December 4, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Tuesday, November 06, 2012
Today marks the 125th birthday of one of the greatest ballplayers who ever lived, Walter Johnson.
He’s famous for several things. He won 417 games, the most of any 20th century pitcher. He did it despite toiling for many seasons with a substandard Washington Senators team. (While it’s true the Senators were typically bad when he played for them, it’s worth noting they had their moments, including a pair of back-to-back pennant winning seasons with Johnson in 1924-25).
Johnson is also one of the founding five – among the first batch of inductees into Cooperstown in 1936, alongside Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, and Christy Mathewson.
Since we’re commemorating his birth, let’s note a few things about that. Born on Nov. 6, 1887, Johnson is part of one of the all-time great birth years in baseball history. He’s one of four Hall of Famers born that year, and two others are (like Johnson) inner circle guys – 300 game winner Pete Alexander and 3,000 hit man Eddie Collins. The fourth immortal is Harry Hooper, a bad joke of a selection.
If Hooper didn’t have anywhere near enough talent to belong in Cooperstown, he’s balanced out by fellow 1887 baby, Shoeless Joe Jackson. Obviously, Jackson had the talent to enter Cooperstown, but his involvement in the 1919 World Series fix will forever keep him out.
Besides them, you have Cy Williams (the second man to ever get 200 homers), Heinie Zimmerman (who nearly won the 1912 NL Triple Crown), Clyde Milan (a speedy outfielder who played centerfield for Walter Johnson’s Senators), Donie Bush (a long time infielder who was a walk machine at the plate), Doc Crandall (the game’s first relief pitcher) and others.
Johnson, however, died fairly young. He was just 59 when he passed away in 1947. Yes, it was a different era and life spans were shorter, but 59 was still a bit young, especially for someone who had been so healthy and athletic.
To put it in perspective, George Brett turned 59 this year. So did Jim Rice, Keith Hernandez, Larry Parrish, and Frank Tanana.
In a literal sense, Johnson has now been dead longer than he’d been alive. But his accomplishments in his life make he a remembered name even now, and that life began exactly 125 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim through things.
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