Ken Johnson (johnske01)

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Kenneth Wandersee Johnson

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Biographical Information[edit]

Ken Johnson was a left-hander who was signed out of high school in Topeka, KS by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent before the 1941 season. The 18-year-old spent a not-so-hot first season with the Asheville Tourists of the class B Piedmont League in 1941, going 1-8 with a 5.54 ERA in 12 appearances. Johnson was back with the same club in 1942 and improved quite a bit, going 8-8 with a 4.32 ERA while pitching 123 innings. He was served with his induction papers in 1943 and wound up spending the next three seasons (1943-1945) in military service with the United States Army in the South Pacific during World War II.

Ken appeared in 11 outings with the Rochester Red Wings of the International League on his return to the game in 1946, going 1-4 in 43 innings. He then had a split season in 1947 with the Omaha Cardinals and Columbus Red Birds, going 7-5 while pitching 119 innings. Johnson received a late-season call to Sportsman's Park by St. Louis and went 1-0 in his first look at the big league bats. He allowed only 2 hits in 10 innings and had a spotless ERA.

Johnson spent until April 27, 1950 with the Cardinals, back and forth to the minors, winding up with a 7-6 won-loss record for the big league club before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies early in 1950. He was often called "Hooks" for his excellent curveball, which he couldn't always control. He was 4-1 in 14 games in helping the "Whiz Kids" to the pennant, including a 9-0 two-hit shutout over his former Cardinal team on August 7th, the same day his daughter was born. Johnson appeared in the 1950 World Series only as a pinch-runner, scoring a run. The New York Yankees, winners of the American League pennant, swept the Phillies, 4 games to 0. It was a common occurrence for him to be used thus, as while he pitched 74 times in the majors, he appeared in 111 games, with pinch-running assignments making up the difference.

Johnson went just 5-8 for the Phils in 1951, but three of his wins were shutouts. On March 21, 1952 Ken was selected off waivers by the Detroit Tigers from the Philadelphia club. He appeared in 9 games for the Tigers with no decisions. The Kansan finished up his pro baseball career with the Buffalo Bisons in 1953 and 1954 and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1955 and 1956.

Johnson had spent six up-and-down seasons in the majors with a 12-14 record and a 4.58 ERA while appearing in 74 games. Ken finished out his minor league run with a 74-85 record and a 4.42 ERA while pitching 1,196 innings. After baseball, Johnson was in the insurance business in Wichita, KS, where he lived until his death on April 6, 2004.


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