This is, perhaps, the most popular issue to feature The Big Train. During the early part of the 20th Century, Walter Johnson’s dominance was staggering. With 417 total victories and a career ERA of 2.17, his numbers are remarkable. Johnson was the first of five men to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1936 along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. Wow! What a select group. While the Johnson Portrait is certainly more popular, the Hands at Chest variation is considered to be more difficult. This is due, in large part, to The Southern Find, which accounts for most of the high-grade Johnson Portraits that exist today.
Walter Perry Johnson
Born: November 6, 1887 - Humboldt, KS
Died: December 10, 1946 - Washington, D.C.
MLB Pitching Record: 417–279
Managerial Record: 529–432
Washington Senators AL (1907–1927; manager: 1929–1932)
Cleveland Indians AL (manager: 1933–1935)
When it comes to the best of the best, look no further than “The Big Train.” In our opinion, Walter Johnson is the greatest pitcher that ever lived. The all-time leader in shutouts with 110, Johnson compiled 417 career wins as well as 3,509 career strikeouts. It’s hard to find a better pitcher. Although Cy Young had more wins, Johnson was more dominant. Johnson’s fastball was overpowering to begin with, and his sidearm motion made it even tougher for batters to pick up the ball.
Nicknamed “The Big Train” because of the amazing speed of his fastball, Johnson won at least 20 games 12 times. Today his single-season 1.14 earned-run average is the sixth lowest ever. Named American League MVP in 1913 and 1924, Johnson won the Triple Crown in 1913, 1918, and 1924. He led the league in strikeouts 12 times, shutouts 7 times, wins 6 times, ERA 5 times, and the list goes on and on. Interestingly enough, Johnson pitched on quite a few losing teams. Finally, in 1924 the Senators won the World Championship due, in large part, to Johnson’s pitching prowess.
One of the truly nice guys in the game, Walter Johnson was respected among his peers and admired by fans. During the rough and tumble early days of baseball, he stood out because of his modesty and dignity. Ty Cobb referred to Johnson as “the greatest of the great.” After his playing days were over, Johnson managed both Washington and Cleveland for several years. He went back to the Senators as broadcaster in 1939 and later made an unsuccessful run for Congress. Johnson always stayed close to the game he loved, even pitching in war bond exhibition games during World War II. He was recognized as part of the inaugural class of the Hall of Fame in 1936. After suffering from a brain tumor for several months, Walter Johnson died in 1946 at age 59. “The Big Train” gets our vote as the Best of the Best.
– Tom and Ellen Zappala, The Cracker Jack Collection: Baseball's Prized Players. For more information on their book and/or to order a copy at a special PSA discount, visit http://crackerjackplayers.com/PSA_order.html