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{{Infobox MLB player
name=Walter Johnson
image=Walter Johnson 1924.jpg
deathplace=Washington, D.C.marker
debutdate=August 2
debutteam=Washington Senators
finaldate=September 30
finalteam=Washington Senators
stat1label=Win-Loss record
stat2label=Earned run average
teams= '''As Player''' * [[Minnesota Twins|Washington Senators]] ({{by|1907}}-{{by|1927}}) '''As Manager''' * [[Minnesota Twins|Washington Senators]] ({{by|1929}}-{{by|1932}}) * [[Cleveland Indians]] ({{by|1933}}-{{by|1935}}) |highlights= * 2× [[AL MVP]] (1913, 1924) * [[World Series]] champion ([[1924 World Series|1924]]) * All-time major league leader in [[shutouts]] (110) * [[Major League Baseball All-Century Team]] |hofdate={{by|1936}} |hofvote=83.63 }} '''Walter Perry Johnson''' (November 6, [[1887]]–December 10, [[1946]]), nicknamed "'''The Big Train'''," was a right-handed [[pitcher]] in [[Major League Baseball]] between [[1907]] and [[1927]]. One of the most celebrated players in baseball history, Johnson established several pitching records, some of which remained unbroken for nearly a century. ==Early life== Walter Johnson was the second of six children born to Frank and Minnie (Perry) Johnson on a rural farm four miles west of [[Humboldt, Kansas|Humboldt]], [[Kansas]].[ The Big Train kept on chuggin' ] Although sometimes said to be of Swedish ancestry and referred to by sportwriters as the "The Big Swede", Johnson's ancestors came from the British Isles[ Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train], by Henry W. Thomas, Published by U of Nebraska Press, 1998, page 1. On Google Books. Soon after he reached his fourteenth birthday, his family moved to [[California]]'s [[Orange County, California|Orange County]] in 1902. The Johnsons settled in the town of [[Brea-Olinda, Brea, California|Olinda]], a small [[Petroleum|oil]] boomtown located just east of [[Brea, California|Brea]]. {{cite news | last = Dufresne | first = Chris | coauthors = | title = The year the Big Train stopped in Brea, and brought the Babe | publisher = Los Angeles Times | date = [[2008-06-02]] | url =,0,3088387.story?page=2 | accessdate = 2008-06-02 }} In his youth, the young Walter Johnson split his time between playing baseball, working in the nearby [[oil fields]], and going [[Equestrianism|horseback riding]]. Johnson later attended [[Fullerton High School, California|Fullerton High School]] where he [[strike out|struck out]] 27 [[Batting (baseball)|batters]] during a 15-inning game against [[Santa Ana High School]]. He later moved to Idaho where he doubled as a telephone company employee and a pitcher for a local [[Weiser, Idaho]]-based baseball team in the [[Idaho]] State League. Johnson was spotted by a talent scout and eventually signed a contract with the [[Minnesota Twins|Washington Senators]] on July 1907 at the age of nineteen. ==Baseball career== Johnson won renown as the premier [[power pitcher]] of his era. [[Ty Cobb]] recalled his first encounter with the rookie fastballer: :"On August 2, 1907, I encountered the most threatening sight I ever saw in the ball field. He was a rookie, and we licked our lips as we warmed up for the first game of a doubleheader in Washington. Evidently, manager Pongo [[Joe Cantillon]] of the Nats had picked a rube out of the cornfields of the deepest bushes to pitch against us... He was a tall, shambling galoot of about twenty, with arms so long they hung far out of his sleeves, and with a sidearm delivery that looked unimpressive at first glance... One of the Tigers imitated a cow mooing, and we hollered at Cantillon: 'Get the pitchfork ready, Joe-- your hayseed's on his way back to the barn.' :...The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him... every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park."{{cite book |first=Al |last=Stump |title=Cobb: A Biography |year=1994}} Although a lack of precision instruments prevented accurate measurement of his [[fastball]], in 1917, a Bridgeport (Conn.) arms laboratory recorded Johnson's fastball at 134 feet per second, which is equal to {{convert|91.36|mph|km/h}}. This speed is not unheard of today, but it was virtually unique in Johnson's day, with the possible exception of [[Smoky Joe Wood]]. Unusually, Johnson pitched with a sidearm motion, whereas power pitchers are normally associated with a straight-overhand delivery. The overpowering fastball was the primary reason for Johnson's exceptional statistics, especially his fabled strikeout totals. Johnson's record total of 3,508 strikeouts stood for more than 55 years until [[Nolan Ryan]], [[Steve Carlton]], and [[Gaylord Perry]] (in that order) all surpassed it in [[1983 in baseball|1983]]. Johnson is now 9th on the all-time strikeout list, but his total must be understood in its proper context. Among his pre-[[World War II]] contemporaries, only two men were within a thousand strikeouts of Johnson: runner-up [[Cy Young]] with 2,803 (706 strikeouts behind) and [[Tim Keefe]] at 2,562. [[Bob Feller]], whose [[World War II|war]]-shortened career began in [[1936 in baseball|1936]], later ended up with 2,581. [[Image:Walter Johnson Baseball.jpg|left|thumb|'''Walter Johnson''' on a 1909-1911 [[American Tobacco Company]] [[baseball card]] (White Borders (T206)).]] As a right-handed pitcher for the [[Minnesota Twins|Washington Nationals/Senators]], Walter Johnson won 417 games, [[Top 100 winning pitchers of all time|the second most by any pitcher in history]] (after [[Cy Young]], who won 511). He and Young are the only pitchers to have won 400 games. In a 21-year career, Johnson had twelve 20-win seasons, including ten in a row. Twice, he topped thirty wins (33 in [[1912 in baseball|1912]] and 36 in [[1913 in baseball|1913]]). Johnson's record includes 110 shutouts, the most in baseball history. Johnson had a 38-26 record in games decided by a 1-0 score; both his win total and his losses in these games are major league records. On September 4, 5 and 7, [[1908 in baseball|1908]], he shut out the [[New York Yankees]] (then known as the New York Highlanders) in three consecutive games. Three times, Johnson won the [[Triple crown (baseball)|triple crown]] for pitchers (1913, [[1918 in baseball|1918]] and [[1924 in baseball|1924]]). Johnson twice won the [[American League]] [[Most Valuable Player]] Award (1913, 1924), a feat accomplished since by only two other pitchers, [[Carl Hubbell]] in [[1933 in baseball|1933]] and 1936 and [[Hal Newhouser]] in [[1944 in baseball|1944]] and [[1945 in baseball|1945]]. His [[earned run average]] of 1.14 in 1913 was the fourth lowest ever at the time he recorded it; it remains the sixth-lowest today, despite having been surpassed by [[Bob Gibson]] in 1968 (1.12) for lowest ERA ever by a 300+ inning pitcher. It could have been lower if not for one of manager [[Clark Griffith|Clark Griffith's]] traditions. For the last game of the season, Griffith often treated the fans to a farce game. Johnson actually played center field that game until he was brought in to pitch. He allowed two hits before he was taken out of the game. The next pitcher - who was actually a career catcher - allowed both runners to score. The official scorekeeper ignored the game, but later, Johnson was charged with those two runs, raising his ERA from 1.09 to 1.14. In 1913, also, Johnson won 36 games. The entire team won 90, so Walter finished with 40% of the team's total wins for the season. Although he usually pitched for losing teams during his career, Johnson finally led the [[Minnesota Twins|Washington Nationals/Senators]] to the [[World Series]] in 1924, his 18th year in the American League. Johnson lost the first and fifth game of the 1924 World Series, but became the hero by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in the seventh and deciding game, winning in the 12th inning. Washington returned to the World Series the following season, but Johnson's experience was close to the inverse: two early wins, followed by a Game Seven loss. [[File:Walter Johnson and Calvin Coolidge shake hands FINAL.jpg|thumb|right|400px|President [[Calvin Coolidge]] (left) and Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson (right) shake hands.]] Although his [[Baseball Hall of Fame|Hall of Fame]] plaque reads that he pitched 'for many years with a losing team,' during his career the Senators finished in the first division 11 times, and the second division 10 times. In Johnson's first five seasons, Washington finished last twice and next-to-last three times. But they came close to winning the pennant in [[1912 in baseball|1912]] as well as the following year, which were Johnson's two 30-win seasons. Then, for the next decade, they typically finished in the middle of the pack before their back-to-back pennants. Johnson was a good hitter for a pitcher, compiling a career [[batting average]] of .235, including a record .433 average in 1925. He also made 13 appearances in the [[outfield]] during his career. He hit over .200 in 13 of his 21 seasons as a hitter, hit three home runs in 1914, and hit 12 [[double (baseball)|doubles]] and a [[triple (baseball)|triple]] in 130 at bats in 1917. Johnson finished his career with 23 home runs, the ninth-highest total for a pitcher in Major League history. Johnson had a reputation as a kindly person, and made many friends in baseball. As reported in ''The Glory of Their Times'', [[Sam Crawford]] was one of Johnson's good friends, and sometimes in non-critical situations, Johnson would ease up so Crawford would hit well against him. This would vex Crawford's teammate, [[Ty Cobb]], who could not understand how Crawford could hit the great Johnson so well. Johnson was also friendly with [[Babe Ruth]], despite Ruth's having hit some of his longest home runs off him at [[Griffith Stadium]]. In [[1928 in baseball|1928]], he began his career as a [[manager (baseball)|manager]] in the [[minor league baseball|minor leagues]], taking up residence at 32 Maple Terrace, [[Millburn Township, New Jersey|Millburn, New Jersey]], and managing the [[Newark, New Jersey|Newark]] team of the [[International League]]. He continued on to the major leagues, managing the [[Minnesota Twins|Washington Nationals/Senators]] ([[1929 in baseball|1929]]-[[1932 in baseball|1932]]), and finally the [[Cleveland Indians]] ([[1933 in baseball|1933]]-[[1935 in baseball|1935]]). Johnson also served as a radio announcer for the Senators during the [[1939 in baseball|1939]] season. One of the first five players elected to the [[Baseball Hall of Fame]] in [[Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, 1936|1936]], Walter Johnson retired to [[Germantown, Maryland]]. A life-long [[Republican Party (United States)|Republican]] and friend of President [[Calvin Coolidge]], Johnson was elected as a [[Montgomery County, Maryland|Montgomery County]] commissioner in 1938. In 1940 he ran for the [[U.S. House of Representatives]] seat in Maryland's 6th district, but came up short against the incumbent Democrat, [[William D. Byron]], by a total of 60,037 (53%) to 52,258 (47%). At 7:00 PM, Tuesday, December 10, 1946[,M1 Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train], by Henry W. Thomas, Published by U of Nebraska Press, 1998, page 346. On Google Books Johnson died of a [[brain tumor]] in [[Washington, D.C.]], five weeks after his 59th birthday, and was interred at [[Rockville Union Cemetery]] in [[Rockville, Maryland]][ Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train], by Henry W. Thomas, Published by U of Nebraska Press, 1998, page 348. On Google Books. ==Additional facts and details== *[[Walter Johnson High School]] in [[Bethesda, Maryland]] has been named for him. The monument to him that once stood outside [[Griffith Stadium]] has been moved to the school's campus. The school's yearbook is called "The Windup" and the newspaper is called "The Pitch." *The baseball field in Memorial Park, in Weiser, Idaho, is called Walter Johnson Field. *Johnson was the first American League pitcher to strike out four batters in one inning. *A team in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League in Bethesda is named the [ "Big Train"] in honor of him. He was also called "Sir Walter", "the White Knight", and "The Gentle Johnson" because of his gentlemanly gamesmanship, and "Barney" after auto racer [[Barney Oldfield]] (he got out of a traffic ticket when a teammate in the car told the policeman Johnson was Barney Oldfield)[ Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train], by Henry W. Thomas, Published by U of Nebraska Press, 1998, page 348. On Google Books. In 1985, the rock musician [[Jonathan Richman]] recorded a song entitled "Walter Johnson" that celebrated Johnson's kindness. In [[1999 in baseball|1999]], ''[[The Sporting News]]'' ranked Johnson number 4 on its list of [ Baseball's 100 Greatest Players], the highest-ranked pitcher.[]Baseball's 100 Greatest Players by The Sporting News Later that year, he was elected to the [[Major League Baseball All-Century Team]]. Johnson's gentle nature was legendary, and to this day he is held up as an example of good sportsmanship while his name has become synonymous with friendly competition. This attribute worked to Johnson's disadvantage in the case of fellow Hall of Famer [[Ty Cobb]]. Virtually all batters were concerned about being hit by Johnson's fastball, and many would not "dig in" at the plate because of that concern. Cobb realized that the good-hearted Johnson was privately nervous about the possibility of seriously injuring a batsman. Almost alone among his peers, Cobb would actually stand closer to the plate than usual when facing Johnson.{{cite book |author=Judge, Mark Gauvreau |title=Damn Senators: My Grandfather and the Story of Washington's Only World Series Championship|publisher=Encounter Books |location=San Francisco |year=2004 |pages= 170|isbn=1-59403-045-6 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=}} Johnson's rookie season was Cobb's third, and Johnson retired one year before Cobb. He faced Johnson at bat more times in their overlapping careers than any other hitter-pitcher combination in major league history. Johnson was mentioned in the poem ''"[[Line-Up for Yesterday]]"'' by [[Ogden Nash]]: {{Quote box2 |width= 18em |border= 4px |align= center |bgcolor= #FAF0E6 |halign= center | title=''Lineup for Yesterday''|quote=''J is for Johnson''
''The Big Train in his prime''
''Was so fast he could throw''
''Three strikes at a time.'' |source= — ''[[Ogden Nash]]'', [[Sport magazine|''Sport'' magazine]] (January 1949){{cite web|title=Baseball Almanac|url=|accessdate=2008-01-23 }} }} ==Statistics== '''[[Baseball statistics|Career Statistics]]:''' ''Pitching'' {| cellpadding=3 cellspacing=0 border=1 width=400 |- align=center | [[Win (baseball)|W]] | [[Loss (baseball)|L]] | [[Win (baseball)|WP]] | [[Games pitched|GP]] | [[Games started|GS]] | [[Complete game|CG]] | [[Shutout|Sh]] | [[Save (sport)|SV]] | [[Innings pitched|IP]] | [[Hit (baseball)|H]] | [[Home runs|HR]] | [[Base on balls|BB]] | [[Strikeout|SO]] | [[Hit by pitch|HBP]] | [[Batters faced by pitcher|BFP]] | [[Earned run average|ERA]] | [[Walks plus hits per inning pitched|WHIP]] |- align=center | 417 | 279 | .599 | 802 | 666 | 531 | 110 | 34 | 5,914.1 | 4,913 | 97 | 1,363 | 3,508 | 203 | 23,749 | 2.17 | 1.061 |} ''Hitting'' {| cellpadding=3 cellspacing=0 border=1 width=500 |- align=center | [[Games played|G]] | [[At bat|AB]] | [[Hit (baseball)|H]] | [[Double (baseball)|2B]] | [[Triple (baseball)|3B]] | [[Home run|HR]] | [[Run (baseball)|R]] | [[Run batted in|RBI]] | [[Stolen base|SB]] | [[Base on balls|BB]] | [[Strikeout|SO]] | [[Batting average|AVG]] | [[On base percentage|OBP]] | [[Slugging percentage|SLG]] | [[On-base plus slugging|OPS]] |- align=center | 933 | 2,324 | 547 | 94 | 41 | 24 | 241 | 255 | 13 | 110 | 251 * | .235 | .274 | .342 | 0.616 |} * Strikeouts not counted for batters until 1913 in the AL, 1910 in the NL.

See also


Other Sources

  • Thomas, Henry W. (1995). Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train (Washington, D.C.: Phenom Press) ISBN 0-9645439-0-7
  • Povich, Henry W. and Shirley Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train Thomas (Bison Books. April 1998)
  • Kavanagh, Jack Walter Johnson: A Life (Diamond Communications. March 25, 1995))
  • Robison, Robert S. Walter Johnson King of the Pitchers (New York: Julian Messner, 1961)

Related reading

  • Burns, Ken Baseball: An Illustrated History (New York: Alfred A. Knope. 1994)) ISBN 0-679-40459-7

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