Bowling Green fan, 93, makes pitch for baseball
Written by JORDAN CRAVENS Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 16 June 2012 07:27
Florence Johnson remembers Game 7 of the 1968 World Series well. Her beloved Detroit Tigers came from behind to take down the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals.
|Florence Johnson, 93, recently threw out the first pitch at a Mud Hens game in Toledo. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Johnson, 93, was at the ironing board.
"I knew I was ironing and saying 'Come on, you hit that ball.'"
Johnson, of Bowling Green, has had a long-standing love affair with the Tigers.
Names like Mickey Lolich, Norm Cash and Denny McLain roll off her tongue as quickly as do current Tigers like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
An an avid fan of the Tigers and their Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, Johnson got the chance to be in the action June 3 when she threw out the first pitch at the Toledo Mud Hens game.
She was joined by 22 of her fellow parishioners at Village View Church of Christ and 33 family members and friends.
The first pitch, coordinated by Pastor David Boswell, served as an incentive during Johnson's recovery from a broken hip sustained on New Year's Day.
"I told her, Florence, in a few months you are going to be throwing out the first pitch. She said, 'I'd love to do that.'"
Boswell knew anything Tigers is the way to her heart.
And so on a cooler, sunny Sunday, Johnson fired a fastball to the Mud Hens' player behind home plate.
She had practiced her pitching with a softball to build up her strength and was able to throw it 25 feet. So, she figured she was in good shape to deliver the pitch.
Her daughter, Letha Willett pushed her onto the field in her wheelchair.
"She was more nervous than I was.
"She said 'Aren't you nervous, Mom?' I said, not a bit."
When it came time for her to hurl the ball, Johnson rose from her chair with the help of her walker, poised to deliver.
"I've watched these major league pitchers, some of the older guys, and they don't even get the ball to the catchers.
"I thought, I can't do that, I have to do better."
"I guess I got it to the catcher," she said.
After she delivered the pitch, the crowd cheered loudly for her.
"It was a wonderful experience. It it something I will never forget," Johnson said.
"Even if I only live another year, I will always have this wonderful experience," she said.
"It just get goose pimples when I think of it all."
Returning to her seat, she was overwhelmed by her family and friends hugging her and congratulating her.
"I didn't get to see the ball game until the sixth inning."
Johnson has faithfully followed the Tigers for 60 years.
"I was always interested in the Tigers and I don't know why," Johnson said.
"If I didn't have a TV, I'd listen to them on the radio."
Boswell said Johnson, in her second career, would have made a great play-by-play announcer.
"She knows their names and tells them what they should be doing," Boswell said.
She isn't afraid to tell the "boys" on TV what she wants or when a big play is needed.
"I say, Miguel (Cabrera), you are supposed to hit a home run this time.
"Anybody that watches the games with me, they would think I was crazy," Johnson laughed.