Josh Johnson

"I was supposed to be the next Josh Gibson. Just be yourself, nobody could be Josh Gibson!"
--Josh Johnson

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Negro Leaguer of the Month
October, 2003

Josh Johnson

Born: January 24, 1913 in Evergreen, Alabama
Died: 1999
Ht: 6'-1", Wt: 200
Batted right and threw left.
Positions: pitcher
Years: 1933-1942

Teams: Caraopolis Greys, Pittsburgh Giants, Homestead Grays, New York Black Yankees, Cincinnati Tigers, Brooklyn Royal Giants

Although he didn't make anyone forget Josh Gibson, Josh Johnson was a fine power-hitting catcher in his own right.

Johnson joined the Homestead Grays in the mid-1930s after Gibson had moved to the Pittsburgh Crawfords. On the Grays, he played with Buck Leonard, Raymond Brown, Smokey Joe Williams, Jesse Hubbard, Harry Williams and Tex Burnett.

"Joe Williams was just about ready to quit," remembered Johsnon. "He was traveling with the team mostly as an added attraction. He was easily 50. He could throw, not as fast as he used to."

Playing with Smokey Joe was especially thrilling for Johnson, because when he was a boy he often pretended he was Joe on the sandlot. "He was a legend in the black community," said Johnson.

In the late 1930s, Johnson moved to the Cincinnati Tigers and was managed by Double Duty Radcliffe whom he described as "a fiesty, hard-nosed, good, driving sort of man."

The Tigers had an impressive pitching staff that Johnson got to catch, including Double Duty, Porter Moss, Jess Houston, Willie Jefferson and Gene Bremmer.

Though he didn't hit nearly as many homers as Josh Gibson, Johnson could hit the ball a long way when he got ahold of one. Johnson hit some of the longest homers ever hit at Crosley Field and hit a few balls into the monuments at Yankee Stadium.

Johnson caught many great pitchers over his career, including Satchel Paige who he said was very tough to catch because of his tremendous speed, but his favorite to catch was Barney Brown.

"Barney Brown was pretty much like Warren Spahn," said Johnson. "He was a classic, stylish lefthander. No junk, pin-point control, finesse, good speed, good location. He was one of the best! I loved to catch him ‘cause you didn’t have to worry about anything. Threw it right where you wanted--knew he was thinking all the time."

After baseball, Johnson earned his Master's Degree and taught for many years before becoming assistant to the State Superintent of Schools in Illinois.