Until 1949, no Washington team since Clark Griffith’s arrival in 1912 had ever lost 100 games. Managed by Joe Kuhel, the '49 Senators finished at 50-104, despite being in fourth place, a game over .500 on June 12. A May 1949 winning streak also would become, at season's end, the record for consecutive wins by … Continue reading 1949 Nats set record, winning nine in a row but finishing last
‘Baseball Bill’ helped stop Bob Short from coming back to D.C.
“Baseball Bill” Holdforth was a longtime bartender and voracious beer drinker who also was a rabid Washington Senators’ fan. He was an usher at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium before the team moved to Texas. In 1978, Holdforth earned himself a place in Washington baseball history through his determination to ensure that Robert Short paid a … Continue reading ‘Baseball Bill’ helped stop Bob Short from coming back to D.C.
April 18, 1960: Pascual strikes out 15, an opening-day record that still stands
Even as work was about to begin on a new stadium, the fate of the Washington Senators in D.C. remained uncertain as the 1960 season began. Owner Calvin Griffith had tried and then abandoned an earlier effort to move the team, yet he had just made a major trade with the White Sox that would … Continue reading April 18, 1960: Pascual strikes out 15, an opening-day record that still stands
Was Walter Johnson the greatest pitcher ever?
April 14 is the anniversary of two of the best games Washington’s Walter Johnson pitched in his magnificent career. On that date in 1926, at age 39, he went 15 innings to beat the Philadelphia Athletics, 1-0. He allowed six hits and let no runner advance beyond first base. Johnson himself considered this his masterpiece, … Continue reading Was Walter Johnson the greatest pitcher ever?
Presidential openers and D.C.
During his long tenure in Washington, Clark Griffith cultivated relationships with every U.S. President from William Howard Taft to Dwight Eisenhower. The Nats’ owner helped keep baseball going during World War I and again in World War II. See my SABR team ownership history (or on this site) of the original Senators for more about … Continue reading Presidential openers and D.C.
Aug. 7, 1915: Sam Rice debuts on the mound as the Big Train starts in right
Washington Manager Clark Griffith acquired Edger Rice, known as “Sam,” as payment for a $300 debt owed by the owner of Rice’s Virginia State League team. It’s hard to imagine a better bargain for a future Hall of Famer. Rice joined Griffith’s squad in Washington on July 30, 1915, in the midst of a long … Continue reading Aug. 7, 1915: Sam Rice debuts on the mound as the Big Train starts in right
July 19, 1915: Nats credited with a record 8 steals in an inning
The record for the most stolen bases in an inning was set by the Senators against Cleveland on July 19, 1915, but the total hardly stands up to scrutiny. In the top of the first inning of the game at League Park, the official scorer credited the Nats with eight steals, but under today’s rules, … Continue reading July 19, 1915: Nats credited with a record 8 steals in an inning
The University of Maryland, the Nats and MLB
College Park, home of the University of Maryland’s main campus, is just eight miles by car outside of Washington, D.C. The proximity came into play during World War II when travel restrictions forced major league teams to find spring training sites nearer their home cities. In 1943, ’44 and ’45, the Senators arranged to train … Continue reading The University of Maryland, the Nats and MLB
Wade Lefler’s key pinch hits in September 1924
In the heat of the 1924 pennant race, the Senators acquired veteran minor leaguer Wade Lefler to provide what the team hoped would be a potent bat off the bench. The left-hand hitter did not disappoint. In four pinch-hit at-bats, Lefler drove in six runs with two doubles and a single. His first hit drove … Continue reading Wade Lefler’s key pinch hits in September 1924
Minnie Minoso, the only expansion Senator in the Hall of Fame
Orestes “Minnie” Minoso, inducted in 2022, is the only member of the Hall of Fame to have played for the expansion Washington Senators. He did so during that franchise’s worst season, 1963, when he was 39 years old. It was the last time he played on semi-regular basis, appearing 109 games and getting up 363 … Continue reading Minnie Minoso, the only expansion Senator in the Hall of Fame
Howie Kendrick: 2019 post-season hero
Without the hitting heroics of Howie Kendrick, the Washington Nationals would not have reached the 2019 World Series. The veteran infielder, acquired at the trade deadline in 2017 for a minor league pitcher who never made it, had a career season in 2019. Then, his 10th-inning grand slam beat the favored Dodgers in Game Five … Continue reading Howie Kendrick: 2019 post-season hero
Win Mercer, 1890s’ heartthrob, two-way star of the N.L. Senators
George Barclay “Win” Mercer was a 20-game winner in back-to-back seasons for woeful Washington teams in the 1890s’ National League. He batted .305 as a frequently used position player in a five-year stretch from 1897 to 1901. By all accounts, the popular Mercer was a handsome ladies man and a big-time gambler. His nickname, reflecting … Continue reading Win Mercer, 1890s’ heartthrob, two-way star of the N.L. Senators
The unwelcome records of the 2022 Nationals
Let us count the ways the Nationals of 2022 smashed a number of long-standing franchise and season records for futility. A 55-107 fifth-place finish, worst since Washington regained a team in 2005, can do that. The Nationals finished 46 games behind the Braves and Mets, who tied with 101 wins, and 14 games behind the … Continue reading The unwelcome records of the 2022 Nationals
Who, if anyone, was the model for ‘Joe Hardy’?
Joe Hardy was the fictional baseball star created by J. Douglass Wallop in his 1954 novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, adapted soon after for Broadway and film as Damn Yankees. Middle-aged Washington Senators fan Joe Boyd makes a deal with the devil to become a great player (Joe Hardy) and, he hopes, … Continue reading Who, if anyone, was the model for ‘Joe Hardy’?
Paolo Espino’s near-record innings pitched without a win
When Paolo Espino took the mound to start the Nationals’ penultimate game of 2022, he was on the verge of becoming the pitcher who threw the most innings in a season without winning a game. In 18 previous starts, although his record was 0-8, he always had lasted at least four innings. Espino Facing the … Continue reading Paolo Espino’s near-record innings pitched without a win
All-Star Games in D.C.: 1937, 1956, 1962, 1969 and 2018
During the depth of the Great Depression, with a quarter of the American workforce unemployed, baseball attendance had fallen by 40 percent. A World’s Fair was scheduled in Chicago in the summer of 1933, and the city’s mayor wanted a major sports event to accompany it. He asked the publisher of the Chicago Tribune for … Continue reading All-Star Games in D.C.: 1937, 1956, 1962, 1969 and 2018
2022: A record 43 games without a starter winning
Washington’s Tanner Rainey saved a 3-2 victory for Josiah Gray over the Phillies on July 6, 2022, in Philadelphia. As poorly as the Nats were playing, nobody could imagine then that it would be seven weeks – 43 games – before another Nationals’ starting pitcher would win a game. Victories by starters clearly are far … Continue reading 2022: A record 43 games without a starter winning
Ty Cobb’s last hit came at Griffith Stadium
Connie Mack’s Athletics were battling the Yankees for the 1928 pennant when Philadelphia came into Washington for a double-header on September 3, 1928. Down 6-0 with two outs left in the first game, Mack sent up 41-year-old Ty Cobb as a pinch-hitter against Bump Hadley of the Senators. Cobb, in his second year playing for … Continue reading Ty Cobb’s last hit came at Griffith Stadium
Walter Johnson, George Washington and the Rappahannock
Next to the apocryphal story about George Washington and the cherry tree, the most familiar tale told about the Father of Our Country involves what he threw across the Rappahannock River. It was even mentioned on the iconic Beach Boys’ album, All Summer Long, in 1964.* Unlike the essential details of young George chopping down … Continue reading Walter Johnson, George Washington and the Rappahannock
July 6, 1920: Nats yield a record 14 runs in an inning
The New York Yankees reclaimed first place in American League with a 17-0 pounding of Washington on Tuesday, July 6, 1920, at the ballpark that would become known as Griffith Stadium. What made the game more memorable, however, was what happened in the fifth inning. That's when the Yankees scored what at that time was … Continue reading July 6, 1920: Nats yield a record 14 runs in an inning