Walter Johnson reaches 129


Sam Falb, Online News Editor

On November 6, 2016 Walter Johnson High School’s namesake, Walter Perry Johnson, reached 129 years of age. Johnson was born in 1887 in rural Humboldt, Kansas, and passed away on December 10, 1946, after playing 802 games, making 1,902 runs and almost 6,000 innings pitched.

The extraordinarily successful baseball player found his roots in the game in Orange County, California, where he attended Fullerton High School and came to strike out 27 batters in a 15-inning game against local Santa Ana High School at the height of his high school career.

“From the first time I held a ball, it settled in the palm of my right hand as though it belonged there and when I threw it, ball, hand and wrist and arm and shoulder and back seemed to all work together,” Johnson once said in an interview.

After a move to Idaho after high school, Johnson played for the city of Weiser in the state’s baseball league and was picked up by a talent scout in 1907. This led to his first major league contract with the Washington Senators in the same year, and his jet to sports stardom. In the early years of his career, journalists began describing Johnson’s faultless speed to that of rapidly moving train, earning him the nickname of the “Big Train.” In 1917, Johnson’s chance game speed was measured at about 134 feet per second, or about 91.36 miles per hour, which while common today, was almost unheard of in early 1900s baseball.

At the conclusion of his career, Johnson had led the Washington Senators to two World Series titles, and had set numerous records, including pitching 40 consecutive scoreless innings. Johnson also had 417 game wins, the second highest count any pitcher in baseball can claim, even today.

“We idolized that guy. Just sat there and watched him pitch. Down around the knees—woosh! One after the other. He had something all right. I pitched against a lot of guys and saw a lot of guys throw and I haven’t seen one yet come close to as fast as he was,” Lefty Grove, a fellow pitcher of the time said.

Johnson also invested time in the Montgomery County community, sitting on the county board and acting as a vocal member. He took on the role of county commissioner in 1938, and passionately worked towards improving his community and the lives of the people around him.

“I think it’s cool that we have a famous baseball player as the name for our school, and also interesting how he was really involved in the community,” WJ sophomore Julianne Okim said.

Starting from small-town roots, Johnson rose substantially throughout his career and would ultimately find himself not only at the highest caliber of baseball skill and community involvement, but with a home run of a life.