Si Johnson -- favorite son of the Fox River settlement. Si made it big in the Majors, when the Cincinnati Reds took him on May 2, 1928.
Silas Kenneth Johnson was born in Danway, IL, on Friday, October 5, 1906 -- nearly 81 years after the Sloopers landed in New York harbor; 72 years after the Fox River settlement was founded. He ended up playing for 17 seasons on four different teams:
- Cincinnati Reds
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Boston Braves.
He died on May 12, 1994 -- not far from his birthplace, in Sheridan, IL.
What kind of major leaguer was Si? He batted right, threw right, was 5'-11-1/2', weighed 185 lb. Unlike some of his teammates, he had no nickname -- he was known just as "Si". The teams he played on were usually at the bottom of the league standings each year. Some of his teammates were:
- CIN -- Leo Durocher
- STL -- Dizzy Dean, Leo Durocher (again), Enos Slaughter
- PHIL -- Boom Boom Beck (don't know who he was, but the name sounded interesting)
- BOS -- a young Warren Spahn.
His best season, where he pitched more than 20 complete games, was with the 1937 Cardinals -- pitching 12-12(0.500 average), and a very respectable 3.32 ERA. His overall ERA was 4.09 -- not bad for a pitcher who played on bad teams. I suppose the hitting of his teammates wasn't that great. He really didn't stand out as a spectacular player, but he is given Honorable Mention for the Cincinatti Reds All-Time Team -- not a bad commendation. Si was one who stuck it out year after year, and upon retiring from the majors in 1947 came back home to where he grew up.
According to the locals in Norway, Illinois, he put in some time at the Norway Store. Probably his better-known achievement amongst his hometown friends was that he was the pitcher who last struck out Babe Ruth in 1935, who was playing for the Boston Braves at the time. Si was pitching for the Cincinatti Reds at that time, and that was one of his poorer years as pitcher (W-L 5-11).
I will be learning more about Si during the course of the Fox River Settlement Project, so you'll be hearing more about this Norwegian ballplayer.
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