John C. Johnson, Sr., (1916-1983) - the biography below highlights Johnson's baseball career. Please add additional information about Mr. Johnson.
Cleo Johnson, "Snapper," as he was most often called by family and friends, enjoyed baseball as recreation and as a way of life. He played third base for LeRoy Barnes Red Sox when they won the Cornbelt League title, but you will find his name on the roster of numerous teams through the years. He served in the Navy during WWII and when he returned home, attended the University of Illinois where he majored in Recreation and Physical Education.
Bud Johnson, his son, remembers that Snapper, also referred to on the ball field as "Clam Hands," had the ability to catch a hard hit baseball with his bare hands as eas ily as most could catch it with a glove. He said his father displayed a noticeable sense of pride in displaying his withered hands to anyone who questioned why all the knuckles on his fingers were broken or crippled.
Snapper played both as an infielder and outfielder. As his children were aging and themselves becoming actively involved in sports, Snapper promised his wife that he would retire and hang up his cleats for good. The truth is, when the fellows would come by the house encouraging him to play "just one more game," he would invariably ask Bud or Kenneth Johnson to sneak in the house to get his glove and baseball cleats that were hidden in the closet. The boys' reward for pulling such a caper was that they would be allowed to travel with the team, trekking to one of the small farm towns for the day and land one of the best jobs available - the batboys. Snapper continued to stay involved in baseball as an umpire. He was especially interested in youth sports and recreation. During the 1950s, he served as Assistant Director of the Douglass Recreation Center and taught Physical Education in the Champaign public schools. Snapper served as a Little League Coach and official for over 30 years from the 50s to the 80s. His sons and grandsons often recall that he was the "toughest coach they ever played for."
Through the Years, African American History in Champaign County, Spring 2006 - Read online at eBlackCU: http://eblackcu.net/portal/items/show/20