Shirley Povich, Walter Johnson honored with memorial in Rockville

Washington Post sports writer Shirley Povich and Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson were memorialized in Montgomery County, with a statue dedication on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Courtesy myMCMedia)

Two local sports legends, longtime Washington Post sports writer Shirley Povich and Washington Senators pitcher Walter Johnson were memorialized in Montgomery County, Maryland, doing what they loved to do: talking to each other.

“I think my father, other than sitting in perpetuity next to his family, he would say to anyone ‘If I’m going to sit next to anyone for the rest of my life and for eternity it would be Walter Johnson,'” said talk show host Maury Povich, Shirley Povich’s son.

The new bronze sculpture at the Shirley Povich Field in Rockville captures the two men mid-conversation.

Hank Thomas, Johnson’s biographer and grandson, said his grandfather and Povich’s friendship started almost 100 years ago, to 1924 when Povich began his career at the Washington Post and Johnson led the Washington Senators to a World Series victory.

Speakers at the unveiling ceremony praised Johnson as being the greatest pitcher of all time. He threw 110 shutouts, a baseball record, and won 417 games for the Senators.

But Maury Povich said his father loved Johnson for more than his storied athletic ability.

“He said he loved Walter Johnson because it was the manner of his manner. The fact that he was the most honest and most humble and the most humane of any athlete he had ever been around,” Povich said.

Sculptor Toby Mendez, who designed the memorial, is also the artist behind the Thurgood Marshall memorial in Annapolis and part of the United States Navy Memorial in D.C. He said he was drawn to the project because of Povich’s civil rights efforts.

“Shirley prodded and provoked Major League Baseball to desegregate, and he prodded and provoked what were the Washington Redskins to do the right thing and integrate. So he’s my hero,” he said.

Povich’s career at the Washington Post spanned 75 years. He wrote for the paper until his death in 1998.

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