The Washington Senators were a baseball team that played in the major leagues from 1901 to 1960. The same franchise went on to become the Montreal Twins, who are still in operation today. The senators began as a charter franchise for the American League which had been converted from the Western League in 1901. The franchise took the name of a National League team which had folded a year earlier. In 1905, the Senators rebranded to the Washington Nationals in order to eliminate confusion with the earlier Senators. The new name however refused to stick among journalists and fans and the Senators name was readopted in 1956. The Senators played their first two seasons at the American League Park before relocating to the Griffith Stadium for the rest of their spell in Washington.
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Success on the pitch evaded the Senators for much of their time in Washington. In fact they are one of the most unsuccessful teams in the history of major league baseball. Bar the three appearances in the World Series, one of which they won, they spent more seasons languishing near the bottom of the league. Their well documented misery in play was immortalized in the famous taunt slogan “Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” Their World Championship win in 1924, seemingly out of nowhere surprised the entire nation. Before that season their best performance had been two second place finishes in 1912 and 1913. At the opening of the 1924 season, President Coolidge threw the season’s first pitch, seemingly the good luck charm they needed to register success. They won their first ever American League pennant with a 92-62 record.
In the Fall Classic, they met the New York Giants who were achieving the same feat for a consecutive fourth season. The Senators won the series in six games but needed a stroke of luck in game six to put the series beyond the Giant’s reach. With the game deadlocked in the final inning, a slow hit by Earl McNeely rolled towards the third base line. As the Giants’ third baseman Fred Lindstrom bent down to pick the ball, it hit a pebble and rolled away from his grasp. The Nats’ Muddy Ruel got hold and made the game winning run. As the reality of the win sunk in, one of the teary Nats faces was pitcher Walter Johnson. Johnson who played for the Nats since 1907 was one of the best batters to play in the league. His dominant showings were instrumental in the Senators’ most successful years. A true servant of the team, he stayed put in Washington during the lean years, with a less than stellar supporting cast while he could have been ripping the rewards of his talent elsewhere. As they made their celebratory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue the following morning, President Coolidge who had thrown the first pitch of their magical season came out to greet the team.
The following season, the Nats confirmed that there was more to their win than pure luck as they made the World Series again. This time however, they were vanquished by the Pittsburg Pirates in seven games as they became the first team to throw away a 3-1 lead in a seven game series. In 1927, Walter Johnson retired after 21 years with the Senators. His career total of 3508 strikeouts, 416 wins and 110 shut-outs make him arguably the best pitcher of all time.
Why were the Washington Senators Relocated?
The story of the Senators’ relocation follows a familiar plot with American sports teams. Following the 1925 World Series and Johnson’s retirement in 1927, the Senators retreated into familiar mediocrity which culminated in four last place finishes in the last six years of the fifties. Fans were disillusioned and stayed away in droves, putting the team in financial difficulty. The first sign of an impending relocation was the sale of the Griffith Stadium to the City of Washington by club President Calvin Griffith who had taken over the reigns from his father in 1955. Griffith Jr. had his eyes set strictly away from Washington and even refused an offer by the City for a new ballpark. His request for relocation was handled with extreme caution by league owners who were wary of antagonizing members of Congress who enjoyed winding down from long debate sessions with a weekend game at Griffith Park. Eventually, the league found a way to please both parties. They allowed Griffith to move his team to Minnesota and gave Washington an expansion franchise which would inherit the Washington Senators name. The Senators moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season, changing their name to Minnesota Twins.
Washington Senators most Notable Players
Walter Johnson RHP 1907-1927
Heinie Manush OF 1930-1935
Goose Goslin OF 1921-1930, 1933, 38
Rick Ferrell C 1937-1941, 1944-1945, 1947
Sam Rice OF 1915-1933
Joe Cronin SS 1928-1934
Early Wynn RHP 1939, 1941-1944, 1946-1948
Tom Hughes RHP 1904-1913
George McBride SS 1908-1920
Jim Shaw RHP 1913-1921
Clyde Milan OF 1907-1922
Howie Shanks OF 1912-1922
Bucky Harris 2B 1919-1928
Tom Zachary RHP 1919-1925, 1927-1928
Firpo Marberry RHP 1923-1932, 1936
Joe Judge 1B 1915-1933
Ossie Bluege 3B 1922-1939
Sam West CF 1927-1932, 1938-1941
Eddie Yost 3B 1944, 1946-1958
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