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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

You can call him Home run
Winning always followed Johnson
By Brian Wilson/MLB.com

Born: 1874, Findlay, Ohio
Died: 1964, Buffalo, N.Y.
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Turn-of-the-century shortstop Grant "Home Run" Johnson came about his moniker playing semipro baseball, but continued to share the nickname with Philadelphia Athletics third baseman Frank "Home Run" Baker.

Born 1874 in Findlay, Ohio, the right-handed line-drive hitter was a proponent of clean living and staying in shape. As a result, he continued to play until 1932 -- at the ripe-young age of 58.

As a professional, Johnson's long balls were clutch though not particularly numerous, although, according to The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Leagues, he was credited with hitting 60 home runs in 1894 for the Findlay Sluggers.

By the following year, he had formed the Page Fence Giants with Bud Fowler. Johnson hit .471 as the Giants recorded a 118-36 record.

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Johnson then joined the Cuban X-Giants in 1903, and then moved on to Rube Foster's Philadelphia Giants in 1905. After winning consecutive championships, he played with the Brooklyn Royal Giants (1906-1909) before rejoining Foster on the Leland Giants in 1910, a team with it's own ballpark in an all-white neighborhood. It was there he first played with Hall of Fame shortstop John Henry Lloyd, whom Babe Ruth identified as the greatest player of all time. Johnson hit .397, while the Giants went 123-6.

Outfielder Pete Hill and catcher Bruce Petway joined Lloyd and Johnson in the lineup, while Foster was part of a rotation that featured hurlers Frank Wickware and Pat Dougherty. Foster considered the group the greatest team --- regardless of race -- of all-time.

Johnson teamed with Lloyd once again in 1912 with the New York Lincoln Giants, where he moved to second base to make room for Lloyd. While with the Lincoln Giants (1911-1913) Johnson batted .374, .413 and .371.

Johnson also excelled in Cuba as a captain, guiding Winter League teams to championships. Records indicate he compiled a career .319 batting average there, and hit .293 in exhibition games against the Major League All-Stars. In a 1910 exhibition series, he hit .412, while Lloyd batted .500. Ty Cobb hit .369 in five games.

Johnson continued playing with the Pittsburgh Colored Stars of Buffalo, and went on to manage the Buffalo Giants in 1923.

He remained in Buffalo after his playing days until his death. According to his obituary in the Findlay Ohio Morning News Courier on September 6, 1963, " Mr. Johnson was a former choir member of the AME Church and was known in the city and county for his musical ability. He was a member of the Bethal Baptist Church in Buffalo, N.Y.

"A few years ago, he became totally blind and entered the Erie Home of the Blind in Erie, a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y."

Brian Wilson is an editor/producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.