Hall of Fame: Walter Johnson (1936)

Last but not least in the first class.

 Year Ag Tm  Lg  W   L   G   GS  CG SHO  GF SV   IP     H    R   ER   HR  BB   SO   ERA *lgERA *ERA+ WHIP
+--------------+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+------+----+----+----+---+----+----+-----+-----+----+-----+
1907 19 WSH AL 5 9 14 12 11 2 2 0 110.3 100 35 23 1 20 71 1.88 2.41 129 1.088
1908 20 WSH AL 14 14 36 30 23 6 6 1 256.3 194 75 47 0 53 160 1.65 2.29 139 0.964
1909 21 WSH AL 13 25 40 36 27 4 3 1 296.3 247 112 73 1 84 164 2.22 2.42 109 1.117
1910 22 WSH AL 25 17 45 42 38 8 3 1 370.0 262 92 56 1 76 313 1.36 2.49 183 0.914
1911 23 WSH AL 25 13 40 37 36 6 3 1 322.3 292 119 68 8 70 207 1.90 3.27 172 1.123
1912 24 WSH AL 33 12 50 37 34 7 13 2 369.0 259 89 57 2 76 303 1.39 3.37 242 0.908
1913 25 WSH AL 36 7 48 36 29 11 11 2 346.0 232 56 44 9 38 243 1.14 2.96 259 0.780
1914 26 WSH AL 28 18 51 40 33 9 9 1 371.7 287 88 71 3 74 225 1.72 2.82 164 0.971
1915 27 WSH AL 27 13 47 39 35 7 8 4 336.7 258 83 58 1 56 203 1.55 2.96 191 0.933
1916 28 WSH AL 25 20 48 38 36 3 10 1 369.7 290 105 78 0 82 228 1.90 2.80 147 1.006
1917 29 WSH AL 23 16 47 34 30 8 13 3 326.0 248 105 80 3 68 188 2.21 2.63 119 0.969
1918 30 WSH AL 23 13 39 29 29 8 10 3 326.0 241 71 46 2 70 162 1.27 2.71 214 0.954
1919 31 WSH AL 20 14 39 29 27 7 10 2 290.3 235 73 48 0 51 147 1.49 3.19 214 0.985
1920 32 WSH AL 8 10 21 15 12 4 6 3 143.7 135 68 50 5 27 78 3.13 3.71 118 1.128
1921 33 WSH AL 17 14 35 32 25 1 2 1 264.0 265 122 103 7 92 143 3.51 4.11 117 1.352
1922 34 WSH AL 15 16 41 31 23 4 9 4 280.0 283 115 93 8 99 105 2.99 3.87 129 1.364
1923 35 WSH AL 17 12 42 34 18 3 8 4 261.3 263 112 101 9 73 130 3.48 3.78 109 1.286
1924 36 WSH AL 23 7 38 38 20 6 0 0 277.7 233 97 84 10 77 158 2.72 4.06 149 1.116
1925 37 WSH AL 20 7 30 29 16 3 1 0 229.0 217 95 78 7 78 108 3.07 4.21 137 1.288
1926 38 WSH AL 15 16 33 33 22 2 0 0 260.7 259 120 105 13 73 125 3.63 3.86 106 1.274
1927 39 WSH AL 5 6 18 15 7 1 2 0 107.7 113 70 61 7 26 48 5.10 4.05 79 1.291
+--------------+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+--+------+----+----+----+---+----+----+---+---+-----+---+---+
21 Yr WL% .599 417 279 802 666 531 110 129 34 5914.7 4913 1902 1424 97 1363 3509 2.17 3.18 147 1.061

3 Triple Crowns (1913, 1918, 1924)
2 MVP awards (1913, 1924)

The last of the “Five Immortals” elected into the inaugural Hall of Fame class, Walter Johnson was born on November 6, 1887 in Humboldt, Kansas. A drought forced his family to leave Kansas and head to California. Not having played baseball in Kansas, Johnson learned the game in California but received no real formal training, and as a result he maintained his trademark sidearm delivery. After being initially told he was suited for the outfield and not for pitching, Johnson caught on with a California Winter League team and threw 77 consecutive scoreless innings. Combining that with a strikeout rate around 14 per 9 and a walk rate of 1 per 9, Johnson received several offers, and he accepted the offer from the Washington Senators.

The Senators were woefully bad, and his early records did not reflect his talent (still a problem in today’s game). He would continue to pitch in the California Winter League even after being signed by the Senators but would stop after the 1909 season. One notable early moment in his career, Johnson pitched three consecutive complete-game shutouts over Labor Day weekend in 1907.

After some rough early years marred by an ear infection, a severe cold, and lack of results, Johnson dominated the next decade from 1910-1919. It began well as he pitched a complete-game shutout and won the first Opening Day that a President of the United States (William Taft) had attended. His newfound domination could be attributed to new manager Jimmy McAleer, who restrained himself from pitching Johnson more than every four days and told Johnson to almost exclusively stick to his fastball. After his 1919 season, Johnson’s career began to decline but was still amazing. His ERA jumped a run and a half, but the league’s ERA jumped a half-run as well (doctored balls were not allowed after 1919, but it probably was not the only reason for the jump).

By the end of the 1927 season, Johnson had decided to retire from playing, but he would still manage the Senators (1929-1932) and the Cleveland Indians (1933-1935). In the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1936, Johnson received 189 votes, enough to get him in as the fifth player. Interesting note: Cy Young, Rogers Hornsby, Tris Speaker, Lou Gehrig, and Lefty Grove were all not voted in during this class, and even the ones who were weren’t inducted in until 1939, when the Museum opened.

After writing about the first class, I have a few thoughts. One, I find it interesting that Cy Young, who has the most wins in history, didn’t even receive 50% of the votes (111 out of a possible 226). Two, I find it interesting that Christy Mathewson received 16 more votes than Johnson when Johnson was probably the better pitcher.

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