Wilbur Johnson

April 18, 2012 — Before there was Rob Johnson, there was Wilbur Johnson. Rob Johnson started his baseball career here in Butte and eventually made it to the major leagues, playing for both Seattle and San Diego. He currently is in the Mets farm system. Wilbur Johnson got his start playing baseball on the East Side here in Butte at the Grant School.
He was the starting second baseman on the 1946 American Legion state championship baseball team. He and shortstop Jim McCaughey may have been one of the best double play combinations Butte has ever seen in American Legion baseball. Both men went on to play baseball at Gonzaga and both would one day be inducted into the Gonzaga Hall of
Fame. Wilbur Johnson took his talents far beyond the Spokane campus.
He played professional baseball, reaching the Triple A level in the Phillies’ organization. He went further in baseball than any other Butte player prior to Rob Johnson who made it to the big leagues. Keep in mind when Wilbur was playing there were only 16 major league teams as opposed to Today when there are 30 teams. He most likely would’ve made a big league roster with today’s set up. When his playing days were done, Johnson spent six years as a minor league manager for the Phillies. He then became a scout for Philadelphia. Johnson was so good at his craft that the Phillies made him an advance scout in 1980. His expertise was vital as the Phillies won the World Series that year beating the Kansas City Royals in the fall classic. Three years later, in 1983, the Phils were back in the World Series again against Baltimore. Johnson stayed on as a scout for the Phillies through the 1991 season. He then joined the Toronto Blue Jays in 1992. The Jays won the World Series title during Johnson’s first two years as a scout for them. After a 16-year stint with Toronto, Johnson finished up his scouting career with San Diego. When he finally retired, Johnson was inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame. He had a keen eye for talent and also a keen eye for prospects, but he was also an outstanding player during his own time. Ask the old-timers who were the best baseball players in Butte and Wilbur Johnson’s name will be one of the first mentioned. He is a member of the Butte Sports Hall of Fame. Johnson past away last week at his home in Colorado. He will always be a guy people here will fondly remember. He was a giant in the baseball world who got his start on the sandlots on the East Side of Butte.