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Telegram for Mr. Johnson
Before Walter Johnson was known as the Big Train, he was the Weiser Wonder. In the summer of 1907, Walter Johnson was pitching for the Weiser “semi-pro” team in the Idaho State League. The 19-year old hurler was so dominating that he caught the attention of many Major League scouts from the east. On June 17, 1907 Joe Cantillion sent a telegram to Walter Johnson letting him know that the Senators were very interested in signing him to a contract.
A couple weeks later Joe Cantillion sent injured catcher Cliff Blankenship to Idaho to scout the young phenom. Cantillion told Blankenship who was not known to be a great hitter to take his bat on the trip. Cantillion tells Blankenship that if he can manage to hit a foul ball off the young Johnson, to leave him in Idaho. A few days later, Blankenship sends a telegram to his skipper saying, “you can’t hit what you can’t see. I’ve signed him and he is on his way.”
In fact, Walter was not on his way. He told Blankenship he would only sign if the Senators agreed to let him play for Weiser through the end of their season. On June 29th the Washington Senators signed Walter Johnson to a contract that paid him $350 a month, a $100 bonus and train fare.
On July 22, 1907 Walter Johnson left Weiser on his way to the Nation’s Capital. Two weeks later, on August 2nd, Walter Johnson makes his Major League debut against the Detroit Tigers.