Walter Johnson

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File:Walter Johnson Baseball.jpg
Walter Johnson on a 1909-1911 American Tobacco Company baseball card (White Borders (T206)).

Walter Perry Johnson (November 6, 1887-December 10, 1946), American professional baseball pitcher. Born in Humboldt, Kansas, he was a farm boy who grew up to become one of Major League Baseball's greatest stars. He was the second of six children and his family moved to Orange County, California in 1901, where he attended Fullerton High School. After pitching in the Idaho State League, Johnson signed a contract with the Washington Senators (now the Twins) in July 1907.

Johnson won renown as the premier power pitcher of his era. Although a lack of precision instruments prevented accurate measurement of his fastball, Johnson is believed to have thrown as high as 99 miles per hour from a sidearm angle. This power is exceptional even today, but it was virtually unique in Johnson's day. The overpowering fastball is the primary reason for Johnson's exceptional statistics, especially his strikeout totals.

Template:MLB HoF Nicknamed Big Train, as a right-handed pitcher for the Washington Senators, he won 417 games, 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 or more. In a twenty-one year career he had two seasons in which he had more than thirty wins (33 in 1912 and 36 in 1913). His record includes 110 shutouts, the most in baseball history, and he struck out 3,508 batters (the most until Nolan Ryan broke his record in 1983). He thrice won the triple crown for pitchers (1913, 1918, 1924) and twice won the American League Most Valuable Player Award (1913, 1924). On September 4, 5, and 7, 1908, he shut out the New York Yankees in three consecutive games. His earned run average of 1.14 in 1913 set a record that stood until Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA in 1968.

Some record books indicate Johnson had a 1.09 ERA for 1913; but Johnson had pitched part of an inning in the final game of the 1913 season and grooved several pitches, allowing two baserunners who later scored. The official scorekeeper ignored the game, but later, Johnson was charged with those two runs, raising his ERA and allowing Gibson to break the record. Although he usually pitched for losing teams during his career, Johnson led the Senators to two World Series, a victory in 1924 (including the final, 12-inning game) and a loss in 1925. Johnson was a better-than-average hitter for a pitcher, compiling a career batting average of .235. He also made 13 appearances in the outfield during his career.

He later managed the Senators (1929-32) and then the Cleveland Indians (1933-35), inspiring his teams to an overall .551 winning percentage.

One of the first five electees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, Walter Johnson retired in Germantown, Maryland and was elected Montgomery County commissioner in 1938. He lost a very close election to the U.S. Congress in 1940 and died of a brain tumor in Washington, D.C. on December 10, 1946. He is interred in the Rockville Union Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland.

A high school in Bethesda, Maryland has been named for him. (See Walter Johnson High School.)

He was also called Sir Walter and the White Knight because of his gentlemanly gamemanship. In 1995, the rock musician Jonathan Richman recorded a song entitled "Walter Johnson" that celebrated Johnson's kindness.


Statistics

Career Statistics:
Hitting

G AB H 2B 3B HR R RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG OPS
933 2,324 547 94 41 24 241 255 110 251 .235 .266 .342 0.608

Pitching

W L WP GP GS CG Sh SV IP BB SO ERA WHIP
417 279 .599 802 666 531 110 34 5,914.1 1,363 3,508 2.17 1.06

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