Art Johnson (1940s pitcher)
Arthur Henry Johnson (July 16, 1919 – April 27, 2008) was an American left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Boston Bees & Braves from 1940 through 1942. Listed at 6'2", 185 lb., Johnson also batted left-handed.
Born in Winchester, Massachusetts, he began his minor league career with Erie of the Middle Atlantic League in 1938. That year, in 14 games, he won 2 and lost 6. In 1939, he was with Evansville of the Three-I League. In 12 games, he won all four of his decisions, earning a promotion to Hartford the next year. 1940 was his best year in baseball. In 33 games with Hartford of the Eastern League, Johnson won 17 and lost 11, with 27 complete games. This earned him a promotion to the major league Boston Bees at the end of the regular minor league season.
He made his major league debut on September 22, 1940. The game was against the New York Giants, and Mel Ott played third base that day for the Giants. Art pitched the 6th and 7th inning for Boston. Mel Ott came up to bat against Johnson and Art hit Ott with a pitch, knocking him to the ground. Ott stared at Art Johnson as he trotted off to first base.
Art was a member of the Boston Braves (the team name was changed that year) for the entire season of 1941. On April 30, in a game against the Chicago Cubs, Art got his first major league base hit. On May 17, he pitched in relief and was credited with his first major league win against the St. Louis Cardinals. The game went 12 innings and Art pitched the last 2 and 2/3 innings of the game, and the game was won by a Babe Dahlgren home run in the 12th inning. On May 30, Art pitched a nifty five hit complete game win against the Philadelphia Phillies. In this game he went one for four at the plate, scored his first run in the major leagues and got his first major league RBI. A few days later, on June 4, Art pitched another complete game, scattering 9 hits, and knocked the St. Louis Cardinals out of first place. On June 21, he won again, this time in relief against the Chicago Cubs.
The toughest day that Art had in the majors occurred on August 20, when Art pitched against the St. Louis Cardinals. In the opening game of a doubleheader which the Cardinals eventually won, Art faced veteran captain and center fielder of the Cardinals, Terry Moore. With a 2-1 count, Art got wild and hit Moore with a pitch behind the left ear. Moore dropped to the ground and lay unconscious at the plate until an ambulance arrived and took Moore to the hospital. Art Johnson had tears in his eyes in the clubhouse, after the game. Moore was out for a few weeks and was affected by this beaning for the rest of his life. Around 1990, with both men long retired, Art and Terry were reunited at a baseball players convention and spoke about the incident. Terry told Art that he always had headaches after the beaning. In the book "One Day in Mudville", which was written by Arts good friend Rip Pallotta, he spoke about this beaning. "It scares you. Because, you know, you weren't throwing at him. I hollered the minute I let the ball go. I knew it was going to come awful close and I hollered 'look out!' He froze. He absolutely froze in place. He never ducked, he just froze. He never tried to get out of the way. I don't know why he froze, but he did. I had two strikes on him. I was trying to brush him back, but I certainly wasn't throwing at him. I met him some years later in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1990 and he said he was still getting migraine headaches."
Art was hurt for most of the 1942 season, appearing on only 4 games. The injury started in spring training. He pitched a game and manager Casey Stengel asked Art if he wanted to come out. Art told him that he wanted to stay in for just one more inning. With one pitch, Art felt something pop in his shoulder. That was the beginning of an injury which Art never recovered from.
He spent the next three years in the Navy, tried to return in 1946, but got into only one game in the minor leagues. He then retired from baseball and began his career in the insurance business.
In a three-season major league career, Johnson posted a 7-16 record with 71 strikeouts and a 3.68 earned run average in 49 appearances, including 19 starts, six complete games, one save, and 195⅔ innings pitched.
Johnson went on to serve in the Navy during World War II in the Pacific as a gunner's mate aboard the aircraft carrier USS Langley; he received the Purple Heart after suffering shrapnel wounds to his knees when a Japanese kamikaze crashed into the deck.
Johnson married Loretta Gaffney in May 1942; they had been high school classmates, both being named the most athletic members of their 1938 senior class. He was recognized as one of the oldest living MLB players until his death in Holden, Massachusetts on April 27, 2008; widely believed to have been 91, after his death he was reported to have actually been three years younger.