Judy Johnson Day
August 18, 2001

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Gamma Theta Lambda Chapter
Alpha Phi Alpha
Blue Rocks Baseball Judy Johnson Night

The Wilmington Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Gamma Theta Lambda) presents an evening with the Blue Rocks on "Judy Johnson Night", August 18, 2001, during the team's annual tribute to the players of the Negro Leagues. We invite you to spend an evening with family and friends at "Johnson/Frawley" or sponsor a young person from an area community center.

The Event: The Wilmington Blue Rocks vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans at Johnson/Frawley (Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, Judy Johnson Field). This is "Judy Johnson Night" at the stadium. The day that the Wilmington Blue Rocks pay tribute to the players of the Negro Leagues.

Date: Saturday, August 18, 2001 at 7:05pm

COST: $6 per ticket (make checks payable to Gamma Theta Lambda/Alpha Phi Alpha) You can elect to attend the game with your family and friends or donate your tickets back to the fraternity. Tickets donated back to the fraternity will be used to take young people from area community centers to the game. 



Chuck Tarver

Come spend an enjoyable evening with the Wilmington Blue Rocks or send a young person to the ballgame.

Alpha Phi Alpha is the oldest of the historically Black Greek Letter organizations. It was established in 1906 at Cornell University. The Wilmington Delaware chapter, Gamma Theta Lambda was chartered in 1945.

William Julius "Judy"Johnson 

William Julius "Judy"Johnson , was born in Snow Hill, Maryland in either 1899 or 1900, the youngest of William and Annie Johnson's three children. Soon after his birth, the family settled in Wilmington, Delaware where Johnson's father worked for a shipbuilding company and as athletic director for the Negro Settlement House.

His father set up a makeshift gym, complete with weights, and tried to train young William to become a prizefighter. The son however, had his heart set on playing baseball. His earliest games were played at the Frederick Douglass Elementary School and in the park at Second and DuPont Streets, near the family's Delamore Place home.

Johnson left Howard High School to work on the docks during World War I, and play baseball with several semipro teams. In 1918 he was signed by the Hilldale Giants of Philadelphia. He played for them on Thursdays and Saturdays. On Sundays, the team traveled to Atlantic City, New Jersey, donned different uniforms and played as the Bacharach Giants. 

During winter stints in Florida and Cuba, Johnson beefed up his hitting and became the Hilldale Giants' regular third baseman during the 1920s. He was given the nickname "Judy" because he resembled Chicago player Judy Gans.

After hitting .327 in 1924, Johnson played for the Hilldale Giants in the first Negro World Series against the Kansas City Monarchs. His clutch inside-the-park home run won Game 5 and gave Philadelphia a 3-1 game lead. (One game ended in a tie.) Johnson's team eventually lost the Series, but he led all batters with a .364 average, six doubles, a triple, and a home run. The following season, Johnson batted .392, and his team again faced Kansas City in the Series. Johnson's key single in the 10th inning of Game 3 gave the Hilldale Giants a victory, and the Monarchs never came close again.

In 1930, during the Great Depression when the Hilldale Giants were temporarily out of business, Johnson joined the Homestead Grays and was named player-manager at age 29. His intelligence, competence at sign-stealing, and various methods of trickery helped him win the position. 

That same year, the Kansas City Monarchs came to town with their "amazing" portable lighting system. The lights did a poor job of illuminating the cavernous confines of Forbes Field. During the game catcher Buck Ewing tore his hand open catching a pitch. Johnson asked the second-string catcher to take over. When he refused to go onto the dark field, Johnson looked into the stands, recognized young Josh Gibson, and asked him to catch. Johnson later became Gibson's mentor. 

Johnson returned to Philadelphia in 1931. In 1932, Pittsburgh numbers boss Gus Greenlee "bought the best team" in the Negro Leagues. Johnson, along with Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Chet Williams, Satchel Paige, Vic Harris, and "Cool Papa" Bell, joined the Crawfords. 

In 1935, the Crawfords won the pennant in dramatic fashion. They had won the first half of the season but finished behind the Cuban Giants in the second half. A seven-game playoff was set to determine the title. Pittsburgh was losing the seventh and final game, 7-4, in the last of the ninth, with two on and two out, when Johnson stepped to the plate. The Giants brought in Martin Dihigo to nail down the championship, but the 36-year-old Johnson beat out an infield hit, and Charleston cracked a grand slam to win the game.

After Jackie Robinson broke the Major League color barrier, Johnson was hired as a scout for several Major League teams, including the A's, Phillies, and Dodgers. He told the story of how he could have kept the A's in Philadelphia. "I could have gotten Hank Aaron for them for $3,500 when he was playing for the Indianapolis Clowns," Johnson said. "I got my boss out of bed and told him I had a good prospect and he wouldn't cost too much. He said, 'Thirty-five hundred! That's too much money.' Too much for a man like that! I could have gotten Larry Doby and Minnie Minoso, too, and the A's would still be playing in Philadelphia, because that would be all the outfield they'd have needed."

As a Phillies scout, Johnson helped sign future All-Star Dick Allen. Johnson's understanding of the game was utilized every year in spring training as the Phillies brought him south to coach their young players. He continued in that role through 1974.

At his Hall of Fame induction in 1975, Johnson broke down in tears during his acceptance speech and could not continue. 

Judy Johnson died in 1989.