Throughout the history of baseball there have been numerous legendary players. In today’s game we can track everything from how fast a player is getting from point A to point B, their route efficiency and how valuable a player is to their squad. That hasn’t always been the case believe it or not, which leaves us relying on the words of those that were around at the time to build our view of the legends of the past.
On a recent episode of the Ringer MLB Podcast, they brought up a number of players from yesteryear that they would have liked to have seen play ball, whether that be through an increase in archival footage, a hologram, or any other new technology. Of course some of the greats come to mind, and age definitely plays a factor in which players will come to mind. Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Joe DiMaggio are some of the names that likely flood into a person’s consciousness. For others, Sandy Koufax, Ted Williams and Christy Mathewson.
For me, it’s the pitcher that ranks number three in fWAR in baseball history (among pitchers), Walter Johnson, “The Big Train.” From 1907 to 1927 Johnson played for the Washington Senators and won 20 games eleven times in that span. He also eclipsed the 30 win barrier in both 1912 and 1913 while holding ERAs of 1.39 and 1.14. Granted, he was just reaching his 30s when the Dead Ball Era came to a close with the emergence of Ruth, but the stories of his dominance during that time are something I’d truly like to witness.
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Johnson is the all-time leader in shutouts with 110 (20 more than second place held by Pete Alexander) and held a career 2.17 ERA while pitching the third-most innings in baseball history with 5,914 2/3. Of the 666 games that he started in his career, 521 of them were complete games. Again, this was a different era and the complete game was much more common, but his consistency is what is so baffling given today’s reliance on pitch counts and bullpens.
Due to his workload, Johnson was able to hold be the strikeout king of MLB, being the only player with 3,000 career punch outs for 50 years until Bob Gibson joined him in July of 1974. Johnson’s 3,509 strikeouts still rank 9th all-time behind some of the more modern greats like Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, whose strikeout rates are by far much higher than The Big Train’s modest 5.34 K/9 rate.
Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the museum’s first class along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson, being dubbed the “Five Immortals.” With an easy sidearm delivery and throwing the premier heater of his day, Walter Johnson is one of those players that we should all wish to see.
This does make me curious, however. If it were up to you, which player would you want to watch play ball, whether it be through time travel, hologram or the like? There ought to be some interesting answers! You can either comment below, reach us @CalltothePen on Twitter, or me personally @ByJasonB.