Walter Johnson

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To many, Walter Johnson is the greatest pitcher of all time. He was a star second to none from the dawn of the game's modern era through the "Golden Age of Sports" of the Roaring Twenties. The playing career of "The Big Train", as the sportswriters called him, spanned the era of such greats as Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Lou Gehrig, and Al Simmons. Johnson knew every President from William Howard Taft to Franklin Roosevelt, and was friends with the likes of Will Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks.

But it wasn't Walter Johnson's blazing fastball alone that placed him on a pedestal as high as any in American sports. It was Johnson, above all others, who came to personify "gentlemanly conduct in the heat of battle", as Shirley Povich put it. One of a small number of like-minded stars tempering the game's roughneck reputation in the century's early years, he was still around to help shepherd it through its darkest hour of the "Black Sox" scandal. For several generations, Johnson's presence in the big-league consoled parents all over the country. If the game was good enough for the modest, decent, and honest Kansas farm boy, they figured, it was okay for their sons, too.

Throughout a life as full as it gets, and a career as dazzling as any in the history of sports, Walter Johnson remained an unspoiled individual, his name unmarred by any hint of wrongdoing on or off the field. This is the grand story of one of the good guys.

©1995 Henry W. Thomas; (P)1997 Blackstone Audiobooks

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