The Gentleman BYRON ‘MEX’ JOHNSON
aka ‘Jew Baby’ Johnson
(Sept. 16, 1911-Sept. 25, 2005)
Some people, like fine wine, age well and with
aging only become better such is the legacy of the gentleman Byron
Byron was a fine athlete as a boy growing up
in Little Rock Arkansas and even as a boy he realized that education
was the key to personal advancement and the building of personal
character. In Little Rock Byron went to Stephens Elementary and
Paul Laurence Dunbar High school. After graduation from high school
Byron went on to Wiley College in Marshall Texas and received
his university degree in education with a minor in math.
After graduating from college he went back to
Little Rock to teach biology and coach the Paul Laurence Dunbar
High School's football team. In 1936 he was ask to play baseball
for the Kansas City Monarchs. At first he decided to stay at his
teaching position rather than to play baseball. In 1937 he was
ask again and after conferring with his family decided to play
for the Monarchs. By coincidence Byron's background in biology
had made the Monarch Butterfly one of his favorite animals, it's
epic journey the round trip from Canada to Mexico to winter for
the season is the longest migration of its kind in nature for
any animal of its size.
Although Byron had disciplined himself to seek
out an education as his first priority, fate had another role
for him to play which put him in the spotlight of Negro League
Baseball playing with the likes of Satchel Page, Turkey Stearns,
Buck O'Neil and Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe.
It may be difficult for some young people to
understand what an honor it was to be ask to be a Kansas City
Monarch in 1937. What it means is that although Byron was not
seeking the limelight for what he was doing, someone had taken
notice of his abilities as an athlete and had sought him out personally
to join the club and after a refusal on the first attempt had
persisted long enough to convince him to play for the team.
The Kansas City Monarchs were black baseball's
glamour franchise and when playing for the Monarchs Byron Johnson
literally rubbed elbows with the best of the Negro Leagues players
and was selected himself as a member of the Negro League East-West
All-Star team in 1938.
Byron Johnson at the Coors field Denver Co.
Played for The Kansas City Monarchs 1937-1940
Byron played for four years with the Negro Leagues
Kansas City Monarchs and was on the road team the Monarchs called
the Satchel Paige All Stars from 1939-1940.
Upon his arrival at the Monarchs Byron was mentored
in the game of baseball by Joe "Bullet" Rogan. Byron
credits Rogan as being the one who taught him to hit a curve ball.
Another close friend during his time with the monarchs was his
room mate Hilton Smith whom he credits with influencing him "to
marry my childhood friend and sweetheart Christine."
Byron recounts his experiences in the Negro league
being particularly proud of his friendship with “the great
Turkey Stearns” considered to be the best hitter of all
time who recorded an incredible average of .430 in his 1929 season,
an average never met over the course of an entire season by any
other hitter in the history of the game. During the 1938 all star
game Turkey promised if Byron would produce a hit for his team
he would give him one of his personal bats as a keep sake. Byron
responded by producing a hit qualifying himself to have one of
Turkey's personal bats. This bat became one of his favorite personal
possessions and the bat is now on display at the Negro League
Hall of Fame made a gift to the museum by Byron as a memento of
During the course of his career
Byron Johnson would become known as one of the best defensive
players of his time and tour with the first Kansas City Monarchs
road team and with the great Satchel Page on his all star team.
As a witness to his defensive
skills, Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe, who was one of
the best defensive players of the game, gave Byron the nick
names "The Arm" and "The Vacuum Cleaner"
as testimony to his defensive abilities.
Byron Johnson's teammate
The Great Satchel Paige
" Work like you don’t need the money,
Love like you’ve never been hurt,
and Dance like no one is watching.”
Quote Attribuated to Satchel Paige
Byron Johnson had the honor of being one of
Satchel Paiges infielders at shortstop. He had the best view in
the house as history was being made by the Kansas City Monarchs
and Satchel Paige's All star teams in 1939-1940. Satchel was known
to send all of his outfielders down to the dugout as he faced
the league's biggest power hitters, and struck them out effortlessly.
Such antics were typical of Satchel's play, and were what drew
people to the games in which he played. He had returned to the
Negro Leagues from Mexico in 1939 when he joined the Kansas City
Monarchs. Satchel led the Monarchs to numerous League pennants,
and he himself enjoyed great success in the leagues All-Star games.
Still having years of ability left which he could
have used to play baseball, Byron made a personal decision to
leave baseball and returned to Little Rock Arkansas where he continued
his career as an educator. Byron was proactive in the civil rights
movement making numerous contributions to the advancement of equal
Byron lived in Denver Colorado with his daughter
and until his passing on Sept, 24, 2005 e still lights up when
telling stories about his Negro League experiences.
Byron never lost touch with the value of family
and home and now has four great grand children, two grand children,
his son, who has passed on, and his daughter. Byron remained married
to his childhood sweetheart for 60 years before she passed away
Byron was recently honored in Canada by being
inducted along with Satchel Page into the Saskatchewan Baseball
Hall of Fame in Battleford Saskatchewan , being one of the only
two Negro League players to be so honored.
link in the picture to purchase this book
The life story of Byron Johnson is released in
a book Authored by Jan Sumner, the book is titled "The
Legacy of a Monarch". Publisher JADAN Publishing,
Denver Co. (303) 300-2866, P.O. Box 22198 Denver Co. 80222.
Website address http://www.jadanpublishingcompanyllc.com
Byrons legacy has been established and affirmed
by the love and friendship of those he played baseball with and
there is no doubt about his prowess as a player and friend both
on the field and off.
This is what Byron would
say about himself:
we had hard times I drew my strength from my family and
friends and played baseball for the love of the game."
Life Cast mold being removed from Byron Johnson's
hands by artist Raelee Frazier
Presentation of the finished Hitter's Hands to the Negro League
Right to Left Charlie Metro, Byron Johnson, Steven Best,
Buck O'Neil, and the Executive Director of the Negro League Museum
Good friends Christine Johnson, Buck O'Neil,
Jay Sanford, and Byron Johnson in Denver Co.
Hitter's Hands has immortalized
the hands of one of the best defensive players in the history
of the Negro Leagues the great Byron "Mex" Johnson.
This art work is currently touring the nation in an exhibit
"Shades of Greatness"
sponsored by the Negro League Museum