Two years after finishing fourth – the Griffith franchise’s last time in the first division – Washington fell to the A.L. basement with 104 losses. On September 11, 1949, the Senators were in New York to play their second doubleheader in two days against the Yankees. The first-place Yanks began the day a game up on the Red Sox.
New York went to work in the first game to make sure Boston didn’t gain any ground. All-Star right-hander Allie Reynolds, already 15-4, started for the Yanks against right-hander Paul Calvert (6-14) for the Nats. This was the Canadian-born Calvert’s only season as a starting pitcher.
Washington threw out a runner at the plate to keep New York off the scoreboard in the first inning, and Calvert managed to strike out the side in the second. Sadly, that was it for Senators’ highlights.
Everything fell apart for the Senators in the bottom of the third. Calvert walked Phil Rizzuto and Cliff Mapes to start the inning. Bobby Brown’s double to right scored both runners. The normally reliable Eddie Yost threw wildly to first on Joe DiMaggio’s grounder to third, allowing Brown to score. Yogi Berra’s blooped a double that scored DiMaggio and knocked Calvert out of the game.
Righty Dick Welteroth came in to pitch to Charlie Keller and walked him. Welteroth then walked Joe Collins to load the bases. Still unable to find the plate, he walked Jerry Coleman, bringing Berra home with the Yank’s fourth run.
Pitcher Reynolds hit pop fly to short left field for what should have been the second out. Instead, Bud Stewart in left collided with shortstop Sam Dente as the ball fell for a hit, scoring Keller and Collins. Both Dente and Stewart were injured and had to leave the game. After the delay, with New York up 7-0, Coleman was picked off. In the rundown, Reynolds took second. He went to third on Rizzuto’s single to left. When Welteroth walked Mapes to load the bases again, Nats Manager Joe Kuhel had seen enough. Julio Gonzalez, another in a long line of Cubans who played for Clark Griffith’s teams, came in to pitch. The right-hander walked Brown to make it 8-0. DiMaggio’s fly ball to left scored Rizzuto. Gonzalez walked Berra to re-load the bases. Then, Keller and Collins drew walks numbers 9 and 10, each bringing in a run.
Kuhel replaced Gonzalez with righty Buzz Dozier, a 20-year-old September call-up. He issued a record-setting 11th base on balls in the inning when he walked Coleman. The Yankees led 12-0 when Reynolds mercifully popped out to first. The bottom of the third took 50 minutes to complete, according to the SABR GamesProject essay by Bruce Harris.
Neither Calvert, who walked two in the inning, nor Welteroth, who walked four, retired a batter (the pick-off being the only out he recorded). Gonzalez also walked four. Dozier, who pitched the rest of the game in a lost cause, ended up yielding eight runs and walking five over five and a third innings. His earned run average at game’s end was 13.50.
The final score was Yankees 20, Senators 5. This was the most runs Washington gave up in the 1949 season and the seventh and final time the Nats lost by 10 or more runs.
Under the circumstances, the second game was a Pyrrhic victory of sorts: The Nats lost just 2-1. The game was called because of darkness after the top of the sixth. (An odd rule at the time did not allow the stadium lights, installed just three years before, to be turned on for a game that began in the afternoon.) Sid Hudson, later the expansion Senators’ pitching coach, threw all five innings for Washington. The sweep increased the Yankees A.L. lead to three games over Boston, which lost twice in Philadelphia, before ending the season just a game back of New York.
In the midst of losing 13 games in a row, Calvert dropped his last two starts to lead the league with 17. He never started another game after the ’49 season. Welteroth’s big league career ended at age 22 in mid-June of 1950 after five relief appearances. Gonzalez was shipped to AAA Havana after the ’49 season and never made it back to the majors. Dozier pitched in one more game for Washington before he was back in the minors. He retired from baseball after the ’51 season, even though he, like Welteroth, was just 22.
Another account of this game, by SABR’s Bruce Harris, appears as part of SABR’s GamesProject: