Just a year after his induction into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame, Jim Johnson now joins the 2011 class of the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame. Its the latest in a long list of honors for the youthful-looking 75-year-old native of Athens, Ala., a legendary fast-pitch softball star in Alabama for more than a quarter-century. Johnson was also inducted into the Blue and Gray Softball Hall of Fame at Montgomery in 1990 and the Alabama Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame at Dothan in 1996. An intimidating 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher, Johnson was one of the most feared softball players throughout Alabama and surrounding states during a fabled career that began in the Athens fast-pitch league in 1958 and continued until his retirement in 1985 at the age of 50. Johnson is still remembered for his smoking fastball, which was timed at 98 miles per hour in his prime. Imagine trying to hit a 98-mph softball blazing toward you from a pitching mound just 46 feet away! Johnson says his height and his long stride off the mound were just as important as the velocity of his pitch. Once I turned it loose, he pointed out, the hitters didnt have long to think about it. When Athens dropped its fast-pitch league in 1960, Johnson moved over to Huntsville and joined the Merchants, who played teams throughout the southeast region in the 60s. In 1970, he joined the powerful United Surgical Steel team, based in Montgomery. Johnson enjoyed his finest season in 1972, finishing with a 33-0 record and being named MVP in both the State and Southeast Regional tournaments. In one particularly memorable game that season, he pitched a perfect game, striking out all 21 batters. He was named softball All-America in 1979. His greatest compliment, says Johnson, came in 1974 when the Redstone Arsenal team formally protested two games in which he pitched. They claimed I threw it too hard, he said. Among the players Johnson competed against was Eddie Feigner and his four-man King and His Court. In 12 games against Feigner, Johnsons team won seven times once in Huntsville and six times when he played for United Surgical Steel. Johnson, who now lives in Rogersville, was born May 16, 1935 in Athens. He and his family soon moved 20 miles eastward to Huntsville. Johnson graduated from Butler High School in 1953. After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, he earned a BS in Business at Athens State in 1967 and eventually parlayed the degree into an insurance career. Johnson is the father of two children, Jan Sheets and James B. Johnson, Jr. I enjoyed my softball days, says Johnson, and now Im enjoying retirement. Did I mention that I play a pretty mean steel guitar in a country band in Athens?