Walter Johnson’s Daughter Proud to Have School Named After Baseball Legend Father

When the Baltimore Orioles beat the Washington Nationals March 23, one of their biggest fans was in the stands. It was Carolyn Johnson Thomas’ first time at the new park, but the 86-year-old who spent much of her childhood in ballparks felt right at home rooting for her father, Walter Johnson’s, team.

“There are many more teams now, much more travel, and multi-million dollar players, but it’s always been a great game,” said Thomas, who’s lived in the Washington-area since her dad began playing for the Senators in 1907. “The game itself hasn’t changed much; it’s still the thinking man’s game.”

Walter Johnson started playing baseball in Idaho, where his strong arm got him a contract to play for the Washington Senators.

“[His pitch] was a natural gift; it was a very easy motion,” said Thomas. “He rarely had a sore arm and his fast ball was upwards of 90 [miles per hour].”

But, while Johnson was nicknamed the Big Train many speculated that his pitching skills weren’t always enough to pull the Senators out of years of unsuccessful seasons.

“Somebody said that perhaps the ‘Big Train’ was pulling a bad team behind him, but he stayed with the Senators,” said Thomas. “Winning isn’t everything, he was all about hustling and doing your best. He had a natural gift, but he worked at developing it.”

While her father played for the Senators, Thomas and her family settled into a nine acre farm at 9100 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, where the family lived until 1934.

“Bethesda was considered rural,” she said. “We had horses and cows, and our dogs were always running around. It was like living in the country.”

While living in Bethesda, Thomas and her siblings frequented Griffin Stadium, where they would sit in Senators’ Manager Clark Griffith’s office and watch their dad at work.

“We didn’t realize that we were very fortunate,” said Thomas. “Griffin was absolutely lovely to us, and we spent a lot of time there. My sister used to bring her boyfriends to meet him.”

Through the years, Thomas has been glad to see her father’s commitment to self improvement embodied in naming a school after him.

“I’m very proud that they named the school after my father, it’s such a wonderful school, and he was a wonderful person,” said Thomas.

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