Al Johnson

This article was written by Bill Lamb

Al Johnson (COURTESY OF BILL LAMB)For a brief period in the early 1890s, Al Johnson was an influential, if not overly trustworthy, actor on the major league baseball scene. A wealthy young industrialist, he was the first and the most important of the money men attracted to the Players League cause. In the league’s formative days, Johnson recruited other capitalists to back the fledgling circuit, infused needed cash into underfunded franchises, and lent business insight to the organizational underpinnings of the PL’s revolutionary owner-player collaboration. Once the PL was up and running, he also served as co-owner/club president of the new league’s Cleveland Infants.

Late in the 1890 season, Johnson engineered a stunning interleague coup: acquisition of the financially shaky Cincinnati Reds of the National League on behalf of a consortium of PL clubs. Following the Players League’s demise at season end, Johnson secured a place for his Cincinnati club in the NL’s surviving major league rival, the American Association. Shortly thereafter, he contracted to sell that same Cincy ballclub to the National League, only to have the transfer enjoined by a court order obtained by an indignant and betrayed AA. Multi-party litigation ensued. Coming out on the losing end and disenchanted with baseball, Johnson abandoned the game, returning to the streetcar industry whence he came. Less than a decade later, Al Johnson was dead, succumbing to complications of heart disease at age 40. An account of his life and mercurial 18-month tenure as a baseball mogul follows.

Albert Loftin Johnson was born on a slave plantation in Scott County, Kentucky, on December 24, 1860. Descended from a family replete with distinguished political and military forbears,1 Al was the middle of three sons born to planter Albert W. Johnson (1830-1895) and his Memphis-native wife Helen (née Loftin, 1834-1905). Despite reputed admiration for Abraham Lincoln, father Albert adhered to pro-South family tradition when the Civil War erupted and accepted a commission with the Confederate army. He rose to the rank of colonel and was serving on the staff of General John C. Breckinridge when hostilities ended.2

After the war, the Johnsons relocated to Arkansas but, having been deprived of slave labor, could not make a go of a new plantation. The family soon returned to Kentucky, settling in Louisville, where young Al and his brothers attended school fitfully, eventually attaining a rudimentary education. Meanwhile, his father served capably as chief of the Louisville police department. In time, oldest son Tom (1854-1911) found employment with a local streetcar line. Tom Johnson combined ambition, business acumen, and a gift for invention – he devised rail apparatus and streetcar devices that won several lucrative patents and were soon adopted industry-wide. Thus, his career prospered, making him a wealthy man.

Following in Tom’s footsteps was his six-years-younger brother Al, leaving school early for an entry-level job with a Louisville streetcar company. Still a teenager, he moved to Indianapolis after Tom acquired a controlling interest in that city’s streetcar line.3 In the early 1880s, the Johnsons, including father/company president Albert W. and son Al – by then a junior executive – moved on to Cleveland, where Tom organized a new streetcar line. Eventually, Tom Johnson entered Democratic Party politics, winning a Congressional seat in 1890 and later becoming a nationally renowned progressive four-term mayor (1901-1909).4 But for the short term, the Johnsons concentrated on development of their Cleveland streetcar venture, considerably enlarging the family exchequer in the process.

The Johnson brothers were exceptionally close but men of vastly different talents and temperament. According to an obituary, “Tom did most of the planning and inventing, and trusted the execution of his plans to Albert. While Tom was a diplomat and a hard man to quarrel with, Albert was brusque, even domineering and brooked no opposition. Criticism was often met by him with denunciation and sometimes with invective, but in his personal relations he was even tempered and a hale fellow well met. He had a genius for big operations.”5 Soon, that genius was placed in the service of a renegade baseball league.

Although a man of considerable size (6-foot-1, 200-plus pounds), there is no evidence that Al Johnson was an athlete or that he ever played baseball. But Al was an ardent baseball fan from an early age.6 In Cleveland, the arrival of major league baseball in the late 1880s frequently drew Johnson to games played at League Park. That stadium was home to ballclubs (the American Association Cleveland Blues, 1887-1888, thereafter the National League Cleveland Spiders) owned by Frank and Stanley Robison, the operators of a rival Cleveland streetcar line. Although a capitalist entrepreneur like the Robison brothers, Al identified with the common working man.7 These sympathies, in turn, gravitated Johnson toward a proletariat baseball enterprise quietly in the making.

During a June 1889 visit to Cleveland by the NL Pittsburgh Alleghenies, center fielder Ned Hanlon “called on [Johnson] and told him how the League had broken faith with [the players union] so often.”8 Although long resentful of the reserve clause, a standard feature of player contracts, Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players leader John Montgomery Ward had been goaded into action by a recently adopted classification system that placed a ceiling on player salaries.9 Hanlon then informed Al that a movement to create a player-controlled baseball circuit was silently percolating. Shortly thereafter, Johnson spoke privately with Cleveland outfielder Larry Twitchell, and “after a long talk, [Johnson] agreed to lend all the assistance within his power to help [the players] accomplish their aim.”10 Toward that end, Johnson conducted discreet meetings with Brotherhood men for the remainder of the season.11

A grateful Ward later declared that “A.L. Johnson was the organizing genius of the new league. He spent time and money for the benefit of the cause he had espoused, traveled long distances to attend meetings, and gave form and encouragement to the various groups out of which the Players’ National League was formed.”12 But most important of all, Johnson brought ready capital to the endeavor – first his own, and thereafter that of Wall Street broker Edward B. Talcott, tobacco tycoon Edwin A. McAlpin, and other well-heeled baseball enthusiasts whom Johnson recruited for club sponsorship in the Players League.13

Leading by example, Johnson formed a PL franchise in Cleveland shortly after the public unveiling of the Players League in early November 1889. Per the league model, the club’s ownership was collective, split between Johnson and the Cleveland players, whose half-interest was protected by player representatives on the club board of directors. Two weeks later, having been officially appointed club president, Johnson announced the signing of seven ballplayers for the new Cleveland Infants. He then took to the road to shore up the financing of the PL outpost in Pittsburgh.14 All the while, Al also served as the nascent circuit’s foremost cheerleader. “The Players League is as much an assured success as if the season was begun and interest was at its height,” Johnson declared in December. “Don’t let the people worry about sufficient financial backing. It is already guaranteed and every player will get his salary.”15 Presiding over the winter convention as acting league president, he announced that the new circuit already had 98 players under contract.16

Back in Cleveland, Johnson leased real estate on the outskirts of the city (but conveniently serviced by the Johnson brothers’ streetcar line) and set about construction of Brotherhood Park. By early February, Al was feeling chipper enough to propose a winner-take-everything match to Frank Robison, co-owner/club president of the Cleveland Spiders of the National League. “I will play your club three games, and if we do not win two, I will give you my club and grounds. You do the same if we win,” proposed a confident Johnson when the two men encountered each other at a Cleveland hotel. “See you later,” replied Robison.17

But not all was smooth sailing. Johnson was disaffected by players reneging on contract agreements signed with his club, threatening to file suit against them but ultimately declining to do so. Conversely, Johnson himself survived the court action instituted by Robison alleging interference with players under contract or reserve rule hold to the Spiders.18 In the end, the Infants club boss was able to assemble a good hitting squad (featuring Pete Browning, Ed Delahanty, and Henry Larkin), but one handicapped by substandard pitching.

Opening in Buffalo, the Cleveland Infants got off to an 0-4 start, its pitching staff surrendering an atrocious 75 runs in those games. After winning two of three games played in Pittsburgh, the club’s home debut was a success, the Infants eking out a 6-5 win over the Chicago Pirates before an estimated crowd of 4,000 (including numerous freebies). The new Cleveland ballpark was an unqualified hit, with even Sporting Life’s local correspondent, an avowed National League partisan, unstinting in his praise of the grounds and the club leader. “Johnson’s Park is a beauty,” wrote R.W. Wright. “The stands are well constructed, the seats comfortable, and the grounds as a whole are a credit to the business enterprise of their owners. The street car service from the center of town to the park could not be improved upon. … Johnson deserves great credit for the manner in which he handled the opening game.”19

Unhappily for Al Johnson, his club proved an also-ran, posting a 55-75-1 (.423) record that was good for no better than seventh place in final PL standings. As the season headed for the close, however, Johnson became preoccupied with extra-club endeavors. With all three major leagues awash in red ink, Johnson became a prominent denier of persistent reports that the Players League and American Association intended to amalgamate for the 1891 season.20 Soon thereafter, additional reports of interleague schemes surfaced. This time, the rumors had substance and Al Johnson was at the center of the action.

The initial Johnson maneuver involved the National League’s franchise in Cincinnati. Like other club magnates, Reds club owners Aaron Stern and Harry Sterne were losing money in 1890, and it was an open secret that the pair was looking to get out of the game. Still, NL forces were stunned when Johnson announced that he had acquired the Cincinnati Reds for the Players League.21 Shortly thereafter, Brotherhood stalwarts were alarmed – and many angered – by a report that Johnson and certain other PL club owners were engaged in covert negotiation with NL counterparts.22 By the time that events finally played out, various parties had been given cause to view Al Johnson as unreliable and duplicitous.

After the financial losses that all three major leagues had suffered, it was pretty much a given that baseball would undergo contraction as the offseason commenced. Johnson was appointed to the three-member PL delegation dispatched to Manhattan to negotiate a settlement with National League and American Association representatives.23 But following the lead of his friends Talcott and McAlpin in New York and the Brooklyn PL club bosses, Johnson was unwilling to wait for a global resolution of the situation. Instead, he initiated direct discussion with Cleveland Spiders club boss Frank Robison regarding disposition of the Infants.

Notwithstanding their streetcar line and ballclub competition, the Johnson and Robison brothers had maintained cordial relations.24 But as others had before him, Frank Robison soon found doing business with Al Johnson to be a disagreeable exercise. After opening positions were exchanged, Johnson proposed the following settlement of the matter. In return for a $25,000 payment by the National League to Johnson and NL assumption of a $4,000 Johnson note due to former Cincinnati co-owners Stern and Sterne, Johnson would transfer his interest in the Cleveland and Cincinnati ballclubs to the NL. Johnson also pledged to use his best efforts to bring all outstanding PL-NL issues to amicable resolution. If the NL accepted his proposition, Johnson would throw in an unsolicited consideration but one privately welcomed by A.G. Spalding and other NL moguls who deemed Johnson an agitator and untrustworthy: a formal commitment not to participate in baseball for the next five years.25

No sooner had Robison accepted Johnson’s terms on behalf of the National League than Johnson repudiated the deal, charging Spalding and Robison with having “acted in bad faith with me.”26 Conspicuous by their absence were the specifics of Johnson’s complaint. Given that Johnson himself had proposed the terms that the parties had agreed upon, the charge was a bewildering one – particularly after a personally affronted Robison published the details of the negotiations.27 In due course, Robison and the NL prevailed; Johnson’s interest in Cleveland expired alongside the official passing of the Players League in mid-January 1891. Johnson now concentrated his baseball ambitions on Cincinnati.

Much to Johnson’s chagrin, the National League assigned the Cincinnati territory to one of its own: John T. Brush, club boss of the recently deceased NL Indianapolis Hoosiers.28 Thereafter, Brush attempted to negotiate a settlement of Johnson’s claim on Cincinnati but was rebuffed by Al. Meanwhile, the American Association, stewing over the signing of two stalwart former AA players by National League clubs, sundered the interleague peace agreement that had just been reached and geared up for war with the NL. Among the events signaling commencement of hostilities was American Association enrollment of an Al Johnson-owned Cincinnati ballclub.29 Declaring that he “was never so full of fight as now and that he will run the club in Cincinnati this year,”30 Johnson quickly set about assembling a roster and soon claimed to have Bid McPhee, Long John Reilly, and other of the previous season’s Reds players under contract.31 Engaged as the club’s playing manager was one of the game’s biggest names: Mike “King” Kelly.32

Unbeknownst to his newfound AA colleagues, Johnson had remained in negotiation with the National League. On March 10, 1891, newspaper headlines revealed that Johnson had sold his Cincinnati ballclub to the NL.33 In certain news outlets, readers were informed that “Johnson set the price of his treachery at $30,000.”34 The revelation struck American Association club owners “like a thunder-clap from a clear sky on a bright summer’s afternoon. … They were surprised to such an extent that they were speechless. Then surprise gave way to indignation.”35 Within days, that sentiment spurred the onset of legal action.

A highly detailed account of that litigation is beyond the scope of this profile. Suffice it to say that its primary instigators were Charles Prince and J. Earle Wagner, two former Players League club magnates now running teams in the American Association. At issue was the true ownership of the newly admitted AA Cincinnati ballclub that Johnson was trying to sell to the National League. The gravamen of the lawsuit filed in the Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Court of Common Pleas was the allegation that Johnson had not purchased the Cincinnati Reds by or for himself the previous October. Rather, the team had been acquired on behalf of the Players League using funds contributed by PL club bosses in Boston (Prince), Philadelphia (Wagner), Chicago (John Addison), New York (Talcott and partners), and Brooklyn (Wendell Goodwin, et al.), as well as by Johnson. That being so, Johnson was not at liberty to dispose of the ballclub unilaterally.36

A temporary restraining order enjoining the National League from tendering the $30,000 club purchase price to Johnson was promptly obtained by the American Association. It preserved the status quo until the case was decided.37 Thereafter, the answer filed in court by defendant Johnson laid claim to the entire $30,000, asserting, implausibly, that Prince, Wagner, and the others had donated their interests in the Cincinnati club to him “in atonement for deserting” Johnson during the Players League’s post-season fight for survival.38

Once the matter was placed on the docket of Judge S.N. Maxwell, things went downhill quickly for Johnson. Preliminarily, the court denied a defense petition for the issuance of an injunction enjoining the Brush-led Cincinnati Reds from beginning regular-season National League play. Simultaneously, Judge Maxwell ordered the National League to place the unpaid $30,000 franchise purchase price in escrow with a court-appointed receiver pending disposition of the case.39 This not only effectively held the NL harmless whatever the final outcome of the litigation. It implicitly placed a judicial imprimatur on the NL’s acquisition of the ballclub from Johnson. With the National League thus a clear winner in the case, the identity of its loser was the only thing needing to be established. And that turned out to be Al Johnson.

On August 20, 1891, Judge Maxwell rejected Johnson’s “atonement” gift claim and directed that the proceeds of the sale of the Cincinnati franchise to the NL be apportioned on a pro rata basis among all those who had contributed to the purchase of the ballclub from Stern and Sterne, minus legitimate expenses.40 From the funds held in escrow, court costs and the receiver’s fee came off the top. Expenditures for maintenance of the Cincinnati franchise and its playing grounds over the winter were then reimbursed, with Johnson receiving $5,400 and the plaintiffs $4,100, total. The remaining $20,000 was divided thusly: $11,250 to the National League as assignee of the Chicago, New York, and Brooklyn contributions; Al Johnson and Charles Prince, $3,750 each; and J. Earle Wagner, $1,250.41 As gleefully noted by press outlets unsympathetic to Johnson, the case outcome was a crushing defeat for the defendant, with Johnson awarded barely enough to cover his attorney’s fees.42

By the time that the Maxwell ruling was rendered, Al Johnson had abandoned baseball and returned to the streetcar business. The threadbare Mike Kelly-led ballclub that the American Association operated in Cincinnati was also gone, the franchise having been transferred to Milwaukee on August 18. At season’s end, the AA itself passed into history, with four of its franchises being absorbed into a National League bloated to 12 clubs for the 1892 season.

The contribution to the game that Al Johnson left behind was decidedly mixed. As noted by Brotherhood leader Ward, Johnson’s monetary support had been indispensable to the Players League. Indeed, the rebel circuit may never have gotten off the ground without it. The same goes for Johnson’s recruitment of the other wealthy backers who entered PL ownership ranks. But in the aftermath of a financially punishing season, the PL delegation of Johnson, Talcott, and Goodwin proved irresolute, no match for the hard-nosed A.G. Spalding, who blustered and bluffed them into agreeing to their league’s dissolution. And Johnson’s conduct in the sale of the Cleveland and Cincinnati clubs was unseemly, if not worse. If the judgment here is to be charitable to our subject, perhaps the final word should be accorded to Sporting Life editor Frank Richter, who assessed Al Johnson as “a good, open, honest fighter but a mighty poor diplomat and a failure as a schemer.”43

Preceding his reimmersion in the transportation industry, Al had a personal matter to attend to: marriage. On April 29, 1891, the 30-year-old Johnson took banker’s daughter Kate Mitchell as his wife at Second Presbyterian Church in Louisville.44 The couple then embarked upon an extended honeymoon in Europe. In the ensuing years, they had four children: Mildred (born 1893), Thomas (1894), Albert, Jr. (1896), and Helen (1897).

With brother Tom having come to hold political office, Al assumed leadership of family business operations. Under his direction, the company branched out, constructing small-scale trolley and rail projects in East Liverpool, Ohio, and Allentown, Pennsylvania, before moving on to Brooklyn, where the family fortune mushroomed. Johnson ventures such as Consolidated Nassau Railway and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company proved highly successful. When Tom and Al sold their interest in the latter in 1897, they netted a cool $4 million.45 Al’s subsequent trip to London to construct a large transit system encountered opposition and was abandoned. He then turned his attention to a plan to connect New York City to Philadelphia by rail, but this endeavor also ran into resistance. Then, Johnson fell ill.

Although still a relatively young man, Johnson had developed heart disease. Confined to bed at Harbor View, the mansion that he had built in the Fort Hamilton section of Brooklyn, Albert Loftin Johnson died there on July 2, 1901.46 He was 40. Johnson’s death was unexpected and drew widespread coverage in the nation’s frontline press.47 Obituaries covered his family background, association with more famous brother Tom, and involvement in urban transportation projects. His brief dalliance with baseball was mentioned in passing, if at all. Following funeral services, Johnson’s remains were interred in the family vault at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. Survivors included widow Kate and their four young children, brothers Tom and Will, and mother Helen Loftin Johnson.



This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Norman Macht and factchecked by Ken Liss.



Sources for the biographical data supplied herein include Ethan M. Lewis, “The Wildest Kind of Crank: The Story of Players League Magnet Al Johnson,” The National Pastime, Vol. 27 (2007); the Al Johnson profile in Major League Player Profiles, 1871-1900, Vol. 2, David Nemec, ed. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), and Al Johnson newspaper obituaries published in July 1901. Background information on the Players League was taken from Robert B. Ross, The Great Baseball Revolt: The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), and Ethan M. Lewis, “A Structure to Last Forever: The Players’ League and the Brotherhood War of 1890,” accessible on-line.



1 Johnson family involvement in political and military affairs dated to Colonial America. Likely its most prominent member was Richard M. Johnson, Vice President of the United States from 1837 to 1841. More detail on the Johnson clan is provided in the obituary of our subject’s father. See “Col. Albert W. Johnson,” Louisville Courier-Journal, November 7, 1895: 5.

2 An accomplished solder-politician, Kentucky native Breckenridge served as US Vice President during the Buchanan administration (1857-1861) and was the Constitutional Union Party candidate for president in 1860.

3 The acquisition of the Indianapolis streetcar system was financed in part by a $30,000 loan from the ultra-rich duPonts of Delaware whose many interests included the Louisville streetcar line where Tom Johnson got his start in the business, per Ethan M. Lewis, “The Wildest Kind of Crank: The Story of Players’ League Magnate Al Johnson,” The National Pastime, Vol. 27 (2007).

4 Christened Thomas Loftin Johnson, the populist politician held office as Tom L. Johnson, an informality intended to signify his identification with the working class.

5 See “Death of Al Johnson a Shock to His Friends,” Brooklyn Eagle, July 3, 1901: 7.

6 Although he became a silent investor in Al’s Players League club, Tom Johnson had no interest in the game. But Will, the youngest Johnson brother, was also a keen baseball fan, attempting unsuccessfully to cultivate PL interest in St. Louis as a league venue.

7 Al Johnson’s political/philosophical attitudes were influenced by those of older brother Tom, a disciple of social reformer Henry George.

8 Per “Albert Johnson Talks,” Chicago Tribune, October 30, 1889: 6; “Johnson’s Big Story,” Pittsburg Dispatch, October 30, 1889: 7. The Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players had formed during the winter of 1885-1886. The union’s driving force was visionary New York Giants shortstop John Montgomery Ward, an 1885 Columbia Law School graduate.

9 The Brush Classification Plan, so-named for author John T. Brush, the owner of the NL Indianapolis Hoosiers.

10 “Albert Johnson Talks,” above.

11 Same as above. The Johnson-player meetings were conducted at the Hollenden Hotel, their privacy safeguarded by Cleveland police officers retained by Johnson for that purpose. See also, Robert B. Ross, The Great Baseball Revolt: The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), 91-92.

12 Per “A Double Headed President,” Lewis, above, citing The Sporting News, October 19, 1890. Ward added that “Mr. Johnson’s services were of inestimable value to the new league.”

13 In a reminiscence published more than 40 years after the event, a New York sportswriter placed soon-to-be PL magnates Johnson, Talcott, and McAlpin together in grandstand celebration of a tape measure home run hit by the Giants’ Roger Connor at the New Polo Grounds during summer 1889. See John Kieran, “The Brave Days of Old in Baseball,” New York Times, January 7, 1931: 40.

14 Per “Seven Infants Corralled,” New York Herald, November 21, 1889: 9.

15 “Johnson on Amalgamation,” Sporting Life, December 11, 1889: 1. See also, “The Joyous Johnson,” Kalamazoo (Michigan) Gazette, December 4, 1889: 6.

16 As reported in “Businesslike Players,” New York Herald, December 17, 1889: 6. Shortly thereafter, New York co-owner Edwin A. McAlpin was installed as official Players League president.

17 Per “A Bold Challenge,” Pittsburg Dispatch, February 6, 1890: 7.

18 As reported in “Want Stricker Enjoined,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, March 2, 1890: 6; “Cleveland Club Seeks an Injunction against Stricker, Johnson, et al,” Indianapolis Journal, March 2, 1890: 8. Ultimately, five 1889 Spiders – Cub Stricker, Larry Twitchell, Sy Sutcliffe, Jersey Bakley, and Cinders O’Brien – jumped to the Infants for the 1890 season.

19 R.W. Wright, “From Cleveland,” Sporting Life, May 3, 1890: 2.

20 See e.g., “No Amalgamation,” Sporting Life, September 27, 1890: 1; “Talking at Random,” Sporting Life, August 30, 1890: 1.

21 See “Cincinnati Team in the Brotherhood,” New York Herald, October 5, 1890: 19; “Aaron and Harry,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, October 5, 1890: 1; “The Sale of the Cincinnati Club,” Cleveland Leader, October 4, 1890: 3; “The Big Deal,” Sporting Life, October 4, 1890: 1. The purchase price was reportedly $40,000 – half in cash up front, the remainder in deferred notes, per “The Cincinnati Deal,” Sporting Life, October 11, 1890: 4.

22 See “Baseball Men at Peace,” New York Tribune, October 15, 1890: 3; “The Sporting World,” Cleveland Leader, October 13, 1890: 2.

23 Per “Conference at Last,” Sporting Life, October 11, 1890: 1. The other members of the PL delegation were de facto New York club boss Talcott and Brooklyn club president Wendell Goodwin. The NL reps were hardliners A.G. Spalding (Chicago), John B. Day (New York), and Charles Byrne (Brooklyn), while Association president Allen Thurman, Chris Von der Ahe (St. Louis), and Billy Barnie (Philadelphia) represented the AA. Much to the dismay of John Montgomery Ward and friends, the Brotherhood was excluded from settlement negotiations.

24 With Tom Johnson confined to his bed with typhoid in May 1890, Frank Robison suspended ongoing construction of a new streetcar line outside the Johnson residence for several weeks so that Tom’s rest would not be disturbed. R.W. Wright, “From Cleveland,” Sporting Life, June 7, 1890: 7.

25 Per “Johnson and the League,” Sporting Life, November 29, 1890: 3; “Johnson’s Terms,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 21, 1890: 5.

26 See “Johnson’s Case,” Sporting Life, November 29, 1890: 3; “The Sporting World,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 25, 1890: 4.

27 See again, “Johnson and the League,” above. In light of the “friendly relations we have enjoyed for years,” Robison was at a loss to explain Johnson’s turning on him. And while Spalding was no Johnson admirer, he had advocated NL embrace of the deal proffered by Johnson. See “Spalding Still Working for Settlement,” Sporting Life, November 22, 1890: 1.

28 An Indianapolis department store owner smitten with baseball, Brush commanded the Hoosiers until his club was liquidated by league decree in late 1889 as a means of fortifying the NL for the oncoming battle with the upstart Players League. Brush, however, retained his place on the NL owners council and had been promised the next available franchise territory.

29 As reported in “Base Ball,” Boston Journal, February 19, 1891: 3; “Base Ball Squabble,” Evansville (Indiana) Journal, February 19, 1891: 9

30 “Will Fight to a Finish,” Omaha World-Herald, February 27, 1891: 1.

31 As reported in “The Sporting World,” Cleveland Leader, March 1, 1891: 3; “Clear Out of Sight,” St. Paul Globe, March 1, 1891: 3; and elsewhere.

32 See “Michael Will Manage,” Chicago Inter Ocean, March 1, 1891: 2.

33 See e.g., “Sold Out by Johnson,” Chicago Herald, March 10, 1891: 2; “A League Club in Cincinnati,” Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Patriot, March 10, 1891: 1.

34 See e.g., “Al Johnson Sells Out,” St. Louis Republic, March 10, 1891: 5; “The League Gets the Reds,” Washington (DC) Evening Star, March 10, 1891: 7.

35 “The News,” Cincinnati Enquirer, March 10, 1891: 2.

36 As reported in “O’Neil’s Side of It,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 22, 1891: 3; “Johnson May Lose That League Money,” The Sporting News, March 21, 1891: 1; “Some Trouble About That Sale,” Cincinnati Enquirer, March 19, 1891: 2.

37 See “A Bitter Baseball Fight,” Indianapolis Journal, March 29, 1891: 1; “League Licked,” Cincinnati Post, March 28, 1891: 8.

38 See “The Cincinnati Scandal,” Sporting Life, April 11, 1891: 1.

39 See “That Cincinnati Decision,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 26, 1891: 11; “Johnson Done Up,” Sporting Life, April 25, 1891: 1. Earlier, another Cincinnati court had temporarily enjoined the National League from paying the $30,000 purchase price to Johnson, per “League Licked,” Cincinnati Post, March 28, 1891: 1.

40 As reported in “The Cincinnati Case Decided,” Boston Journal, August 21, 1891: 3; “Must Divide the Money Pro Rata, (Canton, Ohio) Repository, August 21, 1891: 1; “Johnson Loses His Suit,” St. Paul Globe, August 21, 1891: 6; and elsewhere.

41 As itemized in “That Johnson Fund,” Sporting Life, September 5, 1891: 1. Johnson subsequently posted the $200 bond required for leave to appeal the Maxwell ruling but no newsprint evidence was discovered regarding whether Johnson ever pursued relief in an appellate court.

42 See e.g., “A Traitor Loses,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 21, 1891: 8: “There is little sympathy for a traitor.” See also, “Another Throw Down for Johnson,” Kansas City Times, August 22, 1891: 3; “Rough on Al Johnson,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 21, 1891: 3.

43 “Johnson Done Up,” Sporting Life, April 25, 1891: 1.

44 See “In White and Gold,” Cleveland Leader, April 30, 1891: 9; “Joined in Wedlock,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 30, 1891: 21. See also, “Albert L. Johnson’s Boyhood; His Louisville Wife, Louisville Courier-Journal, July 4, 1901: 8.

45 As noted in various of our subject’s July 1901 obituaries.

46 A ruptured aortic artery was later deemed the official cause of death.

47 See e.g., “Death of Al Johnson a Shock to His Friends,” Brooklyn Eagle, July 3, 1901: 7; “Albert L. Johnson Is Dead,” Detroit Free Press, July 3, 1901: 1; “Al L. Johnson Died from Heart Disease,” New York Times, July 3, 1901: 1.

Full Name

Albert Loftin Johnson


December 24, 1860 at Scott County, KY (US)


July 2, 1901 at Cleveland, Ohio (US)

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