The Corner

Big Train, Derailed

In Impromptus today, I mention Walter Johnson, something I will take most any opportunity to do. He was the great pitcher for the Washington Senators, and an epitome of character in sports. He was in the press yesterday because presidents have been throwing out first balls at Washington games for 100 years — in 1910, William Howard Taft tossed one to Johnson. (Why the Big Train received the toss, rather than the team’s catcher, I can’t really tell you.) Let me quickly quote something I wrote in a January Impromptus about golf: “President Taft, tubby as he was, loved golf, and all sports. Has anyone, in photos, ever reflected a greater enjoyment of life than Taft does? I kind of wish I’d known him.”

Well, my great-grandfather knew Walter Johnson, as I say in my column today. He was a Washington merchant, and Johnson was a customer of his. So was FDR. Not sure about Taft — quite possibly so. Many people don’t realize what a small town D.C. was generations ago.

In any case, why am I writing this here Corner item? Oh, yeah. A regular reader of ours has written me to talk about Johnson’s political career. In 1938, he was elected a Montgomery County commissioner. (This is Maryland we’re talking — now suburban Washington.) In 1940, he ran for Congress. He was a Republican, challenging the Democratic incumbent — Johnson lost.

Maryland has been ticking us off politically for a long, long time . . .

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