Walter Johnson: The Train Nobody Could Stop

May 13, 2009   ·     ·   Jump to comments
Article Source: Bleacher Report - New York Yankees

Throughout the grand history of baseball, we have heard of legends that have come and gone. The players who touched the lives of generations of baseball fans from across this great nation.

In the city of Washington D.C. a player who played almost 80 years ago is still so revered that even though the current baseball team has no connection with him other then the city, has a statue of him outside their ballpark.  

That player is Walter “Big Train” Johnson, maybe the greatest pitcher most people don’t talk about. Here are just some of the accomplishments that the Big Train accumulated over his 20+ year career.

2nd All Time in Wins with 411

9th All Time with Strikeouts with 3,508 and was the first player with 3,000+ K’s, and was the only one till 1974 in MLB History.

A 2 Time MVP in 1913 and 1924

Led the AL in Strikeouts 12 times and did for 8 straight years (1912-1919)

Walter Johnson is the only pitcher to win 20 games and bat .400 in the same season. In 1925, he went 20-7 and hit .433 (42-for-97) with two homers and 20 RBI.

9th all time in hitting Home Runs by a Pitcher with 23 Homers.

Walter Johnson threw 38 1-0 shutouts in his career, and lost by that score 24 times.

Won the the Pitching Triple Crown (Leading in Wins, ERA, K’s) for the AL 3 times, twice he won the Triple Crown for the entire Majors.

The funny thing is that there is plenty more where that came from. Walter Johnson was Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay all rolled into one.

When Ty Cobb, the greatest Hitter of the early 20th century faced him for the first time, even he was amazed at what he saw.

“On August 2, 1907, I encountered the most threatening sight I ever saw in the ball field. He was a rookie, and we licked our lips as we warmed up for the first game of a doubleheader in Washington. Evidently, manager Pongo Joe Cantillon of the Nats had picked a rube out of the cornfields of the deepest bushes to pitch against us… He was a tall, shambling galoot of about twenty, with arms so long they hung far out of his sleeves, and with a sidearm delivery that looked unimpressive at first glance… One of the Tigers imitated a cow mooing, and we hollered at Cantillon: ‘Get the pitchfork ready, Joe– your hayseed’s on his way back to the barn.’ …The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn’t touch him… every one of us knew we’d met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park.”

In a 21-year career, Johnson had twelve 20-win seasons, including ten in a row. Twice, he topped thirty wins (33 in 1912 and 36 in 1913). Johnson’s record includes 110 shutouts, the most in baseball history.

In his 1913 season, the man literally carried the Senators on his back. It ranks as one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher…of all time.

Johnson won the triple crown – 36 wins, 243 K’s, and 1.14 ERA. His ERA, adjusted to the league, is the fifth best in history.

Opponents batted .187 and had a .217 OBP (sixth lowest all-time). He tossed 11 shutouts, completed 29 games, and threw 346 innings – all league bests.

Perhaps most amazing is the fact that the rest of the Senators were 54-57. In 1913, Walter Johnson carried Washington to a second place finish on his back.

That was the story of Johnson’s career, he was the best pitcher on a bad team, and yet that wasn’t always the case.

Although his Hall of Fame plaque reads that he pitched ‘for many years with a losing team,’ during his career the Senators finished in the first division 11 times, and the second division 10 times.

Of course the greatest moment of his career came when most people thought his career was winding down, the Big Train steamed ahead to the MVP and finally to his moment in the sun.

Johnson finally led the Washington Senators to the World Series against the New York Giants in 1924, his 18th year in the American League. Johnson lost the first and fifth game of the 1924 World Series, but became the hero by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in the seventh and deciding game, winning in the series clincher in 12th innings.

Johnson would retire in 1927 and would become a Manager in the Minors and the Majors and actually had a winning percentage of over .550.

In 1936 he would be part of the first group of players to be inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 1946 Johnson would die of a brain tumor in Washington five weeks after his 59th birthday.

A Career maybe played in the wrong city, (If he was a Yankee, The  Publicity would be through the roof), a career where the numbers are  startling, and a career that is sometimes forgotten.  

Walter “Big Train” Johnson was a pitcher that took the baseball world by storm during the years where hitting the home run was taking off.

He certainly was the Train that nobody could catch.

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