For Florida Marlins catcher Charles Johnson, the second weekend in May 2001 turned out to be quite the thrill.
On this day 20 years ago, he played the role of hero after playing the part of unsung hero the night before. In a comeback victory over the San Diego Padres on May 13, 2001, Johnson came off the bench to hit a pinch-hit grand slam to put the Marlins ahead for good in a 10-4 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.
Johnson had been given the day off for the rubber game of a three-game series against the Padres. The night prior, Johnson had Florida’s only two RBIs and caught A.J. Burnett’s no-hitter. At a critical juncture, however, Johnson would be needed at the plate.
Mike Redmond had got the start with the Marlins, but with Florida trailing 4-1 in the top of the seventh, two outs and the bases loaded, Johnson put on a batting helmet. Facing Jay Witasick, Johnson fell behind 1-2 but got a slider up in the zone and didn’t miss it.
Johnson was able to crush it beyond the left field wall for a grand slam and the first pinch-hit home run of his career. What had been a three-run deficit for the Marlins had become a 5-4, but the Florida offense didn’t stop there.
Johnson’s blast would ignite the Florida offense. In the eighth inning, the Marlins added five more runs. After a Preston Wilson RBI single doubled the lead, Cliff Floyd blew the game open with a three-run triple. Floyd would come around to score on Johnson’s second hit—a single—and fifth RBI.
San Diego had just taken the lead prior to Johnson’s blast. After Kevin Millar’s solo home run gave the Marlins the lead in the first, the Padres drew even in the fourth on a Bubba Trammell RBI groundout before pushing three runs across in the sixth. Trammell’s two-run home run off Brad Penny in the sixth was followed by an RBI triple by Mike Colangelo two batters later.
Penny was able to work out of the jam and ultimately earn the win. It would not have been possible without Johnson’s relief performance at the plate. His heroics came on this day two decades ago.