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William Julius Johnson - Judy Johnson

 William Julius Johnson "Judy Johnson"
1889 - 1989
    

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William Julius Johnson
"Judy Johnson"
born in the Town of Snow Hill, Maryland
Worcester County


First African American to be admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Judy Johnson was born on October 26, 1899 in the Town of Snow Hill in Worcester County on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland.  He died June 15, 1989 in Wilmington, DE.  He batted and threw with his right hand, played in the Negro League for the Darby Daisies, Hilldale, Homestead Grays and the  Pittsburgh Crawfords.  He  was the first African American to ever be elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Johnson played third base where he was considered the top third baseman in the Negro League of the 1920’s and 1930’s. He was not a particularly fast runner, but he carefully studied opposing pitchers and took every advantage on the base paths.  He often stole third base.  He played winters in Florida or Cuba (where he compiled a .334 average in six seasons) but never again set foot on a boat after his return voyage from Cuba in 1931.

He had little power but was a skilled contact hitter who consistently batted .300 or better.  In the inaugural Negro League World Series in 1924, he led the Hilldale club with a .341 average. He was a smart, soft spoken and well-respected player and later served as team captain of the 1930’s Pittsburgh Crawfords, perhaps the Negro Leagues’ greatest dynasty.  The Crawfords lineup included, catcher Josh Gibson and fellow Hall of Famers Cool Papa Bell and Oscar Charleston.

Judy Johnson  was exposed to baseball at an early age.  As a child he moved to Wilmington, Delaware and served as batboy for his father’s local team.  He realized then that his “greatest ambition was to play baseball.”  he quit school after tenth grade and went to work on the New Jersey docks during WWI.  After the war, he caught on with the Chester Giants, playing on weekends.  He then signed a pro contract with the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants, who paid him $5 per game.  In 1919, he played for the semi-pro Madison Stars of Philadelphia, which served as sort of minor league team for the Hilldale club.  While with Hilldale, he acquired the nickname Judy, because he resembled a Chicago American Giants player, Judy Gans.

After the racial barriers were broken in American baseball, Johnson scouted and coached for the Philadelphia Athletics.  In 1954 Johnson became the first black coach in the majors when he accompanied the Phillies to Florida for spring training.  He worked for the Phillies from 1959 to 1973, and in 1975, through the efforts of the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues, Judy Johnson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.  

 

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