The man who became known as “The Big Train” was well known in Idaho in the spring of 1907 because he was tearing up the fields as a semi-pro pitcher. His years with the Washington Senators were still ahead.
The Weiser Kids, for whom he pitched, were in town on the Fourth of July weekend to play a double-header against Boise. The day of the game it looked like rain. Everyone was expecting the game to be cancelled. Johnson didn’t want to let his arm lose its edge, so he grabbed catcher Guy Meats and began throwing pitches in the hallway of the Idanha. For verisimilitude they placed a chamber pot in front of Meats to fill in for home plate. The Train pitched one low, shattering the crockery, which one hopes was conveniently empty.
As it turned out, the game wasn’t cancelled. Johnson clobbered the Boise team. He would go on to pitch 74 innings without a score that summer, leading the Senators to call him up. He would pitch for them for the next 21 years, then manage the team for three years.
And now to that postscript to the story in d’Easum’s book. Baseball in those days was a nasty business with teams winning any way they could. In 1907 there was another pitcher in the league that was rated close to Johnson. He played for the Mountain Home team. Late in the season Boise and Mountain home were battling for second place—Weiser was going to win first, hands down.
Come the morning of the important game, the police showed up at the Idanha to arrest the pitcher from Mountain Home and one of his fielders on rape charges. Gosh, too bad they’d miss the game.
Boise lost anyway, so the set-up was to no avail. As it turned out the girls who were the alleged victims of the men were their girlfriends, one of whom was on the outs with one of the baseballers. When it came time for the trial the boys pled not guilty. They also pledged their love for the girls. The charges were dropped and the couples later participated in a double wedding. That’s baseball, I guess.