Citing concealments and corruption, on January 14, 1940 Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis declared free agency to 91 players under contract to the Detroit Tigers. One of them was Johnny Sain. On June 30th Nashville manager Larry Gilbert signed Sain to pitch for the Vols, and Sain finished the season with an 8-4 record.
The next season, on June 25, 1941 he is tagged with the loss in both games of a double header as New Orleans slams the Vols 6-5 and 4-3. Relieving starter Russ Meers in the ninth inning of the first game with the score tied 5-5 (Meers had struck out thirteen), Sain gives up a home run to Pelican outfielder Tom Winsett in the eleventh. Sain starts the second game but is replaced by Leo Twardy in the seventh inning after loading the bases with the winning run. Twardy could not hold the score for Sain. Sain finished the 1941 season with a 6-12 record.
In March of 1942 he signed a major league contract with the Boston Braves, ending the season 4-7. After receiving his draft notice mid-year, he reported for duty in November and became a flight instructor during World War II before his discharge in 1945.
For the next five seasons Sain won a total of 95 games for the Braves, and led the National League in wins in 1948 with 24 during Boston’s pennant-winning season.
Sain became one-half of the famous Boston Braves pitching duo immortalized in a poem by Boston Post sports editor Gerald V. Hern, published on September 14, 1948 during the Braves pennant drive of that season:
First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
by two days of rain.
Sain was chosen to three All Star games and was selected National League Pitcher of the Year in 1948 by The Sporting News.
Finishing his career with the New York Yankees and Kansas City Athletics, Sain became a pitching coach for the Athletics, Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Atlanta Braves. Sain coached the pitchers of five of the American League’s ten pennant-winning teams during the 1960s.
Johnny Sain passed away in Downers Grove, Illinois on November 7, 2006.