“Topeka Jack” Johnson

(Frank) And here we are again. (Deb) Talking about one of Frank’s favorite subjects, baseball. There’s just no end to the baseball stories, are there Frank? (Frank) Uh-huh. (Deb) And just like Kansas has a lot of musical and acting talent, we’ve got a lot of baseball talent. (Frank) A lot of baseball people. Yes. (Deb) Awful lot of baseball people. And I want to give a shout-out to our friend Doug Wright and Doug is, I don’t know, some potentate with the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame which, it’s just Shawnee county but I’m telling you they got a pretty prestigious lineup in that Hall of Fame, it’s amazing when you look at it. But Doug provided the research for this story so we want to tell Doug how much we appreciate that. (Frank) In fact, I’m going to do a story on Topeka Jack and he was just recently honored finally after many years and I don’t want to get ahead of the story. But it is an interesting story. And yes you’re right; baseball for some reason in Kansas really is a big thing. When I was a kid they didn’t come scout me but the thing is the Chicago White Sox came to Kansas a lot to scout talent. And there were a lot of Topekans that got to go. And of course, we have people that have played in the World Series and everything else from the state of Kansas. And what we’ve done is some stories of that about Tinker or to Chance, to Evers. (Deb) Mickey Mantle, Mike Torrez. (Frank) Mickey Mantle, Mike Torrez. (Deb) Yes. Go to our website and you can look back through the archives and find some of those stories. (Frank) So anyway, I’m going to have a story about Topeka Jack. Here’s a great story. “Topeka Jack” Johnson passed away in 1940, and his grave in the capital city’s Mount Auburn Cemetery was unmarked for more than half a century, until just weeks ago. A well-known baseball player, manager and promoter decades prior to the integration of the major leagues, Johnson was also a prominent boxer. He later served on the Topeka police and fire departments. On the day his marker was dedicated, a celebration of his life was held at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site with a special celebration of Johnson’s life. The headstone was provided by the Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project, a subsidiary of the Society of American Baseball Research. He founded and managed the Topeka Giants in 1906, taking them on a tour of Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. He went on to play for and manage the Kansas City, Kansas, Giants in 1909 and 1911, and the Kansas City, Missouri, Royal Giants in 1910. During these years he worked with players like Tullie McAdoo, Bill Pettus, a young 18-year-old Bill Lindsay, Bingo DeMoss, and Hurley McNair. In 1917 Johnson managed “Jack Johnson’s Topeka Giants,” a team that played at least one game against the All Nations baseball club. The events honoring him were sponsored by the Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project, the Shawnee County Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Foundation. Negro Leagues Author Phil Dixon commented about the ceremonies, “I was very happy to see Johnson getting a bit of the recognition he earned. Back in the 1980’s I began writing about his accomplishments and researching his life. “Roosevelt Butler of KCK provided me with a photograph of Johnson managing the 1909 Kansas City Kansas Giants. That season Johnson led the Giants to 54 consecutive victories,” Phil continued. “Fred Langford, who lived in KCK was the first to tell me about Johnson’s boxing career and that “Topeka Jack” had fought World Champion Jack Johnson in Leavenworth, Kansas. Langford also played for the Kansas City Kansas Giants. Speaking of Langfords, “Topeka Jack” also fought Sam Langford in Topeka, Kansas. This information was first published in one of my books. There is much more to the story and I am glad to have played a role in keeping his history alive.”

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