Walter Johnson was born on his family's 160-acre farm about three miles north of Humboldt on November 6, 1887. From an early age, Johnson demonstrated unusually sharp eye-hand coordination. He attended school in Humboldt for one year before his family moved to California when he was 14, though the family returned after a short while to Kansas and settled in Coffeyville.
Johnson grew up to become one of baseball's greatest pitchers, playing his entire 21 year career with the Washington Senators, from 1907 through 1927. Johnson and the Senators made it to the World Series twice, winning in 1924, but losing in 1925. During his time with the Senators, Johnson earned a reputation as being one of the greatest gentleman to play the sport as well as one of its most fearsome pitchers.
With his blinding fastball, Johnson set many Major League records, several of which remain unbroken. He was known as the "Big Train" for his powerful pitching style as well as for his 6 '1" 200 pound size. Johnson led the league in various pitching statistics 53 times, more than any other pitcher in baseball. He also set the record for shutouts with 110 and struck out 2,509 batters during his career with the Senators.
Johnson won 417 games in his career, more than any pitcher in the 1900s. In 1999 The Sporting News voted him the best pitcher of all time and the fourth best player in the history of baseball. Walter Johnson was one of the original five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936 along with Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Ty Cobb. He died on December 10, 1946 in Washington, D.C.
Walter Johnson Athletic Field in Humboldt, Kansas was named in his honor in 1921 and the Johnson-Sweatt Classic tournament, named for Johnson and fellow Humboldt ballplayer George Sweatt , was begun in 1999 as a tribute to these men and to Humboldt's baseball legacy.
To learn more about Walter Johnson, visit the Humboldt Historical Museum located at the corner of Second & Neosho in Humboldt, Kansas. The museum is open from 1:30 - 4:00 pm every weekend from Memorial Day weekend through the second weekend in October and also by appointment. Call 620-473-2250, 620-473-8267 or 620-473-3464.