Who Is Walter Johnson?
Summary of the life and baseball career of Walter Johnson.
Walter Perry Johnson was born in Humboldt, Kansas on November 6, 1887 and moved to California with his family soon after his birth. He began his baseball career as a catcher for the Oil Field Juniors because no one on the team could catch his high-powered pitches. When he was 16, Johnson was pitching and digging holes for the Weiser Idaho Telephone Company.
In 1906, Cliff Blankenship was scouting for the Washington Senators and signed Johnson to a contract. Johnson received $350 per month with expenses and a $100 bonus for signing on. He made his major league debut with the Senators in August of 1907. Johnson narrowly lost his first game to the Detroit Tigers after leading up to the eighth inning. Johnson's first few seasons were average but by 1910 things were looking better and he started a 20-plus-win streak that lasted 10 seasons. The Senators operated on a small budget and could not afford generous salaries for anyone regardless of his ability. In 1913, after two straight seasons of 30-plus wins and a Most Valuable Player award, Johnson was only being paid $12,000. The following year he threatened to leave the Senators to play in the newly formed Federal League. A Chicago club in that league had offered him $16,000 and a $10,000 bonus to sign and play for them. The Senators only agreed to match the $16,000 salary but refused to match the $10,000 bonus. Johnson agreed to stay with the Senators only because his wife loved Washington and didn't want to leave. Then in a surprise twist, the owner of the American League's Chicago team paid Johnson $10,000 to insure that he would not move and play for Chicago's Federal League team.
Johnson's only no-hitter came in 1920. After going four years without reaching at least 20 wins, Johnson shocked everyone by posting a 23-7 record in 1924. The 37 year-old Johnson led the American League in victories, winning percentage, shutouts (6), strikeouts (158) and earned run average (2.72) for the year and earned his second Most Valuable Player award. That was an incredible year for the Senators as they took the American League pennant and went on to win the World Series Championship in seven games.
During spring training in 1927, Johnson suffered a broken leg resulting from a line drive hit by Joe Judge. The following year Johnson suffered a severe bout with influenza and lost a significant amount of weight. That was the end of his playing career. In 1929, Johnson replaced Bucky Harris as manager of the Senators. In 1933, he went to Cleveland as their manager.
In 1936, Johnson was one of the first 5 men named to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith stated that Johnson's most incredible feat was pitching 22 scoreless innings against the Philadelphia Athletics in 1912. Johnson however felt that his best accomplishment was his opening day appearance in 1926 where he went 15 innings to beat the A's best pitcher Eddie Rommel in a 1-0 victory. In 1946, Johnson was diagnosed with a brain tumor and suffered with it for nearly eight months. He died in Washington, DC on December 10, 1946 at the age of 59. He is buried at Rockville Union Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland.