How good a pitcher was Washington Senator ace Walter Johnson? Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Joe Jackson considered him the best ever. His career strikeout record lasted for half a century, and no one's ever come close to his mark of 110 shutouts; some of his Senator teams were so bad, the only way Johnson could win was literally to keep opponents from scoring. Of course, the numbers alone don't tell the story. Johnson was a towering figure in the first quarter of the baseball century. One of the most respected--and liked--men in the game, he was something of an anti-Cobb: straight, honest, and clean, with a life off the field as content as it was accomplished on it. This is an excellent, exhaustive biography, showing clear affection for Johnson from the first pitch: Thomas is Johnson's grandson. Despite the blood tie, Thomas doesn't just go straight down the middle; he is willing to work the corners of his grandfather's life, which actually allows his relationship to his subject to add to the work's significant depth. --Jeff Silverman
Walter "Big Train" Johnson won 417 games as a pitcher in his early-twentieth-century baseball career, and when the inevitable "greatest ever" arguments arise, even diehard modernists will grudgingly include him in the mix. This detailed, carefully researched and annotated biography certainly does justice to Johnson's extraordinary on-field accomplishments, and it also emphasizes his decency, humility, and self-effacing humor. Now, one might question the objectivity of author Thomas, who just happens to be Johnson's grandson. Don't bother. Even today's tabloids would have trouble digging up dirt on Walter Johnson. The text is too heavy with play-by-play game accounts, but Thomas strives to emphasize aspects of Johnson's character that provide context beyond the score. An excellent chapter deals with Johnson's 1915 signing with the rival Federal League and his subsequent reversal and resigning with the Washington Senators. Johnson publicly acknowledged that he had treated both sides badly and had put himself in a "humiliating position." It's not the sort of honesty we're going to see from today's athlete. A much-needed, comprehensive biography of a baseball legend. Wes Lukowsky
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.