On Friday night, the current team will play its first World Series home game in franchise history against the Houston Astros. Seats are much pricier than $6.60. The modern-day ticket sharks on Stub Hub are demanding more than $1,000 for standing room only.
Local excitement was sky-high in 1933. At least two Senate hearings were postponed so senators and witnesses could attend the games, which were all played during the day. A local radio station arranged for a dozen men on death row at the D.C. jail to hear the games on the radio. The Gayety Theater announced a special burlesque show “The Pennant Winners,” featuring “the Ladies of the Night” ballet “dancers.”
After the first two games in New York, rookie president Franklin D. Roosevelt was poised to throw out the first ball in Washington. Cabinet members had reserved box seats at Griffith Stadium. Thousands of people entered The Post’s “unique baseball contest” offering nine box seats to whomever could best pick the inning-to-inning outcome of the first game in New York’s Polo Grounds against the National League champs New York Giants. The Senators — nicknamed the Nats — had won the American League pennant.
The Giants won that first game behind future Hall of Fame pitcher Carl Hubbell. Washington also lost the second game in New York, but that didn’t dim hometown hopes. Upon returning to D.C. by train, the team was “greeted by throngs at Union Station last night like conquering heroes rather than like beaten” losers, The Post reported.
“Atta, boy, Joe,” the fans shouted to the Nats’ 26-year-old player/manager Joe Cronin, a shortstop.
Despite a cool drizzle, 25,727 people turned out for the first game in Washington. Local dignitaries and members of the capital’s high society stood out in the gathering. “It was all very much like a spectacle outside an ancient Roman arena where senator, statesman and military men forgot their dignities in the scuffle” to “watch a contest between the world’s most famous gladiators,” The Post reported.
“A goodly gathering of smart women, as great fans as the men, added a note of color to the crowd,” The Post said. “Smart women in tweed and topcoats, in furs and orchids and women even smart in their raincoats.” Watching the game was former president Woodrow Wilson’s widow, Edith Galt Wilson, wearing “a black suit with silver fox furs and her characteristic shoulder-bouquet of orchids.”
On the field, a band played “Stormy Weather” as the crowd waited for the skies to clear for the game. An Army band in bright blue-gray tunics and white trousers “strutted bravely and tunefully through the last of the drizzle,” playing cheery music. The bands stood at attention as Roosevelt rode in his limousine up to the baseball diamond and then went to his seat.
After the bands played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the president “energetically tossed out the ball.” Nats outfielder Heinie Manush caught the ball but was too shy to take it to Roosevelt for an autograph. So a friendly policeman did it for him.
Gracie Allen of the comedy couple Burns and Allen, without her husband George Burns, sat with the newspaper reporters, telling them she was trying to find the press box for her brother. Told she was in the press box, Allen replied: “Then I don’t understand. He sent his trousers up an hour ago, and nobody has pressed them yet.”
The umpire shouted “Play ball,” and the game was on. Drawing about as much attention as the players was a pigeon pecking away in the infield despite efforts by the umpires to chase it away. New York Yankees slugger George Herman “Babe” Ruth, who was sitting high above the field in the press box, remarked, “There’s one bird those umps can’t run out of the game. They’d have me in the shower bath by this time.”
(Roosevelt later met with Ruth at the White House. The president threw an arm around Ruth’s shoulder and said, “Babe, I want to tell you a story.” Roosevelt proceeded to tell about when he was running for vice president and arrived at a hotel in Binghamton, N.Y., to find a big, cheering crowd. “’This is a nice reception they’ve given me,’ I thought,” Roosevelt said. Then he realized they were there to see Babe Ruth, and “didn’t care to see me at all.” The Babe grinned.)
In the first inning of the game, Roosevelt “bounced up and down excitedly like a small boy” when Washington’s Fred Schulte doubled, driving in Goose Goslin, The Post reported. The Nats won 4 to 0 behind 22-game winner “handsome” Earl Whitehill, described by the New York Daily News as “a dukey looking left-hander with a Hollywood kisser.”
Controversy erupted in Game 4 when an umpire ejected Washington’s Manush for arguing after being called out at first base. “The infuriated clamor of an outraged citizenry, crying for the lifeblood of an umpire, billowed out from the stands, swirling around the squat figure of Charley Moran, who had put Heinie out of the game for an unimportant gesture,” The Post said.
Manush was the first player ever thrown out of a World Series game. The Nats lost 2 to 1 in 11 innings. After the game, the Associated Press reported, police escorted umpire Moran from the dressing room, “drove him under the grandstands in a car and did not leave him until he was safely on his way to a hotel.”
Facing elimination, Washington was trailing 3 to 0 in the sixth inning of the fifth game when Schulte homered with two runners on base to tie the contest. “Fans were on their feet, hugging each other in ecstatic joy,” The Post said. “Washington players danced about like dervishes.”
But there was no more joy in Nats-ville that day. Giants player/manager Mel Ott homered in the 10th inning to win the World Series for New York. Yet in the nation’s capital, the gloom over the loss was countered by the rosy view that Washington would win many more pennants. “Methinks the Nats are en route to better things,” wrote Post sports columnist Shirley Lewis Povich.
It took 86 years to prove him right.