Ernie Johnson (pitcher)
|Ernie Johnson, Sr.|
June 16, 1924|
|Died: August 12, 2011
|April 28, 1950, for the Boston Braves|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 12, 1959, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Earned run average||3.77|
Ernest Thorwald Johnson (June 16, 1924 – August 12, 2011) was a Major League Baseball pitcher and longtime play-by-play and color commentator on Atlanta Braves games on WTBS. The 6'4", 195 lb. right-hander was signed by the Boston Braves as an amateur free agent before the 1942 season. He played for the Boston Braves (1950, 1952), Milwaukee Braves (1953–1958), and Baltimore Orioles (1959).
After serving three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Johnson made his major league debut in relief on April 28, 1950, against the Philadelphia Phillies at Shibe Park. His first big league win was also in relief, coming against the New York Giants on June 30, 1950, at the Polo Grounds.
Johnson led Western League pitchers with a .750 winning percentage while playing for the Denver Bears in 1949. He spent part of 1950 in the Eastern League and all of 1951 in the American Association before returning to the major leagues for good in 1952. He started 10 games for Boston in 1952 and then appeared almost exclusively in relief thereafter. He led American Association pitchers with a .789 winning percentage and an ERA of 2.62 while playing for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1951.
From 1953 to 1957, the first five years that the Braves were in Milwaukee, Johnson led the pitching staff with 175 relief appearances, an average of 35 per season. He was followed closely behind by Dave Jolly, who relieved in 158 games during that five-year span. During those seasons the closer's job was held at different times by Lew Burdette, Johnson, Jolly, and Don McMahon.
Johnson had an important role on the 1957 World Series Champion Braves with a 7–3 record and four saves in 30 games. In three World Series appearances against the New York Yankees that October he gave up only one run in seven innings, but it happened to be a game-winning home run by Hank Bauer in the seventh inning of Game 6.
In nine seasons, Johnson had a losing record only once (1955) and had an overall winning percentage of .635. Career totals include a record of 40–23 in 273 games, 19 games started, three complete games, one shutout, 119 games finished, 19 saves, and an ERA of 3.77.
Following his playing days Johnson was a longtime color commentator and play-by-play broadcaster on Braves radio and television, working from 1962 to 1999. He became an icon in Atlanta after the team moved there in 1966, and in the 1980s gained national exposure through his work with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren on "Superstation" TBS. He was elected to the Braves' Hall of Fame on August 24, 2001. His son, Ernie Johnson, Jr., worked with him on SportSouth telecasts from 1993 to 1996. The broadcast booth at Atlanta's Turner Field bears his name. In 2014, Johnson was inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame.
Johnson died on August 12, 2011, after a long illness.
- "Longtime Braves announcer Ernie Johnson dies". The Augusta Chronicle. Retrieved 13 August 2011.
- 1955 Baseball Register published by The Sporting News
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference