Washington Nationals: Celebrating Walter Johnson at 130

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American baseball player Walter Johnson (1887 - 1946), pitcher for the Washington Sentors, makes a speech during the celebration of his 20th year with the team at Griffith Stadium, Washington, DC, November 1927. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American baseball player Walter Johnson (1887 - 1946), pitcher for the Washington Sentors, makes a speech during the celebration of his 20th year with the team at Griffith Stadium, Washington, DC, November 1927. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) /
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Washington Nationals legendary pitcher Walter Johnson was born 130 years ago. Here is a brief look at his Hall of Fame career.

The greatest player in Washington Nationals/Senators history celebrates a milestone birth anniversary. Walter Johnson was born on November 6, 1887 in Humboldt, Kansas, 130 years ago Monday.

From his arrival in Washington in 1907 until his retirement 20 years later, he redefined the position of ace pitcher. Whether it was the heart of the deadball era to the lively ball of Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees, Johnson excelled.

Pitching his entire major-league career with Washington, John dominated in an era of strong starters. Along with Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Carl Mays, Urban Shocker and Grover Cleveland Alexander, Johnson highlighted the era when starters were expected to throw complete games every fourth day.

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In 666 career starts, he finished 531 including a record 110 shutouts. A mark likely standing forever.

Because baseball statistics vary over time, his raw numbers impress on paper but are hard to imagine today. Johnson won 417 games with a career ERA of 2.17 over 5914.1 innings. Yet, Washington made the World Series twice in that period, winning in 1924 and falling the next year.

Perhaps his best season came in 1913. At 25, Johnson started 36 games, finished 29, posted 11 shutouts, went 36-7 while compiling an ERA of 1.14. He threw 12 games in relief for a total of 340 innings. His WHIP of 0.780 led the American League.

If advanced stats thrill your fancy, his FIP was 1.90 while Johnson’s ERA+ was 259. That roughly equals Pedro Martinez in 2000. Johnson topped 200 in ERA+ four times. Between 1910 and 1916, his ERA never finished the year above 2.00. Seven straight seasons.

Johnson managed the Senators after he retired. In four years in DC, he finished second three times behind the Philadelphia Athletics. His 350-264 record gives him a winning percentage of .570. After three years in Cleveland, he came back and called Senators games on the radio.

A brain tumor killed him in December of 1946 at 59 on the cusp of the television era.

As strong as the Nats pitching is now, not even Max Scherzer will dominate at the level Johnson did over 20 years. A power pitcher for his time, Johnson’s 3509 strikeouts are ninth-best in history, but he led the AL in 1923 with 130 over 261 innings.

When you consider how strong his legend remains, despite no radio coverage of him pitching exists and any film is fragmentary, Johnson’s star still shines brightly over Washington.

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Lift a beverage skyward and wish the “Big Train” a happy 130.

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