Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

You are here > Home > Hall of Merit > Discussion
Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Heavy Johnson

He ain’t heavy, he’s my…oh wait, he was Heavy! :-)

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 07, 2004 at 02:23 AM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Related News:

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: November 07, 2004 at 02:36 PM (#956874)
Lots of questions here.

First off, no i9s information to help out...gulp.

Second, how much credit should Johnson get for his time in the 25th infantry? Riely doesn't list the years he was in the 25th, but indicates that Johnson made the Monarchs in 1922, a good two years after Moore. Does this mean that Johnson got out of the miltary later or that he played for lesser teams?

Last, how bad was his fielding? I get the impression from Riley that Johnson was a Heilmannesque player, with a powerful, high-average bat, but not much fielding skill.
   2. Chris Cobb Posted: November 09, 2004 at 02:58 AM (#958655)
Heavy Johnson Data

Negro-League Play

1922 KC 231 ab, 104 hits, 22 2b, 9 3b, 13 hr, .451 avg, .792 slg. ; leads lg in BA, all-star LF
1923 KC 186 ab, 68 hits, x 2b, 9 3b, 20 hr, .367 avg., appx. .866 slg; leads in HR, all-star CF, Holway MVP
1924 KC 296 ab, 111 hits, 16 2b, 11, 3b, 7 hr, .374 avg., .574 slg; all-star RF
1925 Bal .352, played lf
1926 Bal/Hbg 209 ab, 72 hits, 8 hr, .346 avg.; avg. 4th in lg, all-star in LF
1927 Hbg .336 played rf.
1928 Cle .279 played lf; .Memphis .331 played rf
1929 no data
1930 no data
I can find no records in Holway for Johnson after 1928. Cleveland and Memphis were not good teams in 1928, so it looks like his career was on a downward slope at that point.

vs. Major-league competition
1922 2-4 (double, home run) vs. Babe Ruth all-stars. Jack Quinn pitched.

According to Holway, he was 8-16 lifetime vs. major-league pitching, with 2 home runs.

Brief analysis: Johnson left the military and joined the Negro National League when he was 26. (That answers one of Dr. Chaleeko's questions . . . ) He was clearly an immediate star, with stunning seasons in 1922 and 1923, though he may have been assisted by a friendly home ballpark for the Monarchs. (They changed parks around this time -- I'm pretty sure the details are on the Dobie Moore thread from KJOK, but I haven't had time to cross-check.) Certainlty, the Monarchs dominated the offensive leaderboards during these years without dominating the standings, although they were the best team in the league after the light-hitting Chicago American Giants. Johnson never had seasons as good as those two again, although he remained a star from 1924 to 26. He was slightly above average at best in 1927 and 1928, playing for poor teams in 1928, and he disappears from the records of major teams after that, even though Riley has him playing for the Memphis Red Sox through 1933, and Holway has data for Memphis for most of those seasons. I think he deserves probably three or four seasons of MLE credit, two at star-level, for his play in the military (I don’t know when exactly he joined Rogan and Moore on the 47th Infantry Division team, but that should be discoverable). But it’s hard to credit him with any more than a eleven-year MLE career, which is very short for an outfielder.

I’ll try to come up with win-share projections, soon, since his peak looks high enough that it’s worth considering how good he was overall. But I don’t think he’ll match Dobie Moore,
   3. KJOK Posted: November 09, 2004 at 05:40 AM (#958873)
Johnson played at least a partial season for the Newark Browns in 1932.
   4. KJOK Posted: November 09, 2004 at 05:53 AM (#958895)
Johnson's Complete 1928 Batting Record:

AVE-.346 (.279 avg)
OBP-.388 (.334 avg)
SLG-.477 (.384 avg)
OPS-.865 (.718 avg)
   5. Michael Bass Posted: November 14, 2004 at 04:54 AM (#965286)
I'm still kind of in the dark on Johnson. My thought is still not to have him anywhere near the ballot, is this correct? Decent but unspectacular peak, short career?
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: November 14, 2004 at 03:17 PM (#965563)
I'm still kind of in the dark on Johnson. My thought is still not to have him anywhere near the ballot, is this correct? Decent but unspectacular peak, short career?

That's where I have him, too. A long career would have helped him.
   7. KJOK Posted: November 15, 2004 at 07:01 AM (#966314)
As Gadfly reminded me on the Moore thread, Muehleback Park opened July 23, 1923, and was the Moanrchs main park by 1924.

Muehleback was certainly a pitchers park by Negro League standards, and was the same park (different name) used by the Kansas City A's in the 1960's.

So, yes, I believe Johnson was helped by playing in a hitter friendly park pre-1924.
   8. KJOK Posted: November 15, 2004 at 07:02 AM (#966316)
I'd say if Chino Smith, with a higher peak and more defensive value, doesn't make your ballot then no way should Heavy be there.
   9. Gary A Posted: December 07, 2004 at 09:52 PM (#1004111)
From Patrick Rock's 1923 NNL Yearbook. He seems to have had a somewhat better year than Holway's book indicates.

Heavy Johnson Batting
*-led league
T-13 (2nd to Turkey Stearnes' 14)
HR-20* (tied with Candy Jim Taylor, Tol.-StL)
RBI-120* (next highest--Oscar Charleston's 94)
OBA-.462 (2nd to Torriente's .471)

Again, the Monarchs divided their home games between hitter-friendly Association Park (31 games) and pitcher-friendly Muehlebach Field (27 games). I don't have park factors, but if I had to guess, I'd say the Monarchs played in a more-or-less neutral context.
   10. burniswright Posted: December 10, 2007 at 10:14 AM (#2639846)
I have no quarrels with the basic evaluations here. Yes, Johnson lived to hit the ball, and he was of little or no help on defense. It's also true that whereas he had decent seasons in Baltimore, they were nothing like the monster numbers he put up in KC. Park factors or no, if Johnson had continued to hit at the pace he established as a Monarch, he would have passed Mule Suttles and Jud Wilson. When a career declines as sharply as this one, I always suspect alcohol, although I have no primary-source evidence for that.

What interests me the most about Heavy Johnson is what a good example he is of the Jamesian division between peak and career value, and how troubling it sometimes is to try to reconcile the two. Ed Wesley is another example of a guy who had some seasons in Detroit that absolutely knock your socks off. Take a look at his 1925 numbers, for instance. Ruth never had a season that good. Yes, of course he took advantage of the short porch in Mack Park, but he also hit .416.

The short answer to my question is that, in almost all cases where the stats are this dichotomous, I feel that career value has to trump peak value. But in the Johnson and Wesley cases, those are some peaks!
   11. sunnyday2 Posted: December 10, 2007 at 10:21 AM (#2639848)
Hi, Burnis. Looks like it's you and me here right now.
   12. sunnyday2 Posted: December 10, 2007 at 10:21 AM (#2639849)
P.S. what do you know about Heavy's old teammate Dobie Moore?
   13. burniswright Posted: December 11, 2007 at 08:13 AM (#2641108)
Sunnyday2: give me a chunk of time to read all 227 posts in the Moore thread, to see what you guys have already talked over. I'm not begging off, it's just that, occasionally, it's necessary to pull myself away from the real business of thinking about baseball and engage in the diversion of paying the rent.

What I can tell you, right from the get-go, is that I'm damned mad that Elsie Brown shot him in the leg. This is a guy who, like Chino Smith, seemed absolutely bound for glory. From most accounts, he wasn't a beautiful shortstop to watch--he wasn't Omar Vizquel--but he could play the position, plus he had that Shawon Dunston gun on his right shoulder.

And man, could he hit!
   14. burniswright Posted: December 11, 2007 at 09:15 AM (#2641115)
"Hi, Burnis. Looks like it's you and me here right now."

OK then sunny, help me out please. My posts #58 and 59 on the Monroe thread are primarily about a very general HOM issue, and to the extent they're specific, they're not about Monroe.

So they don't belong there. Where do they belong? Thanks.
   15. burniswright Posted: December 16, 2007 at 10:20 AM (#2647195)
OK sunny: my comments on Dobie Moore are now posted at the end of the Moore thread.
   16. KJOK Posted: September 17, 2011 at 06:26 AM (#3927848)
   17. Bleed the Freak Posted: May 07, 2017 at 08:39 PM (#5450411)
Recent discussion on Heavy indicates we should take a second look:

   18. KJOK Posted: August 04, 2017 at 10:45 AM (#5506471)
And his Negro League similarity scores:
Negro League Similarity vs Neg Lg to MLB Players in MLB

I'd say "the Lefty O'Doul of the Negro Leagues" might be a reasonable comp.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.



<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF


Thanks to
Ray (CTL)
for his generous support.


You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.


Page rendered in 0.2844 seconds
41 querie(s) executed