June 15, 1989
JUDY JOHNSON OBITUARY
Died: June 15, 1989, in Wilmington, Delaware
Judy Johnson, A Star 3d Baseman In The Negro Leagues, Dies At 89
FROM: The New York Times (June 17th 1989) ~
By Al Harvin
Judy Johnson, who never received a chance to play in the major leagues but
became the sixth black player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame from the
Negro leagues, died at his home in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.
He was 89 years old and suffered a stroke last year.
As a third baseman, Johnson was often compared with Pie Traynor of the
Pittsburgh Pirates, also a Hall of Famer. Johnson hit over .300 seven times
in the Negro leagues, with a career high of .416 in 1929, in the days when
black players were not permitted to play in the major leagues.
Connie Mack, for 50 years the owner-manager of the Philadelphia Athletics,
once said, ''If Judy were only white, he could name his own price.''
Elected in 1975
As a member of the Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues, whose responsibility
it was to select Negro league stars for inclusion into the Hall of Fame,
Johnson withdrew from the voting in 1975, the year he was elected to the
Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Only Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, James (Cool Papa) Bell and
Josh Gibson from the Negro leagues preceded him.
''I felt so good, I could have cried,'' Johnson said of his election. and
before his induction. ''I've been to the Hall of Fame before, but this time
it will be different.''
Born William Julius Johnson on Oct. 26, 1899, he was known by his first name
until he played on a team with a veteran player named Judy Gans, whose
middle name was also Julius. Because Johnson resembled Gans, teammates began
calling him Judy, too, and the name stayed.
Johnson got his first break at the age of 18, playing for the Bacharach
Giants of Atlantic City for $5 a game. He also played for the Hilldales, a
team in Darby, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, and later was player-manager
of the Homestead Grays in Pittsburgh. He ended his playing career with the
Pittsburgh Crawfords in 1937.
Johnson was a 5-foot-11-inch 150-pound line-drive hitter who batted
right-handed. He often played all year long, barnstorming in the United
States or playing in Cuba during the off season, as many black players did
until 1947, when the color barrier was broken in the major leagues.
''You have to take life in stride,'' Johnson said of his being barred from
the majors. ''Sometimes your heart may ache, but you can't let it get you
down. There's always a better day coming.'' After retiring, Johnson worked
for the Continental Can Company and ran a general store with his brother
before getting his first major league job in 1954, as a coach and a scout
with the Athletics. Two years later, Johnson became a scout for the
He is credited with the discovery and signing of Billy Bruton, who became
the Braves' center fielder. Bruton married Johnson's daughter, Loretta.
Johnson is also credited with discovering Dick Allen, the former Phillies
slugger, while scouting for that Philadelphia team in 1960.
Johnson, whose wife died in 1986, is survived by his daughter and a niece,