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Walter "Big Train" Johnson

Walter Johnson, 1913

Professional baseball pitcher.  Born: November 6, 1887, Allen County, Kansas.  Died: December 10, 1946, Washington, D.C.

One of the first inductees into baseball's Hall of Fame was native Kansan Walter Johnson. Born on an Allen County farm in 1887, Johnson was one of the game's foremost pitchers despite playing on the game's perennially poorest team.

Johnson won 416 games, second most in history, on teams of the Washington Senators that were simply awful. He may have been America's foremost sports figure identified with losing teams. He did pitch the woeful Senators to a World Series title in 1924 and throughout his career threw 110 shutouts, the most in history and struck out a then record 3,508 batters mostly with a blazing fastball that became his trademark. He delivered the fastball with the speed of a locomotive, hence the name "Big Train Johnson." His control was phenomenal, most thought because he lived in daily fear of injuring another player with his awesome speed.

He always came back to Kansas during his baseball years, and he and his wife lived on a working farm near Coffeyville until her death in 1930. At the time of Johnson's death in 1946, New York City sports columnist (Henry) Grantland Rice wrote: "Baseball may have produced a greater pitcher than Walter Johnson, but I doubt it. One of the all time greats has had the game called by darkness. His successor has yet to show against the horizon."

Entry: Johnson, Walter "Big Train"

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: April 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.