On December 10, 1946, baseball great Walter Johnson died at the age of fifty-nine. Nicknamed “The Big Train,” Johnson pitched his way to fame during twenty-one seasons with the Washington Senators. His fastball is considered to be among the best in baseball history.
Johnson joined the Senators in 1907. After a tentative first season, the former high school star found his ground eventually scoring more shutout victories (110) than any other major league pitcher. Johnson’s 1913 record for pitching fifty-six consecutive scoreless innings stood for over fifty years until Don Drysdale bested it in 1968. His strikeout record (3,508) held until 1983. In all-time wins, Johnson is second only to Cy Young. Honored in 1913 and in 1924 as the American League’s Most Valuable Player, Johnson retired from play after the 1927 season after breaking his leg–being struck by a line drive during spring training. Two years later, he took over as manager of the Senators, a position that he held until 1932. In 1936, Johnson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame External, along with Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. These men were the “Five Immortals”–the first players chosen for this honor.
He’s got a gun concealed about his person. You can’t tell me he throws them balls with his arm.
Ring Lardner on Walter Johnson
- Search on Johnson in Baseball Cards, 1887-1914 to find more images of “The Big Train.” To see other baseball greats, browse the collection’s Player Index or Team List.
- See also Spalding Base Ball Guides, 1889-1939 and By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s. The latter collection includes a special presentation, Early Baseball Pictures, 1860s-1920s, on the early history of the game.