowns in the 1968 season that included five touchdowns in the game against Wisconsin.
Ron shares the Giants’ record for touchdowns in a game: three on passes and one rushing. He was 6 feet, 1 inch and 205 pounds in his rookie season, 1970, when he ran for 1,027 yards and eight touchdowns. He added 487 receiving yards, combined to give him the league lead of 1,514 yards from scrimmage.
In Ken Palmer’s book “Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of Giants Football,” Johnson is quoted as saying “When I got to New York, the running backs were Tucker Frederickson and Ernie Koy. They were two white, big, fullback type guys. Everyone assumed that if you were black, you were fast. The Giants never had anybody like that. So I was very, very well received when I got to New York.”
He had 4,308 yards rushing and 40 touchdowns and 15 touchdowns as a receiver for his career.
Ron Johnson received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in business from Michigan; after football he worked as a financial analyst for Dean Witter, then founded the Rackson Corp., a provider of fast-food products. Johnson was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1992.