What Did Walter Johnson’s Voice Sound Like? Listen To This 1939 Senators Broadcast.

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Walter Johnson in 1939
Walter Johnson in 1939

It’s been extremely difficult for me to track down any audio recording of the greatest pitcher of all time, Walter Johnson. We have written so much about him, and yet, we have no idea what is voice sounded like … that is, until now. Thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive — one of the greatest resources known to man — we were able to surface this audio recording from 1939.

On Thursday, September 21st, 1939, the D.C. radio station WJSV recorded the full broadcast for the day. Between 4pm and 5:17 pm, they broadcast the Washington Senators home game against the Cleveland Indians. To give you some context, that month was the beginning of World War II, with Germany invading Poland on the 1st.

The game picks up in the middle of the fourth inning with the Senators coming up to bat. Johnson’s voice can be heard starting around 1:36, and I can say, it’s not what I expected it to be.

How cool is this? Only 5,000 people were in attendance and the Senators lost to the Indians 6 to 3. Below is the box score and recap from The Washington Post the following day.

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9/2/1939 box score
9/2/1939 box score


About Tom

Tom founded Ghosts of DC on January 4th, 2012 as a blog to uncover the lost and untold history of Washington, D.C. He has lived in the city for over a decade and loves exploring every corner of the District.

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  • dan

    SO cool, thank you!!

  • ny77

    Game time only 2:00, that’s how it should be.

  • epaddon

    This was the only year that Walter Johnson broadcast Senators games. Arch McDonald, their first radio announcer had left in 1939 to take a job doing the Yankee games, and this was considered a plum assignment since that was the first year the Yankees broadcast their games. But McDonald’s style never caught on with New York listeners so after just one season he returned to Washington (thus displacing Johnson), and that allowed the #2 announcer, Mel Allen to become the Voice of the Yankees. Ironically, while McDonald would continue to do Senators games up until the mid-1950s, there are no known extant recordings of his broadcasts, whereas Johnson, who only did them the one year, had a broadcast preserved. Johnson incidentally doubled as the public address announcer in this broadcast.