Inside Pitch

Feb. 10, 1975: Judy Johnson elected to Hall of Fame

By CRAIG MUDER
February 8, 2010


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- In an era of unprecedented success for Negro league teams and players, Judy Johnson was one of baseball's brightest stars.

And nearly 40 years after he played his last game, Johnson remained a legend among those who knew the game.

Judy Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

Thirty-five years ago this week -- Feb. 10, 1975 -- Johnson became just the sixth player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee. The first five: Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin and Cool Papa Bell.

"(Johnson) was the smartest third baseman I ever came across," said teammate Ted Page.

Born Oct. 26, 1899 in Snow Hill, Md., William "Judy" Johnson made his mark with the Hilldales of the Eastern Colored League in the 1920s and the legendary Pittsburgh Crawfords for the 1930s. Statistics from that era are sketchy, but Johnson's numbers compiled by the Negro League Researchers and Authors Group show a .293 career batting average for a man who eventually served as the Crawford's captain.

Johnson's career spanned from 1923 to 1937. He died on June 15, 1989, and remains one of just 14 third baseman elected to the Hall of Fame -- the smallest total for any position.

“Johnson was the best hitter among the four top third basemen in the Negro leagues, but no one would drive in as many clutch runs as he would," said Cool Papa Bell. "He was dependable, quiet, not flashy at all, but could handle anything that came up. No matter how much the pressure, no matter how important the play or the throw or the hit, Judy could do it when it counted.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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