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.
He’s got a gun concealed about his person. You can’t tell me he throws them balls with his arm.
“Horseshoes”External. By Ring W. Lardner[comment on Walter Johnson]. Saturday Evening Post, August 15, 1914. pp. 8-10 & 44-46
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 more than 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.
Johnson was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1913 and again in 1924. During spring training in 1927, Johnson was struck by a line drive which broke his leg. He pitched the season, but not as well as before, and he retired from play when the season ended. In 1928, Johnson was a manager in the International League; he managed the Senators from 1929-1932 and the Cleveland Indians from 1933-35.
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 five were the first players chosen for this honor; the Sporting News called them “the immortals.” Johnson retired from baseball to farming and politics in Montgomery County, Maryland, where today, a high schoolExternal bears his name.
- Search for other materials about Walter Johnson among the Library’s digital resources. In particular, see the images of Johnson available online.
- Search on Johnson in Baseball Cards to find more baseball cards featuring him. To see other baseball greats from the era, browse the collection’s images.
- Read the essay Tinkers to Evers to Chance! about the legendary double-play making Chicago Cubs infielders.
- See The Spalding Base Ball Guides, 1889 to 1939 and By Popular Demand: Jackie Robinson and Other Baseball Highlights, 1860s-1960s. The latter collection includes a special presentation, Early Baseball Pictures, 1860s to 1920s, on the early history of the game.