The expansion Nats famously had to forfeit the final game, September 30, 1971, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The Senators, already scheduled to move to Texas for the 1972 season, were an out away from beating the Yankees, 7-5, in an otherwise meaningless season finale. Angry fans stormed the field and made off with the bases and anything else they could.
The last MLB forfeit before this game had been in 1954. Four teams have had to forfeit games since 1971, the last coming in Los Angles in 1995, but in none of those games was the team that had to forfeit ahead. (One of the four games didn’t even take place: the second game of a scheduled double-header in Chicago on 1979’s “Disco Demolition Night.” Don’t ask.)
Yet the last Senators’ game was not the first time a Nats’ team had to forfeit what likely would have been a win in Washington.
On August 15, 1941, a light drizzle became a downpour at Griffith Stadium. The Nats were ahead, 6-3, with the Red Sox batting in the top of the eighth. After 40 minutes with no tarp put on, umpiring crew chief George Pipgras called the game based on the condition of the playing field.
Boston’s playing-manager Joe Cronin, who was on first base when play was stopped, told Pipgras that the Red Sox would file a protest because, according the Shirley Povich’s story in the next day’s Washington Post, the grounds crew was lackadaisical in getting the field covered.
On August 27, after American League President Will Harridge heard from both teams, he declared the game a forfeit in favor of Boston. He held that Washington broke the rules by not having a groundskeeper and assistants immediately available to roll out the tarp when the umpires asked that the field be covered.
The Giants, in September 1942, were last team before the ’71 Senators that had to forfeit a game in which they were leading. Hundreds of children donating scrap metal for the war effort had come onto the field in the eighth inning of the second game of a doubleheader.
The original Senators franchise was involved in two other forfeits, losing one in Philadelphia in 1914 and being declared the winner of one in Detroit in 1905. Both outcomes were likely, anyway, given the scores at the time.
The 1914 forfeit featured future Senators super scout Joe Engel pitching for Washington – illegally, the umpire said — and the two managers exchanging nasty comments about each other, especially given their long relationship.
“(Clark) Griffith has no real place in the league and should be run out of it,” Philadelphia’s Connie Mack said of the Senators’ skipper, in comments recounted in the 2014 volume, Forfeits and Successfully Protested Games in Major League Baseball by SABR members David Nemec and Eric Miklich. Griffith, in turn, called Mack “the cheapest ’skate in baseball.”
Retrosheet.org (https://www.retrosheet.org/forfeits.htm) has an interesting list of all the forfeits, going back into the 19th Century, with brief summaries of why they happened.
A version of this appeared in the fall 2021 edition of the Squibber, the online newsletter of the Bob Davids chapter of SABR.