Johnny Lipon was born on November 10, 1922, in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He was a product of the Detroit sandlots, and a graduate of Chadsey High School.
He was signed by the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1941. The 18-year-old was placed with the Muskegon Reds in the Class-C Michigan State League and had an excellent season. He began the 1942 season in Class A1, in the Texas League playing for the Beaumont Exporters.
Not long after the season ended Lipon enlisted in the United States Navy as an apprentice seaman. He was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Station, to the Naval air technical training center in Memphis, and on to the Alameda Naval Air Station in California. By early 1945, he was stationed in the Marianas, and served as a flight engineer on a transport plane.
Johnny served more than three years, until several months after World War II ended, and was discharged in February 1946. He signed again with the Tigers and was used only sparingly in 1946. As a returned serviceman, he could not be optioned to lower company, until all other clubs would waive him out of the majors. Both the White Sox and Senators claimed him, and the Tigers, wanting to keep him, withdrew the request for waivers.
He spent all of 1947 in the Double-A Texas League, playing in 150 games with the Dallas Rebels and then hit .290 during 1948, and picked up a couple of votes in league MVP voting.
He had his best year in 1950, but because of his .251 average and what many characterized as a weak arm at shortstop, he was seen as perhaps not up to pennant caliber. He enjoyed an excellent start to spring training in 1951, though slumping near the end.
After a decade with Detroit, he was one of the players packaged in a nine-player trade with the Boston Red Sox in June 1952. His hitting had fallen off significantly and was only one of the players in the trade, with George Kell the primary target of the Red Sox. Joining Johnny and Kell on their way to Boston were Hoot Evers and Dizzy Trout
Johnny only started four games in his first month with the Red Sox, because Vern Stephens was getting most of the work. But by season’s end, Johnny had appeared in 79 games for the Sox despite only batting a career-low .205. However, Johnny had come through with some of the most important clutch hits, several times either tying the score or putting the Sox ahead with RBI’s.
Young Milt Bolling became the Red Sox shortstop in 1953, though a serious ankle injury cost him several weeks of playing time in the summer. Even before spring training, manager Lou Boudreau had concluded that Johnny wouldn’t provide sufficient offense. He did hit well in spring training, though, and made the team. His first appearance came in late May and was later described as a forgotten man on the roster.
In September, his contract was sold to the St. Louis Browns on waivers. Then, on February 1954, he was traded to the White Sox. He went to spring training with the White Sox but just as the season was beginning, the Cincinnati Redlegs obtained him. After that, the International League’s Havana Sugar Kings bought his contract outright from Cincinnati.
Still only 31 years old, Johnny naturally hoped to get back to the big leagues, but it was not to be. His final statistics showed him with a .259 batting average. He hit 10 home runs, and they all came in the years 1948 through 1950.
He was with the Sugar Kings, in 1954 and then in 1955 and then with the Columbus Jets in 1956 thru 1958. At the end of September he was released outright.
In 1959 he became a manager in the minor leagues, skipper for the Class-D (Alabama-Florida League) Selma Cloverleafs. In all, Lipon managed 30 years in the minors, and part of one in the major leagues, for Cleveland in 1971.
In 1963 he managed Charleston (West Virginia) to the Eastern League pennant and was named Manager of the Year. In 1964 he was named Oregon’s Man of the Year in Sports. In 1967, after leading the Beavers to within one game of first place, having lost a single-game playoff to Spokane and was named Manager of the Year in the PCL.
From 1959 through 1973, including his partial season in the majors in 1971, he worked in the Cleveland system. From 1974 through 1985, he was in the Pittsburgh Pirates system, and from 1986 through 1992, he worked for the Tigers. At that point, he was 69 years old and retired in 1995, being honored with the “King of Baseball” award.
Johnnie Lipon passed away, at age 75, on August 17, 1998 in Houston.