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William "Judy" Johnson
William Julius ("Judy") Johnson was born on this date in 1899. He was a Black Negro League baseball player.
Born in Snow Hill, MD. Judy Johnson was the son of William Henry and Annie Lee Johnson. His father was a sailor, a licensed boxing coach, and the athletic director of the Negro Settlement House in Wilmington, MD. William Johnson wanted Judy to be a boxer, and Judy learned to box from his older sister, Emma, but Johnson, who was 5' 11" (1.80 m) and 150 lb (68 kg), was far better suited for a career in baseball.
After working as a dock worker during World War I, Johnson began his baseball career in 1918, reaching the top-level Negro Leagues in 1921. In 1918, for five bucks a game, his semi-pro career began with the Bacharach Giants.
The following year he tried out for the Philadelphia Hilldales, the premier team in the area. He failed to make the cut and joined the local Chester Stars to develop his skills.
In 1930 Johnson was a player-coach for the Homestead Grays, and in that capacity he discovered Josh Gibson. From 1935 through his last season in 1938, Johnson was the captain of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, one of the greatest franchises of all time. Although his playing days preceded the break of the color barrier by nine years, Johnson became the first Black assistant coach for a major league team in 1954.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975. Johnson Field at Wilmington's Frawley Stadium is named for him. Johnson is known as Delaware's folk hero of the diamond. Judy Johnson died on June 15, 1989, in Wilmington.
The Negro Baseball Leagues: A Photographic History
By Phil Dixon with Patrick J. Hannigan
Copyright 1992, Jed Clauss and Joanna Paulsen
Ameron House Publishing