The gold pendant is a little under two inches high. Eagles flank the U.S. Capitol above a pair of crossed bats set with a diamond. Framed in red and gold enamel are the words “Washington. World 1924 Champions.” On the back it reads: “Presented to J.T. Zachary by the Commissioner of Baseball.”
“They got the pendant, and they got $500, and they got an overcoat,” said Sally, who plays bridge at the boat club every week. “That was their prize for winning the World Series, instead of getting $10 million and whatever they get now.”
Zachary’s two winning games in the ’24 series were the second and the sixth. (“Walter Johnson only won one,” Sally pointed out.) He won a World Series game as a Yankee, too, in 1928. In 1929, he went 12-0, a record.
Her father loved the game. Zachary was from North Carolina and went straight from college ball to the majors — never played a day in the minors, Sally said with pride.
“Daddy played 18 years,” Sally said. “He played for the Washington Senators. He played for the New York Yankees. He played for the Boston Braves and the St. Louis Browns. He said if he was ever traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, he would retire. And that’s when he did retire.”
Zachary had retired from baseball by the time Sally was born, but he followed the game all his life. Sally remembers her father listening to games on the radio. He kept a radio on the porch of their house in Graham, N.C., and another in the yard so he could listen to the play by play as he puttered.
“I had one friend who came down with her glove,” Sally remembered. “She said, ‘Tom, I’m here for you to teach me to pitch.’ ”
What did he do?
“He took her out and taught her how to pitch.”
You can take the man out of baseball but you can’t take baseball out of the man.
In 1927, Zachary was in his second stint as a Washington Senator when he gave up Babe Ruth’s record-setting 60th home run, a blast down the right field line. Or did he?
“It was a foul,” Sally said. “Since it was Babe Ruth’s 60th, the umpire fudged a little bit and said it was a home run.”
That’s the family story, anyway.
“He and Babe Ruth actually were friends,” Sally said. “The year after the home run, Daddy was playing for the Yankees.”
Years later, the two were together at an old-timer’s game. The Bambino went up to Zachary and growled good-naturedly: “You son of a bitch. You’re still saying it was a foul.”
Sally and her husband, John “Jigger” Harper, live in Alexandria. She came to Northern Virginia in 1960, after college. She taught health and PE at George Washington High (“I’m athletic,” she said), then began a career in real estate. She’s been an agent with McEnearney Associates for 40 years.
What would Tom Zachary — veteran of the only Washington ballclub to win a World Series title — think as this year’s players contend for the honor?
“I think that he would be very excited that the Nationals are hopefully going to win.”
She added that she’d love to throw out the first ball.
Whole lava love
What will the atmosphere be like at Friday’s home opener at Nationals Park? Perhaps it will resemble the opening game of the 1924 World Series at Griffith Stadium, memorably described in The Washington Post by Francis P. Daily:
“The lid blew off the top of all seething humanity yesterday afternoon in the bursting of the bottled, pent-up, hogtied emotion of a great city’s populace that was comparable only to the eruption of a passionate volcano.
“A giant carboy of sparkling burgundy, personifying the spirit of youth and effervescing in all its joyousness, illustrates the mob psychology of the spectacle that was enacted by 40,000 human calliopes who were packed, jammed, sandwiched into Griffith Stadium to watch two great physically perfect fighting machines battle for the baseball championship of the universe.”
Man, they really knew how to write back then. Play ball!
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.