Thursday, November 5

November 6: Happy Birthday Walter Johnson

Lineup for Yesterday
J is for Johnson
The Big Train in his prime
Was so fast he could throw
Three strikes at a time.

--Ogden Nash

Walter “Big Train” Johnson was a right-handed pitcher for the Washington Senators of Major League Baseball between 1907 and 1927. Johnson established several pitching records during his twenty-year career, many of which remained unbroken for nearly a century.

Johnson’s legendary gentle nature is still held up today as an example of good sportsmanship and friendly competition. Only fellow Hall of Famer Ty Cobb – coincidentally a prime example of the antithesis of good sportsmanship -- seemed to take advantage of Johnson’s disposition. While most batters were concerned about being hit by Johnson's blazing fastball, and were reluctant to stand close to the plate while batting, 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—unless it was an overcast day.

Well now when pitchers throw their pitch to scare
They actually try to almost hit that opposing player
Walter Johnson wouldn't do that not even just a little
He made sure he through the baseball right down the middle
And all through baseball he was loved and respected
Was there bitterness in Walter Johnson? Well it was never

--Jonathan Richman

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