Brattleboro Vermont baseball legend and Brattleboro-native Ernie Johnson, Sr., who was a Major League pitcher for the Milwaukee Braves and then a long-time television broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves, recently passed away in Georgia at the age of 87.
Johnson was an enormous athletic talent, excelling in baseball, basketball and football in high school, before turning down a basketball scholarship at Yale and a football scholarship at Colgate to sign a professional minor-league contact with the Braves in 1942, at the age of 18. In fact, during his lifetime, Johnson would be inducted into five athletic and broadcasting halls of fame.
Born on June 16, 1924 in Brattleboro, Ernest Thorwald Johnson's parents were Swedish immigrants who came to Brattleboro to work for the Estay Organ Company. In fact, Ernie's father, Thorwald, would work at the famed pipe-organ manufacturer for the next 45 years.
The youngest of three children, Ernie's first paying job was caddying at the local golf course and although he didn't play Little League baseball in Brattleboro, (the first Little League field was not built until the early 1950s) many locals thought he was actually a better hoop player. However, in his senior year at Brattleboro High School Johnson became a dominant pitcher. He finished that season with a 6-2 record, and an amazing 1.09 ERA while averaging a whopping 12 strikeouts a game.
In fact, Johnson had perhaps the most dominant three-game stretch of pitching in Vermont school boy history by throw a one-hit shutout against Springfield High School, followed by a one-hit shut out against Bellows Falls, before throwing two-hit shut out against Greenfield, MA in which he struck out an amazing 20 batters. On top of all that, he also batted .409 that season and led the team in RBI's.
After high school, Ernie got a major league try out for Casey Stengel's Boston Braves and was offered the unbelievable opportunity to either travel with the big league team to throw batting practice, or to sign a contract and report to the minors.