Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Johnson got help for final autograph

A poignant part of reading through the 1946 issues of The Sporting News was the on-going coverage of Walter Johnson’s last months.

In April, Johnson had been hospitalized at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C., suffering from what was eventually diagnosed as a brain tumor.
Every couple of issues TSN reported on Johnson’s condition in what was an eight-month series of rallies and relapses, with the great pitcher slipping into and out of comas and varying degrees of lucidity. As his condition worsened, the once-husky Johnson wasted away to 100 pounds.

In a news short in the Dec. 4 issue, the sporting paper reported that Johnson had sent a birthday card to his old boss, Clark Griffith, who turned 77 on Nov. 20. The item read . . .

One of the most prized mementoes of the seventy-seventh birthday anniversary of Clark Griffith, president of the Senators, was a card from Room 103, Georgetown University Hospital. Accompanying the card was a letter from Nurse Sara Shea, who wrote: “Walter Johnson asked me take his hand in mine and help him guide the pen so he could sign it. I did and I enclose his greeting to you.”

On Dec. 7, Johnson went into a coma from which he never regained consciousness. He died just before midnight on Dec. 10.

As a collector, I’d like to think that what must surely have been Walter Johnson’s last “autograph” survives somewhere today.


  1. It would be really cool to see that letter/birthday card turn up somewhere. Hopefully the signature has not been chopped up to fit into a modern "cut signature" card.

  2. Great story, Bob. That's one of the best ones I've heard lately.


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