The Washington Senators

Graeme
By
Posted: December 4, 2014


The Washington Senators were an American Baseball team that existed between 1901 and 1960. This team was one of three teams that were called the Washington Senators during different periods, although they had little in terms of a relationship aside from the name they shared. Washington’s performances were consistently poor and a popular taunt was coined to that effect; “Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” They were based at the Griffith Stadium. The team had tried to rebrand in 1905 as the Washington Nationals in 1905 but the name refused to stick and the team reverted to “Senators” in 1956.

How Did the Senators Start up?

The senators began in 1901 as one of 8 charter franchises of the American League. In 1899, Washington was one of four cities that lost franchises as a result of contraction of the National League. The American league was formed by Ban Johnson who ran a minor league in the mid-west called the Western League. The American League introduced three teams in cities that had lost franchises in 1899, including Washington. The Kansas City’s Western League franchise was moved to Washington and became the Senators.

The Washington Senators in Competition

In 1901, their first season in operation, they finished sixth in the league with a 61-72 record. Their performance continued to be poor through the rest of the 1900s, finishing sixth or below throughout, including thee last place finishes.

Results improved during the early 1910s posting four straight winning seasons between 1912 and 1915, but they slumped back to mediocrity during the latter half of the decade. They continued their poor form into the 20s but shocked everyone when they won the 1924 American league pennant and the World Series. They appeared at the World Series again in 1925 but were rammed by the Pittsburg Pirates in game 7. The rest of the 20s and the early 30s saw the team perform poorly but did make a final World Series appearance in 1933, losing to the New York Yankees in five games. The team would wait 10 more years for a winning season, an 84-69 record for second in 1943. They narrowly missed out on the League Pennant in 1945 marking the last time they would ever challenge for the title. The rest of their time in Washington was spent in mediocrity as they put together a string of poor finishes, recording only one winning season in 15 years. They finished fifth in their final season, 1960 with a 73-81 record after having finished last during all of the previous three seasons.

Washington Senators Most Notable Moments

1924 was undoubtedly the high of Senators’ stay in Washington. The season’s first pitch was thrown by President Calvin Coolidge, perhaps the lucky charm they needed having come from a fourth place finish. They shocked the nation by beating the Yankees to win the League Pennant but the magic did not stop there as they went on to stun the formidable New York Giants in the World Series during a hard fought game 7. The following day, the senators were met with a hero’s parade down Pennsylvania Avenue with President Coolidge, who had thrown the team’s first pitch at hand to receive them.

On August 4th, 1945 the Senators fielded a pitcher named Bert Shepard in a game against the Boston Red Sox. He pitched five and third innings and gave up three hits or the Senators. The remarkable thing about Bert’s appearance is that he played on one leg having lost his right leg in the War while flying a mission over Germany.

The Senators’ Most Notable Players

Walter Johnson, who played his entire career (1907-1927) for the Senators, is considered one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. Despite the underwhelming play of the Senators, Walter managed 110 shutouts, by far the greatest in league history, and he is second in games completed (531). His contribution was crucial in the Senators’ 1924 World Series win. He was voted MVP two times and Triple Crown thrice, a feat only achieved by two other players.

Joe Cronin played for the senators from 1928 to 1934. The shortstop’s most prolific career in Washington colors was 1931 when he posted a .306 average, 126 RBIs and 12 homeruns. In 1933 he led the Senators to an appearance at the World Series and was appointed player-manager the following season.

Goose Goslin, a left fielder, was part of Senators’ setup between 1920 and 1930, arguably their most successful period. He topped the AL with 129 RBIs in 1924 with a batting average of .344 an important contribution to the Senators’ World Series win. He set a world record 6 consecutive hits in that World Series, and this was only broken in 1990.

What Happened to the Washington Senators?

During the 50s, the Senators found wins hard to come by and this resulted in consistently diminishing fan attendance. In 1955, Calvin Griffith had taken over as President of the franchise following the death of his father. Calvin eyed Minnesota as a promising new home for the team and requested other owners to allow him to move, sighting an aging stadium and poor fan turnout. There was discontent with the intended move among Washington residents and political elite who frequented Senators games. The move was held up further by the Baseball anti-trust exemption and Griffith’s refusal to agree to a new stadium. However with talk of two new expansion franchises, resistance to the move abetted as Washington would receive one of the franchises, keeping all parties content. The team relocated to Minnesota and was now known as the Minnesota Twins. In 1961 a new version of the Senators was born. Since the Senators’ team history and trophies went with the Twins, Washington’s new team inherited little more that the “Senators” moniker and their famous taunt which now became “Washington: First in war, first in peace, and still last in the American League.”

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