Saturday, February 2, 2008

"The Weiser Wonder"

"It was wild country in those days. Whenever I go to the movies and see a picture showing so-called "hard-boiled westerners", I just think of Idaho back in 1906 and wish some of those Hollywood directors had been with me up there." -- Walter Johnson

This is a semi-pro baseball card of Walter Johnson-c 1906-1907 as a member of the Weiser Kids baseball team in Weiser, Idaho. Wish I could say this was my card but it's just a picture of one that sold recently. I am looking for the same but it will have to be at a more bargain price. The card is very rare as Johnson did not spend much time in Weiser, having quickly grabbed the attention of pro scouts. He also grabbed the attention of Clarence Darrow and others from the trial, with the train trip to Weiser or to the nearby games in Boise or Caldwell becoming a favorite break from the tension in that Boise courtroom. Darrow, suffering a bit of withdrawal from not being able to see his favorite Cubs (Chicago) was known to sneak off for a day at the ballpark. He found doing so a much more desirable pastime then preparing for his next trial argument. Although one would never know it from the quality of his oratory, Darrow tended to fly by the seat of his pants in the courtroom. This is not a criticism but rather an indication of his great talent. He appreciated great talent too and certainly Johnson provided it on the baseball diamond in the little town of Weiser, Idaho. This same picture of Walter Johnson was used in Big Trouble and is shown below with the accompanying caption. John

"Walter Johnson is shown here in the uniform of the Kids of Weiser, seventy-five miles northwest of Boise, for whom he pitched in 1906-1907. Darrow and the trial's press corps flocked to his games. Soon the feats of this sensational young pitcher attracted major league attention, and before the trial was over, he'd been snatched up by the Washington Senators" (from Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas).

For further reading, you might want to check Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train by Henry W. Thomas

Walter Johnson website and biography.


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