1926: Walter Johnson’s Final Opening Day Start

April 13, 1926

Baseball writers were beginning to predict the downfall of Walter Johnson even a few years prior to 1926. After all, he would turn 39 shortly after the 1926 season ended. Two years prior Johnson was looking to buy a Pacific Coast League franchise in hopes of securing something to do in retirement (or perhaps to play a few more years at the minor league level). The deal fell through and Johnson found that he had a few years left in him, but there was speculation that he wouldn’t have it in 1926, his 20th season.

Johnson, at least temporarily, proved that rumors of his demise were exaggerated with a 15-inning shut out of the Philadelphia Athletics on Opening Day 1926.

He allowed the A’s just six hits spread out over the course of 15 innings. Only one of those hits was for extra bases, a double off the bat of Walt French. Johnson walked three and struck out nine (or 12, depending on if you put more trust in The Sporting News, which listed 12, or retrosheet, which lists nine).

TSN noted:

“We have suspicion that somewhere around 1957 he will be pitching a one-hit game, or a one to nothing game against some team of whose players we know nothing now.”

Looking at the retrosheet boxscore, what stands out to me is the time of game. 15 innings in 2:33. It sort of puts the recent discussion on game length into perspective.

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