1943: Nats Trade for Bob Johnson

March 20, 1943

“Indian” Bob Johnson had been with Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s since he broke into the league at the age of 27 in 1933. Over the span of 10 seasons, Johnson accumulated some gaudy numbers in Philadelphia. For his career, he was batting .298/.395/.520 with 252 home runs. Johnson’s racked up 78.2 WARP3 during that time span.

Prior to spring training in 1943, Johnson announced that he would not return to Philadelphia unless he received a bonus based on last year’s attendance, a clause he thought to be part of his contract. Mack disagreed, claiming that attendance did not rise to the level where the bonus would kick in, so Johnson demanded a trade.

On March 21, 1943 Mack sent Johnson to the Washington Nationals in exchange for Bobby Estalella and Jimmy Pofahl; the former a 32-year old starting third baseman, the latter a three-year utility infielder.

The Nats had not had a winning season since 1936, and the AL Pennant in 1933 seemed a distant memory after a 62-89 finish in 1942. With Johnson and under new manager Ossie Bleuge, Washington was able to turn things around. That Nationals finished 1943 in second place, although the record can be a bit deceiving during the war years when many star players were overseas.

For his part, Johnson was among the better hitters on the team. In the lineup among Mickey Vernon and Stan Spence, Johnson was able to help a team in the middle of the AL in run scoring the previous year, lead the league in runs in 1943.

Johnson hit .265/.362/.400 with seven home runs and a 5.8 WARP3 and made the AL All-Star team in his only season with Washington. He was sold to Boston the following year, where he would play out his final two seasons (both All-Star seasons as well).

Estalella played three full seasons in Philadelphia, and had some success, compiling a 14.8 WARP3. The A’s were just plain bad during that time, and finished dead last in two of those seasons, with a fifth place finish in 1944. Pofahl did not play a single game for the A’s.

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