Birth of Walter Johnson

US #3408i – from the Legends of Baseball Issue

Baseball pitcher Walter “The Big Train” Johnson was born on November 6, 1887, in Humboldt, Kansas. 

Johnson’s family moved to Olinda, California in 1902.  There he spent his time playing baseball, working in the oil fields, and horseback riding.  During one high school game he struck out 27 batters in a 15-inning game. 

Johnson later moved to Idaho where he worked at a telephone company and continued to play baseball in the state league.  A talent scout for the Washington Senators spotted him at a game and signed him to the team in 1907 when he was 19 years old. 

US #3408i – Mystic First Day Cover

Johnson quickly established himself as the leading power pitcher of his era.  Batters swapped stories about the amazing speed of Johnson’s fastball.  Other players knew him as a pleasant, sportsmanlike man.  In 1913, Johnson threw 552/3 consecutive scoreless innings, a record that stood until 1968.  During his career, from 1907 to 1927, Johnson won 417 games for the Senators, a number second only to Cy Young.  He led the major league in shutouts seven times, and still holds the record for career no-hitters with 110.

US #3408i – Classic First Day Cover

Despite his talent, Johnson pitched for what was one of baseball’s weakest teams.  On October 10, 1924, Johnson and the Senators finally had their day.  That year, when Johnson led the league in wins, shutouts, strikeouts, and earned run average, they made it to the World Series.  After six hard-fought games, the series was tied 3-3.  The Senators won the seventh game in extra innings, and took the series.  Even members of the Giants were happy to see Johnson finally win a championship.

US #855 was issued for the opening the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939.

Johnson posted a tremendous 21-year pitching career with the Washington Senators.  His 3,508 total strikeouts led the major leagues until 1983, when Nolan Ryan broke the record.  He won the triple crown three times and voted American League Most Valuable Player twice.  Johnson was also a decent hitter for a pitcher, with a career batting average of .235 and hit 23 home runs.

Item #MP1087 – Get 25 worldwide baseball stamps for just $10.75.

Johnson retired from playing in 1927, then worked as manager in the minor leagues for a year.  He went on to manage the Washington Senators from 1929 to 1932 and the Cleveland Indians from 1933 to 1935.  Johnson was one of the first five players inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936, a group known as the “Five Immortals.”  He died in on December 10, 1946.          

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