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Donald Johnson, age 90, passed away on Thursday, December 29, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was born July 31, 1926, in Covington, Kentucky.

Visitation is from 10:00 am until 11:00 am, on Saturday, January 7, 2017, at the James Temple Church of God In Christ, 1116 Lincoln Avenue, Cincinnati (45206). The funeral service will immediately follow the visitation beginning at 11:00 a.m.

Interment will follow at Spring Grove Cemetery.

To share a memory of Donald or leave a special message for the Johnson family, please click the Share Button below.

Walker Funeral Home of Cincinnati is serving the Johnson family.



Don Johnson

At 85, Don Johnson (D J as we liketo call him) continues to be a source of inspirationfor Bulldog coaches and alumni.

2 years ago D J suffered a stroke. But it only slowed him down for a short time. It seemed like in no time he was
back on the bench doing what he loves, coaching young ballplayers.

During the winter months, you can usually find DJ hanging out at Valley Baseball helping young Bulldog players.

The Bulldog Organization is dedicated to making sure his passion for the game is passed on for many years to
come.

There are many articles written about D J. Below are excerpts from a few of them.

Article From USA Today...

'Groundhog' unearths inner-city talents

When 75-year-old Don "Groundhog" Johnson wants to motivate his teenage players, all the former Negro leagues infielder needs to do is recall his own childhood in Covington, Ky.

"When I was 12, I was run over by a locomotive," said Johnson, who managed the Cincinnati 16-18-year-old entry in last week's RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) World Series at the Disney Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

"It tore up my left leg, my side, my hip. It left a hole in my head. I was lucky to be alive, but the doctor told me I wouldn't be able to play any more sports."

Johnson didn't let the doctors ruin his baseball plans. Sixty years and a professional baseball career later,
Johnson still plays baseball in addition to coaching baseball and basketball year-round in Cincinnati.

Each of the last two years, players nurtured by Johnson have qualified for the RBI World Series. The RBI program, founded in 1989, involves 120,000 boys and girls in 160 cities worldwide. It is designed to promote youth interest in baseball, increase the self-esteem of disadvantaged children and encourage kids to stay in school.

Enye Willingham, a left fielder on Johnson's squad, said the opportunities provided by RBI help level the playing field between suburban and inner-city ballplayers. "I think it brings a lot of good ballplayers to the yard," teammate Shawn Aichele said.

"Before, a lot of the better ballplayers didn't have a chance to play. The experience has worked for me and I wouldn't replace it for anything."

"I tell the kids you have to have will- power," said Johnson, whose drive, commitment and life story are often motivation enough for his young players. "I tell them all the time that you can do what you want if you really
try."

Johnson knows firsthand about hard work making dreams come true.

"I was in the hospital for 18 months," he said of his encounter with a train. "When I came out, I had to learn to walk all over again. I would lay around the house, miserable. I even took my BB gun and shot at pictures on the wall. Then, one day when my mother was gone, I put the cane and the crutches down. When she came home and found me out in the street, playing, she gave me a whooping, but I know she was tickled that I did it. Five years later, I signed a pro contract."

Johnson (nicknamed "Groundhog" for the way he hugged the ground as he scooped up ground balls at second base and shortstop) played briefly in the Cincinnati and Cleveland farm systems in the late 1940s. He made his mark in the Negro leagues, playing five seasons for the Chicago American Giants and two for the Baltimore Elite
Giants before a rotator cuff injury reduced him to semipro status.

He still carries a picture of his most famous teammate, Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, in his pocket and vividly recalls getting a hit against Yankees great Whitey Ford in a barnstorming All-Star game at Rockford, Ill.

"I got a hit off Satchel, too in Leavenworth, Kansas," Johnson said. "People talk about how many hits Pete Rose got. I'd like to know how many hits I got in my career."

Today, Johnson is swinging the bat and playing infield for the Cincinnati Blue a 30- and-older team and proclaims himself to be the oldest active player in the USA.

But he devotes most of his energies to coaching baseball and other sports at the Evanston Recreation Center in Cincinnati, and for some 30 years has run a free summer baseball camp on weekday afternoons. Former big-league stars Dave Parker and Leon Durham are among those who've benefited from Johnson's work with the
youth of Cincinnati.

Johnson can usually spot a winner. "I sort of have a knack," he said. "I can usually tell the ones who really want to win by their approach. They're the ones always bouncing around, grabbing a ball or bat.

"The guys I have here (at the RBI World Series), I know they love the game. I try to motivate them by playing pepper with them and tossing with them. It's more difficult for kids today to stay motivated because they have so much else to do. There are more diversions. They lose interest in baseball. But when they see me play, they realize that baseball is something

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