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Home Run Johnson with Brooklyn Royal Giants

Grant "Home Run" Johnson (September 21, 1874 - September 4, 1963) was an American shortstop in baseball's Negro Leagues. He played for many of the greatest teams of the deadball era. Born in Findlay, Ohio, he died at age 88 in Buffalo, New York.

Johnson began his career as a shortstop with the semipro Findlay Sluggers in 1894. He supposedly earned his nickname "Home Run" by hitting 60 home runs that season. In 1895 he and Bud Fowler formed the Page Fence Giants in Adrian, Michigan. Johnson was the shortstop and the team's captain. After 1898 the Page Fence Giants were unable to continue playing, so Johnson and most of the other players moved to Chicago where they played for the Chicago Columbia Giants in 1899. The next season he played with the Chicago Unions.

In 1903–04 Johnson played with the Cuban X-Giants, who were the eastern champions in 1903. From 1905–06 he played for the Philadelphia Giants, and they won championships both seasons.

Findlay, Ohio’s celebrated contribution to African-American baseball history turned 31-years-old in 1905. His hitting and pitching so electrified the 1905 Philadelphia Giants that many assumed he spent more than one full season with the team. The unselfish qualities of Johnson’s power-packed swing helped him to lead the team in such auspicious categories as hit-by pitches, sacrifice hits and, of course, home runs with twelve. An honorable man of exemplary character, he hustled out ground balls and seldom disputed an umpire’s questionable call. It was equally rare for him to strike out. In one reflective moment Johnson told a reporter, “when I did [strike out] I surprised myself.” Slowed by an injury that occurred early in the season, he missed thirteen days of play. Johnson was rushed back into the team’s starting line-up, and as a consequence his home run totals slumped dramatically. He also was used as a starting pitcher. A submarine pitcher of exceptional ability, he was essentially the Philadelphia Giants’ fourth starter in 1905. His gutsy mound appearances continually kept everyone questioning why he did not pitch more often. Prior to joining the Philadelphia Giants he had teamed with Bill Monroe and Mike Moore in 1900 as members of the Chicago Unions. In 1903 Johnson was captain of the Cuban X Giants when Charlie Grant and Rube Foster were on the team.

Sources: Phil Dixon's American Baseball Chronicles, Great Teams, The 1905 Philadelphia Giants, Volume Three" by Phil S. Dixon. View Photographs of Johnson at www.Americanbaseballchronicles.com.

He then moved to Brooklyn Royal Giants, where he was captain and led them to a championship in 1909. In 1910 Johnson signed with the Leland Giants and hit .397.

From 1911–13 Johnson played with the New York Lincoln Giants, hitting .374, .413, and .371. In 1913 the Lincoln Giants won the eastern title and beat the Chicago American Giants in the championship playoff. Later he played with the Pittsburgh Colored Stars of Buffalo and managed the Buffalo Giants.

He continued to play with lesser teams until finally retiring in 1932 at the age of 58. After retiring from baseball he lived in Buffalo, where he worked for the New York Central Railroad Company.

There is some dispute about his actual birth year, since the 1900 census states that Grant V. Johnson was born September 1872. However, census records have been known to be incorrect, so the 1872 date can't be considered definitive.

External links

References

  • Riley, James A. (1994). The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. Carroll & Graf. ISBN 0-7867-0959-6.  
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