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Johnson becomes Muscle Boy for Marlins

October 19, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ The World Series came to Charles Johnson’s home state for the first time Saturday night, and Game 1 will be remembered in part for his moonshot over Miami.

Johnson delivered the most impressive hit in Florida’s 7-4 victory over Cleveland, a solo home run worthy of Marlins mascot Muscle Boy.

It appeared headed for Johnson’s hometown of Fort Pierce, 120 miles up the Florida Turnpike. Instead, it landed in the upper deck in left field, an estimated 438 feet from home plate.

``That was a very enjoyable home run,″ Johnson said. ``You’re always happy to hit a home run. It doesn’t matter where it goes, or how far. I was just thankful to cross the plate and help the team win.″

Pitcher Orel Hershiser looked up to follow the flight of the ball and grimaced, perhaps from whiplash.

``I’d throw that pitch again,″ Hershiser said. ``It was a 2-1 fastball. He’s a big, strong guy and he got hold of it.″

The home run wowed a crowd of 67,245, including relatives and friends from Fort Pierce.

The All-Star catcher’s fourth-inning blow came four pitches after Moises Alou’s three-run homer broke a 1-1 tie. The back-to-back homers were the 11th in World Series history, and the first since 1986.

``C.J. is always a threat to do what he did tonight,″ Florida manager Jim Leyland said. ``His defense is pretty close to flawless. When you have a catcher who can do what he does defensively and has the potential to hit 20 home runs, that’s gold.″

The Marlins consider any offense from Johnson a bonus. He flirted with a perfect season defensively, committing no errors and only one passed ball _ in September. His throwing success on stolen-base attempts ranked second among National League catchers, and he’s a lock for his third consecutive Gold Glove this year.

Johnson’s reputation behind the plate is such that he made the All-Star team for the first time despite hitting just .226 at the break. His offense improved in the second half, and he finished at .250 with career highs of 19 homers and 63 RBIs.

In postseason play, Johnson has developed a knack for timely hits. He went just 4-for-25 in the first two rounds but had a homer and seven RBIs in nine games. He also won raves for his defense.

Surrounded in the Marlins clubhouse by millionaire free-agent acquisitions, Johnson is a homegrown talent. He attended the University of Miami and in 1992 became the first player ever taken by the Marlins in the amateur draft.

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