Ernie Johnson Never Forgot His Roots
From Domenic Poli at the Battleboro Reformer on August 17, with quotes by SABR members Dana Sprague:
The state of Vermont and the world of sports recently lost a man described as “a great brother” and “the best guy you’d ever want to meet.”
Ernie Johnson Sr., a Brattleboro native who pitched in the Major Leagues before a career as a broadcaster, passed away Friday night in Georgia at the age of 87.
The native Vermonter signed with baseball’s Boston Braves in 1950 and, after the squad moved to Milwaukee, won the 1957 World Series with the club by defeating the New York Yankees in seven games. A relief pitcher in his active days, Johnson played one season for the Baltimore Orioles before serving as the Braves’ public relations director and broadcaster. Once the team moved to Atlanta in 1966, he took on a full-time broadcasting role until 1989, when he started working on a part-time basis.
Brattleboro resident Dana Sprague has a whole section of his massive baseball memorabilia collection dedicated to Ernie Johnson Sr. Sprague, like many American boys, started collecting baseball cards as a kid and when he started becoming a serious amateur baseball historian 30 years ago, he began researching professional ballplayers from Brattleboro. So he wrote to Ernie, the only individual with that distinction, and soon a friendship was born.
“When I started calling him, asking questions, we got to know each other. That was in the ‘90s,” Sprague said. The questions were for a book called “Green Mountain Boys of Summer,” which he and the other members of the Larry Gardner (Vermont) Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research were working on. Published in 2000, the book details every Major Leaguer to come out of Vermont from 1882-1993. Sprague wrote the chapter about Ernie Johnson Sr.
“We played pick-up baseball games over on the hospital grounds and neighborhood teams at Oak Grove School,” Sprague quotes Johnson as saying. “We also played baseball and basketball teams at Austine School for the Deaf. I became friends with several of the deaf students.”
Read the full article here: http://www.reformer.com/sports/ci_18696090
Further reading: Read Dana Sprague’s BioProject essay on Ernie Johnson Sr. here
Originally published: August 17, 2011. Last Updated: August 17, 2011.