New-York Historical Society's Bill Shannon Dictionary of New York Sports

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Bobby Jones

Bobby Jones (Golf.  Born, Atlanta, GA, Mar. 17, 1902; died, Atlanta, GA, Dec. 18, 1971.)  Robert Tyre Jones, Jr., was the golf equivalent of Babe Ruth, Bill Tilden and Jack Dempsey during America’s “Golden Age of Sports” in the 1920s and 1930s.  Bobby Jones was also the first man ever to win golf s “Grand Slam” when in 1930 he captured the British Amateur, the U.S. Amateur, the British Open and the U.S. Open.  Jones won four U.S. Open titles, including two in the New York area:  the 1923 Open at the Inwood Country Club and the 1929 Open at the Winged Foot  Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.  He almost didn’t win the 1929 event. After an opening round 69, Jones struggled through 75-71-79 on the last three rounds (the final two of which were played on Saturday) and was forced into a Sunday playoff with Al Espinoza.  The 18-hole playoff ended with Jones at 72-69-141 and Espinoza at 84-80-164.  In 1930, Jones became the first winner of the Sullivan Award as the best amateur athlete in America and during his career, he won five U.S. Amateur titles and three British Opens to go with his four U.S. Opens.   His other U.S. Open wins came in 1926 and 1930.  He retired from the sport after completing the Slam in 1930.

Jimmy Johnston

Jimmy Johnston (Boxing.  Born, Liverpool, England, Nov. 28, 1875; died, New York, NY, May 7, 1946.)  Emigrating to the U.S. at age 12 in May 1888, James Joy Johnston was to become one of the leading boxing managers and promoters in his adopted country.  Johnston was to manage four world champions – welterweight Ted (Kid) Lewis, middleweight Harry Greb, light heavyweight Mike McTigue, and featherweight Johnny Dundee.  He also, given his background, managed three British Empire champions, including heavyweight Phil Scott.  During the years William Carey was president of Madison Square Garden (1930-34), Johnston was the boxing promoter at the Garden.  At first, he acted informally, but on Oct. 20, 1931, he was officially appointed head of Garden boxing.  When a 1934 management shakeup forced Carey out, Johnston also left.  Once known as “the Boy Bandit,” Johnston was then 59 but returned to managing for many years thereafter.

Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston (Tennis.  Born, San Francisco, CA, Nov. 21, 1894; died, San Francisco, CA, May 1, 1946.)  When the U.S. national tennis championship moved to New York in 1915, William M. Johnston was the first to win the men’s singles title at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills.  Johnston was later to become a significant part of U.S. tennis for more than a decade, making the singles final seven more times by 1925.  Soon known as “Little Bill” in contrast to “Big Bill” Tilden, he was to win only in 1919 (over Tilden, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3), but teamed with Tilden on the 1920 U.S. Davis Cup team that returned the trophy to the U.S.  Johnston lost five U.S. finals to Tilden (1920, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925).  A seven-time Pacific Coast champion, Johnston was ranked in the U.S. Top 10 12 times in 14 years (1913-26).  He missed in 1917 and 1918 only due to military service in World War I.  With Clarence Griffin, Johnston won three U.S. doubles titles (1915, 1916, 1920) and was the 1919 U.S. Clay Court champion.  Internationally, he was the 1923 Wimbledon winner and was 18-3 in Davis Cup play, 14-3 in singles and 4-0 in doubles.

Woody Johnson

Woody Johnson (Football.  Born, East Brunswick, NJ, Apr. 12, 1953.)  Scion of the family that founded Johnson & Johnson, the worldwide health care company, Robert Wood Johnson IV emerged as a major force in the New York sports community Jan. 11, 2000, when he became the new owner of the Jets.  Johnson was unanimously approved by the N.F.L. owners a week later and immediately set about restoring stability to a franchise shaken by the defection of a head coach, one day after his appointment, citing concerns over the ownership vacuum.  Within a matter of days, Johnson had succeeded by retaining key front office personnel.  Johnson brought years of executive experience in the private sector, significant charities, and public service to his task.  He has been particularly active in diabetes work and is also a founder, chairman, and supporter of the Alliance for Lupus Research, Inc. Johnson works actively with the National Institutes of Health, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, serves as Trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Charitable Trust and served a three-year term on the President’s Export Council.  Now he is also Chairman of the Board of the Jets, a team he purchased for $635 million from the estate of the late Leon Hess.  He was active in trying to find a Jets a home they could plausibly call their own after four years at the hand-me-down Polo Grounds, 20 years as second-class citizens at Shea Stadium, and tenants in Giants Stadium since 1984.  Rebuffed in an effort to have a stadium built on the west side of Manhattan, Johnson joined with Giants ownership as genuine 50-50 partners in the construction of the New Meadowlands Stadium, which opened in 2010 and was renamed Met Life Stadium in 2011.

Vickie Johnson

Vickie Johnson (Pro Basketball.  Born, Shreveport, LA, Apr. 15, 1972.)  On June 18, 2005, Vickie Annette Johnson hit a layup late in the second half to raise her career point total to 3,001, making her just the seventh player in W.N.B.A. history to reach 3,000 points.  Johnson, the last remaining player from the original 1997 Liberty roster, was the first player for the team to achieve that milestone.  Though often overshadowed by bigger names on the Liberty, she was a consistent backcourt scorer, averaging in double figures six times in her first eight seasons.  Johnson had her best season in 2003, averaging 13.4 points per game and leading the Liberty in scoring in 15 of her 30 games (she missed two with a right calf injury).  Johnson started 247 of her first 248 Liberty games.  She was a two-time all-America choice at Louisiana Tech.  She left the Liberty after the 2005 season and played four more years in the W.N.B.A.

Keyshawn Johnson

Keyshawn Johnson (Pro football.  Born, Los Angeles, CA, July 22, 1972.)  After 216 pass receptions in his first three seasons, Keyshawn Johnson established himself as one of the premier receivers in the N.F.L.  His receptions were good for 2,938 yards (13.6 per catch) and 23 touchdowns.  Following an all-America career at Southern California, Johnson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 N.F.L. draft and was immediately an impact player, catching 63 passes as a rookie with eight touchdown receptions for the Jets despite missing two games with a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery.  In 1998, Johnson caught 83 passes for 1,131 yards and 10 touchdowns, adding 16 more catches (and an interception) in two playoff games as the Jets reached the A.F.C. championship game following a 12-4 regular season.  Despite his flashy persona, he was fundamentally a solid possession receiver with the Jets.  He not only was picked for the 1999 Pro Bowl but was the game’s co-M.V.P.  He set up “Key’s Kids” to reward academic achievement by inner-city students and enable them to attend Jets games, wrote a controversial book about his early pro football experience, and made numerous non-sports television appearances.  Johnson was traded to Tampa Bay for two first-round draft choices April 12, 2000, after four seasons with the Jets.  He retired in 2007 and became an ESPN football analyst.

Howard Johnson

Howard Johnson (Baseball.  Born, Clearwater, FL, Nov. 29, 1960.)  Following three undistinguished seasons in Detroit, Howard Michael Johnson came to New York to become a star with the Mets.  Johnson became the first Mets player to hit 30 or more home runs in a season and steal 30 bases.  He accomplished that feat three times (1987, 1989, 1991) with personal highs of 38 homers (leading the N.L. in 1991) and 41 steals (1989).  Although he played for two World Series teams (Detroit 1984, Mets 1986), Johnson played in only three Series games and was hitless in five at-bats.  The switch-hitting third baseman, who could hit anyone’s fastball, belted 192 of his 228 career homers during his nine years with the Mets (1985-93) and was a two-time All-Star (1989, 1991).  Johnson was the first base coach, then hitting coach, for the Mets from 2007-11.

Harvey Johnson

Harvey Johnson (Pro football.  Born, Bridgeton, NJ, June 22, 1919; died, Orchard Park, NY, Aug. 8, 1983.)  A fullback at William & Mary and a defensive back in pro football, Harvey P. Johnson made his mark primarily as a placekicker with the A.A.F.C. Yankees (1946-49).  Johnson was one of just four players to make the Yankees roster each of the four years of the team’s existence.  He scored 213 points, sixth-highest in the four-year history of the A.A.F.C.  Johnson joined the Yankees after U.S. Navy service in World War II.  He was the primary kicker for the N.F.L. Yanks, also based at Yankee Stadium, in 1951, adding 49 points to his record.  Johnson made 146 straight extra point kicks, a rare feat at the time.  He later coached in Canada (1953-59), and then joined Buffalo as a coach when the A.F.L. began in 1960.  Johnson was director of player personnel (1962-70) for Buffalo and twice interim head coach (1968, ’71).

Davey Johnson

Davey Johnson (Baseball.  Born, Orlando, FL, Jan. 30, 1943.)  A hard-hitting second baseman with championship teams in Baltimore, David Allen Johnson twice managed N.L. division winners for the Mets, including the 1986 World Series champions.  Johnson took over the Mets in 1984 and was dismissed May 29, 1990, at Cincinnati after a 20-22 start.  In between, he managed 1,012 games (595-417, a .588 percentage).  The Mets were 108-54 in 1986 and 100-60 in 1988, when they won the East but lost in the N.L.C.S. to Los Angeles in seven games.  Until his truncated 1990 season, Johnson had never had a losing year.  As a player, he played eight seasons (1965-72) in Baltimore, and then five more in the N.L. with Atlanta (where he hit 43 homers in 1973), Philadelphia, and Chicago.  Johnson also made the final out of the 1969 World Series, won by the Mets over Baltimore, four games to one.

Curley Johnson

Curley Johnson (Pro football.  Born, Anna, TX, July 2, 1935.)  Traded to the Titans by the Dallas Texans during the 1961 training camp, John Curley Johnson became the Jets’ top punter through 1968.  Johnson was originally signed for his versatility, as he had experience at running back and offensive end.  But by 1963, he was almost exclusively a punter (he carried the ball only twice that season).  Johnson punted 531 times for the Titans and Jets in eight seasons and his career average (42.8 yards per punt) was a team record for 33 years.  In 1965, he had a 73-yard punt at Denver (Oct. 3) and finished with a 45.3-yard average, still a Jets single-season record.  Johnson was released after the Super Bowl championship season.  He played for the Giants briefly in 1969 as one of the four punters used by them that season but was released.

About This Dictionary

The Bill Shannon Biographical Dictionary of New York Sports is an open database of sports biographies maintained by Jordan Sprechman and Marty Appel. We welcome public and scholarly contributions and suggestions.

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About Bill Shannon

A prolific author, wire service sports reporter, long time Major League Baseball official scorer, football statistician, sports museum founder, theatrical agency owner and public ... read more

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