The 1937 Johnson Paint team finished 5th at the national championships in Wichita, Kansas.

Front row l. to r.: Frank Ruffo, Jimmy Ennis, batboy Sam Baker, Rudy Tollefson, Doug Hendry, and Joe Mlachnik.

Middle row l. to r.: Hal Lee, Rick Lewis, John Heinrick (coach), Andy Padovan, Morry Abbott, and Erling Tollefson.

Back row l. to r.: Fred Hutchinson, Earl Johnson, Joe Dailey, Cy Greenlaw, Joe Salatino, Loris Baker, and Dutch Schefflerf.

(Photo courtesy of Marc Blau collection)

The 1937 Johnson Paint Team played in the National semipro tournament in Wichita, Kansas. It was Tacoma's only team ever to advance to a national tournament up to that point. They won their first three games before losing two straight, and finished fifth in the 32-team field.

To qualify for the nationals, Johnson Paint had to play Reliable Shoe from Portland - the Oregon state champions - in a five-game Intrastate tournament. Reliable Shoe won the first two games, but then Johnson Paint won the third game 7-4 behind the pitching of southpaw Earl Johnson.

In the following game, Loris Baker hit a solo HR in the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and Cy Greenlaw stranded 13 Oregonians as Johnson Paint forced the fifth and deciding game. Led by pitcher Joe Dailey, Johnson Paint won 4-2 to earn their trip to the nationals. Successive homeruns by Joe Salatino and Rudy Tollefson in the sixth-inning game gave the Painters a 4-0 lead and they coasted from there to the title.

In an effort to raise funds for the trip back to Wichita, Johnson Paint played against an All Star City League team before a crowd of 3,500 fans at Lincoln Bowl. Freddie Steele, middleweight champion of the world, played three innings in right field for the Painters. In the third inning, he stole the show by singling in the first two tallies for Johnson Paint as they went on to post a 4-2 victory.

In Wichita, Tacoma first defeated Fairfax, Alabama 10-3 with Joe Dailey on the mound and Andy Padovan giving the signals. Their second victory was a 12-5 win over Waynesboro, Mississippi. Freddie Hutchinson and Greenlaw were on the mound with Padovan and Jimmy Ennis sharing the catching duties.

Johnson Paint's third win in a row came against host Wichita in a rain-delayed game which saw Earl Johnson and Dailey scattered eight hits as Tacoma won 5-2. In their next contest, Buford, Georgia bested the Tacoma nine 11 -8 to give them their first tournament loss. Buford was the national runner-up in 1936.

In the next game, Johnson Paint was down 6-1 alter five innings however a late inning drive fell just short as Dormant, PA edged the Tacoma nine 6-5 to eliminate the last West Coast contender from the national tournament. The loss gave the team a fifth-place finish in the 32-team affair. Enid, OK defeated Buford 7-4 before 15,000 fans to capture the championship.

Members of the Johnson Paint team included Manager John Heinrick; outfielder Hal Lee, an All-American basketball player at the University of Washington; Ballard High School pickup player, Earl Johnson, who spent eight years in the major leagues, mainly pitching for the Boston Braves; Fred Hutchinson, a Franklin high grad who pitched for ten seasons with the Detroit Tigers and then went on to a successful managerial career in the major leagues; outfielder Rick Lewis who played for the Tacoma Tigers of the Western International League in 1937; Cy Greenlaw, who pitched for the Tacoma Tigers in the mid-1940s; Morry Abbott, one of Tacoma’s all-time homerun hitters who played for the Tacoma Tigers in the late 30s; Rudy Tollefson, one of the University of Washington’s all-time top players; Erling Tollefson, Doug Hendry, Joe Mlachnik, Joe Salatino, Loris Baker, Joe Dailey, Frank Ruffo and Andy Padovan.

Others with the club but unable to attend the national tournament included Al Libke, Jr., Marv Scott, Marion Oppelt and Walt Sigmund. The batboy was Sam Baker, Loris Baker's son; who went on to a career as a place kicker in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.