Harvey Johnson: An immense talent with a canon throwing arm
Courtesy of Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame
The late Harvey Johnson of Regina will be inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, Individual Category, as a Player/Builder, on Saturday, Aug. 18 in Battleford, for his contribution to Saskatchewan baseball history.
Johnson was born in Churchbridge. In 1952, he moved to Regina with his mother, who wanted him to achieve a good education as well as being able to compete in higher calibre baseball. He attended Balfour Collegiate for high school, where he adopted as his mentor Gordon Currie, his teacher who later was his coach with the Regina Red Sox. Currie taught his charges to be winners.
Johnson’s baseball talents surfaced at an early age, joining the Regina Junior Cardinals for the 1953-54 seasons, playing third base. The Junior Cardinals were champions each year Johnson was a team member.
Sixteen-year-old Johnson was featured in the Regina Leader Postsports section when he was invited to play with the Regina Capitals at the prestigious Indian Head baseball tournament that featured teams from Canada and the United States. First prize was $1,000, a large amount of money for the early 1950s. Johnson performed well, playing shortstop and as a switch hitter, and contributed heavily with the bat. Johnson recalled the thrill and honour he experienced playing in this tournament at such a young age.
After the demise of the Regina Capitals in 1956, Johnson rejoined the Regina Junior Cardinals until 1958 when he joined the Regina Red Sox. The Red Sox had been playing out of Southey, but in 1959 played out of the now demolished Taylor Field, then later at Currie Field in Regina.
Johnson had caught the eye of an American college coach and was granted a scholarship to Coalinga Junior College in California. While there, playing third base, Coalinga became state champions. Johnson believed he was the first, or one of the first, Saskatchewan-born baseball player to be awarded a scholarship to an American college.
After two years with Coalinga, Johnson spent the last two years at San Jose State University, again playing third base during a 16-game schedule playing various colleges in California.
Graduating with a journalism degree, Johnson chose to return to Regina instead of a pursuing a pro baseball career. He rejoined the Regina Red Sox in 1964 through to the end of the 1969 season when he retired, marking the end of his baseball career. The Regina Red Sox captured the Southern League championship in 1964 and ‘69, and were runnersup in 1965, ‘66, ‘67 and ‘68.
Legend has it that Johnson was born with a baseball in each hand. He was an exceptionally skilled, competitive baseball player, having fun and enjoying playing the game. He was a great teammate, and winning was paramount for him.
According to Al Herback, a former team member, Johnson had immense baseball talent and a cannon for an arm, scooping the ball at third, firing it to him at first with a flip of the wrist in a straight line about three to four feet off the ground with great accuracy. He was respected as a source of wisdom throughout practices and games as a mentor of the Red Sox.
After retirement Johnson continued to give to the game and to the Red Sox, serving on the executive of the Red Sox organization and the South Saskatchewan Baseball League. He served as the public relations person for Ranch Ehrlo for a time. He also spent years in both print and radio media and was the official voice of the Roughriders.
Johnson died May 7, 2018.