Harold Johnson

1986 Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame Inductee

Category: MANAGER

After graduating from a Providence, Rhode Island, high school, Johnson attended Brown University for two years before leaving for the army in 1918.

He came to Flint in 1928 and entered his first major softball team in 1931. When young black’s were playing sandlot pickup softball games, he saw the need for them to show their great skills in league competition. He formed his first softball team, the Pioneer’s, and a few years later, North Michigan, which won the City and the District but lost the State final game in 1935. After that loss, he formed the famous Yellow Dogs. At the time, black baseball teams were the local summer sports entertainment. There were such teams as the Buick 20 and Red Devils, to name a few. Even though softball was no competition in appealing to sports fans, the soft spoken, impeccably dressed and perennially smiling, good natured Harold Johnson changed all that.

Under his guidance softball became the great past time of Flint and surrounding communities. The popularity of the sport was brought about by the display of the great skills the Yellow Dogs exhibited in base running, hitting, fielding, pitching, and the constant enthusiastic chatter of the players.

No longer did Flint and surrounding communities have to wait for that great fall classic of Thanksgiving Day football to enjoy total community participation. Softball had arrived.

Johnson’s teams played in state tournaments in 1935-36, ’39, ’40, ’41, ’42, ’43, ’44, ’45, ’46, ’47, and ’50. After winning the state title in 1940., along with many city and regional championships, this M & S Orange team of 1945-46 won the Regional and State championships and was runner-up in the World’s Tournament in 1945.

His team, as the Joe Louis Punchers, lost the championship game to Midland Dow in 1947. He entered the Punchers in the National Fastball League in 1948 but lost in the final game of a five-game series to Fort Wayne.

Johnson’s team continued to play so well the following years that everywhere they played, they were hailed as the greatest collection of “colored softballer’s” in the country. They gained national fame and acclaim for their brand of softball, putting Flint on the national map of softball. His teams won 812 and lost 120.