The last time Washington’s major league baseball team clinched a spot in the World Series, it was “Ladies Day” at Griffith Stadium. So overcome were the Senators faithful — of both genders — after the home team defeated the St. Louis Browns in the 1933 season’s 147th game, they besieged the clubhouse as the players inside celebrated, then burst in themselves, all wanting a piece of the club’s 26-year-old player-manager, Joe Cronin.
A sheriff lifted Cronin and carried him through the crowd and onto the field, where a “mob of women” gave chase, The Washington Post reported at the time. Cronin escaped by slipping through a hidden door in the center field fence and out to Fifth Street, where his car was waiting. He sped off.
It has been 86 years since Washington reached that 1933 World Series, although professional baseball, of course, wasn’t played in the District in all of those years. The last time the Nats, then the nickname for the Senators, played for the title, there had only been one World War. There were only 48 states. The cost of a gallon of gasoline was 18 cents.
There were no playoffs other than the World Series then; the Senators finished first in the American League with a 99-53 record, seven games ahead of the New York Yankees. They faced the NL champion New York Giants in a World Series marked by Giants dominance and Washington mania, with Senate hearings adjourned early in deference to the ballgame, one near-riot, two extra-inning games and multiple controversies.
Game 1: Giants 4, Senators 2
Carl Hubbell, the National League MVP, started on the mound for the Giants at the Polo Grounds, and that’s all you need to know. He threw all nine innings on the first Tuesday of October, striking out 10 while allowing five hits and two runs. The Senators couldn’t touch him.
“Hubbell struck out the first three men of the Washington batting order, Buddy Myer, Goose Goslin and Heinie Manush,” John Drebinger wrote for the New York Times. “All three are highly respected hitters in their own circuit, but the famed screwball of the complacent Hubbell left them blinking. They had never seen anything like that before.”
Mel Ott went 4 for 4 for New York with a two-run homer in the first inning and a run-scoring single in the third.
Game 2: Giants 6, Senators 1
Cronin surprised most experts by starting Lefty Weaver in Game 1 instead of Alvin “General” Crowder, a right-hander. Crowder got the start in Game 2, still in New York, and looked promising. The Senators marched off to an early lead with Goslin’s solo home run in the third inning, and Crowder had only allowed two hits through five innings.
But in the sixth, Jo-Jo Moore had a leadoff hit, then was replaced by Hughie Critz on a fielder’s choice for the first out. Giants player-manager Bill Terry doubled to left field, sending Critz to third, and Crowder intentionally walked Ott.
Then five of the next six New York batters reached, and the Giants had six runs on the board by the end of the inning. Washington’s pitching, its strength headed into the series, collapsed.
“What became of Washington’s great pitching?” wrote the great Post columnist Shirley Povich. “New York base hits, that’s what it became. And what became of Washington’s great hitting? Strikeouts, pop-ups and double plays, that’s what.”
“ ‘A team of destiny’ was the way they were referred to when they came from nowhere to win the pennant, after being almost unanimously consigned to sixth place in the National League race,” the Evening Star’s Denman Thompson wrote of the Giants, “and it must be said they are in a fair way to earning their rights to the appellation.”
Game 3: Senators 4, Giants 0
The series shifted to the District, and Official Washington turned out.
After a brief rain delay, President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived to throw out the first pitch, accompanied by a full military band. (Earlier, the Meyer Goldman’s Band had entertained fans.)
Seated in the presidential box down the first base line with both teams lined up before him and baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis next to him, Roosevelt was instructed to throw out the ceremonial first pitch but had not been handed a baseball, according to a Times account. A police officer ran into one of the dugouts and retrieved one, and the president let it fly, but most of the players were no longer paying attention. The ball landed on the ground and the players scrummed for it until Manush pulled it out and ran into the dugout.
The Times reported that Roosevelt ate lunch at his desk in the White House to make it to the game on time. Senate hearings on the stock market and shipping subsidies adjourned early so congressmen and Capitol Hill staffers could reach Griffith Stadium in time for the first pitch.
Meanwhile, “a full ton of the indispensable hot dogs, reinforced by 500 dozen rolls, 100 gallons of mustard, 100 pounds of coffee and 25,000 bottles of soft drinks — except beer — had been amassed to satisfy the pangs of hunger and thirst of the thousands in the stands,” the Evening Star reported. (Beer was banned because of the stadium’s proximity to the Soldiers’ Home, according to the paper.)
Finally, with 25,727 in attendance, the Washington bats came alive. Cronin brought home a run in the first, then Fred Schulte doubled in another. Myer pushed another run across in the second with a double, then another in the seventh with a single.
On the mound, Earl Whitehill, who won 22 games in the regular season, was rolling. He allowed five hits and two walks over nine innings, while striking out two. The entire game took a neat 1 hour 55 minutes.
“The Senators showed today that they could play a right smart and brilliant defensive game themselves,” Drebinger wrote in the Times. “Apparently they needed only the more agreeable surroundings of Griffith Stadium to put them in the proper mood.”
Game 4: Giants 2, Senators 1 (11 innings)
“Wotta ball game,” Povich wrote in his column the morning after the Giants took a three-games-to-one lead.
Cloaked in drama, Friday’s game saw one of the Senators’ best players ejected, a near riot erupt on the field, a pitchers’ duel for the ages, a clutch piece of hitting and sparkling defense to top it all off.
“The 27,762 in the stands were subjects for the psychologists,” Povich wrote.
Hubbell took the mound again for New York and was again brilliant, but Washington’s Monte Weaver was equal to the task. With the Giants ahead 1-0 in the sixth, Manush was convinced he beat out an infield single to first base, and when called out, harangued umpire Charley Moran, who threw him out of the game. But Manush refused to take Moran’s word for it. He jogged out to his spot in left field the next half inning until umpire-in-chief Red Ormsby upheld Moran’s decision. Manush barked at officials the whole way off the field, a walk that necessitated a police escort so fans would not accost either the player or the umpires.
After the hullabaloo, the pitchers’ duel resumed. Hubbell and Weaver each allowed only one run headed into the 11th inning, when Travis Jackson led off for the Giants with a bunt single, then advanced to second on a sacrifice. Blondy Ryan, the rookie shortstop who, when left behind on a road trip during the pennant race, telegrammed his teammates, “They can’t beat us” — New York’s version of “Stay in the fight” — singled to left field to drive in the go-ahead run.
Washington loaded the bases in the bottom of the 11th, but pinch hitter Cliff Bolton grounded out to Ryan, who started a game-ending double play.
Game 5: Giants 4, Senators 3 (10 innings)
The second extra-inning game in a row was not without its own share of controversy. The Senators tied the score at 3 in the sixth inning on a three-run homer by Schulte. But Dolf Luque, the Cuban curveball specialist, relieved Hal Schumacher for New York and quieted the Washington bats the rest of the way.
With two outs in the 10th, Ott, batting .352 in the series headed into the at-bat, smacked a long flyball to deep center field that chased Schulte back to the temporary bleachers erected at Griffith Stadium. Schulte got a glove on the ball, then collided with the short fence, and he and the ball went over together. Umpires originally gave Ott a ground-rule double, but Moran, serving as umpire-in-chief, revised the ruling and awarded a home run that gave New York a 4-3 lead.
The Senators put the winning run on first base in the bottom of the inning, but pinch hitter Joe Kuhel struck out to end it.
“Some one throws a glove against a locker with a smothered oath,” Bill McCormick wrote in the next day’s Post. “That breaks the tension. They talk. Spiritless, disjointed talk. The talk of disappointed losers, who are just beginning to realize how much winning meant to them. No one consoles. They don’t dare. Every one is near tears — and tears aren’t for athletes.”
Washington hasn’t been back to the World Series since.
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