Greatest Baseball Nicknames:’ The Big Train’ and “Barney’- Walter Johnson. Walter Johnson would get my vote as the greatest pitcher in baseball history. In his 21 seasons-all with the Washington Senators- who were usually a pretty bad team until late in Johnson’s career- Johnson won 416 games with a 2.17 lifetime ERA. He was also up to his time considered the fastest pitcher. He got the nickname ‘Big Train’ in 1911 early in his career by sportswriter Grantland Rice. At the time the fastest transportation that humans could conceive was travel by train. A nickname that he was often addressed by though was ‘Barney’ -which was a reference to Barney Oldfield a famous race car driver of the day.
Walter Johnson by all accounts was a fine gentleman- and as fast as he threw the baseball its probably a good thing for the hitters of the day that he was. Back in that time the batter didn’t wear a helmet and Johnson had great control of his pitches- because he was afraid of hitting and severely hurting someone. The great Ty Cobb who was a career .366 hitter- the best ever- hit exactly .366 against the great Johnson. It is said that his success was due to knowing that Johnson was a great fellow who didn’t want to hurt anyone. When hitting against Johnson, Cobb would crowd the plate knowing that Johnson wouldn’t throw the ball inside on him.
To quote Ty Cobb- “I saw him wince when he fired one close to somebody’s head, and he used to tell me that he was afraid someday that he would kill a man with that fireball,” Cobb once said. “So I used to cheat. I’d crowd that plate so far that I was actually sticking my toes on it when I was facing Johnson. I knew he was timid about hitting a batter, and when he saw me crowding the plate he’d steer his pitches a little bit wide. Then with two balls and no strikes, he’d ease up a bit to get it over. That’s the Johnson pitch I hit. I was depending on him to be scared of hitting me.”