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Pre-Negro Leagues Candidate Profile:
Grant "Home Run" Johnson

Fourth of 39 Profiles

Born: Sept. 21, 1874, in Findlay, Ohio 
Died: Sept. 4, 1963, in Buffalo, New York

Johnson was a 21-year-old player on a hometown Findlay, Ohio, team in 1895, when he joined forces with a famous black journeyman player, Bud Fowler, to form a new team in Adrian, Michigan. Their creation, the Page Fence Giants, sponsored by a local wire fence company, lasted four seasons and became known as one of the best independent black clubs of the 19th century.

Johnson was shortstop and captain, and reputedly hit .471 in the Giants' first season. He moved to Chicago with most of the Page Fence players when that team folded, and played with the Columbia Giants and Unions there.

Displaying the constant demand for his services by the best black teams that characterized the top players in this era before player contracts and teams' reserve lists, Johnson moved to a series of the best East coast teams beginning in 1903. He played with the Cuban X Giants through 1904, with the Philadelphia Giants for two years through 1906, and with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, where he was team captain, until 1909.

Then he returned to Chicago to play with the Lelands and Chicago Giants in 1910 and 1911, coming back to New York to join the Lincoln Giants for two more years.

Johnson is considered to have been the best black shortstop before John Henry Lloyd (who attained star status shortly before 1910). Johnson played with Lloyd on the Lincoln Giants, and moved to second base at that later point in his career to accommodate Lloyd's claim on short.

Johnson may have acquired his "Home Run" nickname in his Findlay semi-pro days, when he reportedly hit 60 round trippers in a single season. His constant production at bat in high-level black ball may have also led to the nickname - he is credited with season batting averages of .371, .374, .397 and .413 while in his prime. He also spent five years in the Cuban Winter League before 1910, winning a batting championship and hitting .319 overall.

Johnson settled in Buffalo, NY, and kept managing and playing with lower-level black teams until he was 58 years old.

Authored by Jim Overmyer   |  Negro Leagues and Pre-Negro Leagues Election page

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