1908: Big Train pitches an important shutout

Monday September 7, 1908

File this under things that would not happen in baseball ever again.

On Friday September 4, Walter Johnson shutout the New York Highlanders, a 3-0 win for the Nats at Hilltop Park in the first of a four-game series. The next day he took the mound again. With one pitcher out due to illness, and another home with an ill wife, the Nats were carrying just three pitchers, so Johnson took the call two days in a row. On Saturday September 5 he shutout the Highlanders again, this time by a 6-0 margin.

After a team day off, Johnson got the call again in the first of a Labor Day doubleheader. The unattributed story in the New York Times is priceless:

We are grievously disappointed in this man Johnson of Washington. He and his team had four games to play with the champion (sic) Yankees. Johnson pitched the first game and shut us out. Johnson pitched the second game and shut us out. Johnson pitched the third game , and shut us out. Did Johnson pitch the fourth game and shut us out? He did not. Oh, you quitter!

Most pitchers would have gone on and taken a chance after this demonstration of comparative strength. Bit did Johnson? No sir. He weakened.  He passed up the fourth game, refusing to sit in as slabsman, and another Washingtonian named Youse, according to Umpire Evans, and spelled Hughes, according to the card, pitched the final of yesterday’s doubleheader and beat the local wonders even worse than is customary. Oh, rare Pitcher Johnson! Why did you not preserve your record in tact? Oh, thou of little faith!

Johnson also did damage at the plate, scoring two runs in a 1-for-2 effort. He was hit by a pitch in the third inning, prompting the unnamed NYT writer to comment: “Chesbro’s a good-natured person ordinarily, but something’s got to be done to keep this Johnson from continuous performance.”

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