Robert Lee "Indian Bob" Johnson

Robert Lee "Indian Bob" Johnson may have gotten a late start on his Major League Baseball career, but he was one of the most prodigious hitters over his 13-year career. Born Nov. 26, 1905, in Oklahoma, Johnson grew up in Tacoma and made the city his home. A right-handed left fielder, Johnson finally got his chance with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1933 and also played for the Washington Senators and Boston Red Sox.

Due to the abundance of great outfielders in MLB in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Johnson didn't reach the major leagues until he was 27. Once Connie Mack traded Al Simmons to the Chicago White Sox in 1933, Johnson stepped in and immediately batted .290 with 20 home runs as a rookie. That was a sign of great things to come, as Johnson took advantage of playing his home games in Shibe Park, which was long known as a friendly batting environment for right-handed hitters.

Johnson spent the next decade in Philadelphia before being traded to Washington. After one season in Washington, the Red Sox purchased Johnson's contract, and he played the next two years in Boston. In the early days of home runs, Johnson was only the fifth player in MLB history to post nine consecutive seasons of 20 or more home runs (joining Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx), and his 288 career round-trippers ranked eighth in major league history when he retired. He batted .300 five times, had eight seasons with 100 runs batted in, and finished his career among the American League's top five right-handed hitters in career RBI (1,283), runs (1,239), slugging percentage (.506), total bases (3,501) and walks (1,075). He held the Athletics franchise record for career runs for more than 50 years and also ranked among the AL leaders in games in left field (third, 1,592), outfield putouts (10th, 4,003) and assists (eighth, 208) when his career ended.

Johnson's older brother Roy also played in the major leagues from 1929-38. Johnson totaled seven All-Star appearances and finished in the top-10 voting for the Most Valuable Player Award three times. He compiled a .296 career batting average with 2,051 hits, 396 doubles, 95 triples and 96 stolen bases in 1,863 games. After retiring from Major League Baseball, he spent five more seasons in the minor leagues managing and playing for the Tacoma Tigers of the Western International League. He was inducted into the State of Washington Sports Hall of Fame in 1964 and was honored by the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame in 1989. He died in Tacoma of heart failure at age 76 in 1982.

Bob Carroll wrote about Johnson in his 1985 article "For the Hall of Fame: Twelve Good Men" in National Pastime: "Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds. But it can also make certain ballplayers nigh unto invisible. Indian Bob Johnson never had one of those super seasons that make everyone sit up and whistle. While phenoms came, collected their MVP trophies, and faded, he just kept plodding along hitting .300, with a couple dozen homers and a hundred ribbies year after year…like a guy punching a time clock."