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When it comes to major league baseballs opening day: Walter Johnson was the best

Walter Johnson and President Calvin Coolidge
Walter Johnson and President Calvin Coolidge
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"The first time I faced him (Walter Johnson) I watched him take that easy windup and then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him....every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park." - Ty Cobb

Since Monday, baseball lovers have been celebrating the 2014 opening of the season. Baseball’s opening day has always been about the pitcher. It is nice to know who is throwing the ceremonial first pitch, or perhaps, if a great slugger is in the lineup. If the opening coincides with the unveiling of a new stadium, such as Yankee Stadium (New York) in 1923, or Fenway Park (Boston) and Tiger Stadium (Detroit) both in 1912, their festivities might grab the headlines for that particular opener. It is, however, usually the ace pitcher of the home team that most of the fuss is made about. There was no bigger star in his time than the legendary pitcher of the Washington Senators, Walter Johnson.

Walter Johnson played his entire 20 year career with the Washington Senators and started fourteen season openers. His record was nine and five (9-5) and seven of the wins were shut outs, and one was a one-hitter! If you look closely at Johnson’s record, of the fourteen games he pitched he completed twelve of them. That never happens in modern day baseball. Most pitchers are done by the fifth or sixth inning.

Babe Ruth’s 3 run homer in the 1923 Yankee stadium opener was an impressive feat. And Bob Feller’s no hitter in the 1940 opener is another great memory. In the history of major league baseball openers, though, no player comes close to comparing with Walter Johnson.

His remarkable achievement began with the 1910 opener against the Philadelphia Athletics. Fittingly, this same baseball opener marked the first time a U. S. President threw out the first ball. President William Howard Taft did the honors and Johnson pitched the first of his seven opening day shutouts, in a brilliant one-hitter (3-0) against the Philadelphia team.

Johnson retired from active playing in 1927 and for a few years worked as a team manager; managing his old team the Senators and later the Cleveland Indians. He was one of the first elected, in 1936, to the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, and Honus Wagner. Later, Johnson retired completely from baseball and became a farmer in Maryland .

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