Giant victory for '24 Senators
By Bill Corum
New York Times
This piece was originally published in the New York Times on Oct. 11, 1924.
Dreams came true in the twelfth -- Washington's dream and Walter Johnson's -- and when the red September sun dropped down behind the dome of the Capitol the Senators were the baseball champions of the world.
Washington waited twenty-five years for a World Series, but when it came it was the greatest one in history, and the king of pitchers waited eighteen years for the sweetest victory of his career.
For just long enough to beat the Giants, 4 to 3, in the seventh and deciding game the Old Master was the Johnson of old, the Kansas Cyclone, sweeping the proud champions of the National League down to their bitterest defeat.
"The team that won't be beaten, can't be beaten." Today that team was Washington. But the Giants did not deserve to lose. Chance and fate turned against the gray-clad team from the banks of the Hudson, but they went down fighting in the only way they knew and New York may still be proud of them.
When the Senators took the field it was behind the broad shoulders of Walter Johnson, and this time their hero did not fail them. In danger to every one of the four innings that he worked, he rose superbly to every emergency. In each succeeding crisis he became a little more the master, a little more the terrible blond Swede of baseball fable. Twice he struck out Long George Kelly when the game hung by a thread so fine that thousands in the tense, silent throng turned their heads away with every pitch.
Somewhere, perhaps, in that little patch of sunlight that was filtering through the shadowy stands and down in front of the pitcher's mound, the once mightiest arm of all was finding the strength to do the thing that twice before had balked it. In those four innings the grand old man struck out five batters, and when his need was direst he was best. Twice he turned McGraw's team back with two runners waiting to score and two other times with one.
In the very first inning that Johnson pitched, Frisch, the second batter to face him, tripled and then stayed on third to fret and fume while the calm Kansan passed Young intentionally, stuck out Kelly and then made Meusel roll to the third baseman for the final out.
Again in the tenth, Wilson, first to face him, drew a pass, stayed on first while Jackson fanned and then died in a double play, Johnson to Bluege to Judge.
But it was in the eleventh that Johnson reached his greatest heights. Here it was that McGraw made his most desperate bid for victory. He sent the crippled Heinie Groh up with his bottle bat to hit for McQuillan when the inning began, and Heinie delivered a difficult single to right. Southworth scurried down to first to run for Groh, and no sooner was he there than Lindstrom moved him on to second with a perfect sacrifice bunt. The winning run was on second, there was only one out and Frankie Frisch was at bat.
Here was a situation to make any pitcher quail. That is, any pitcher but Walter Johnson. Frisch was captain of his team, but not of his fate, as it turned out; that was in the big, broad palm of the man he was facing. Up and down went that right arm. There was a prayer on every pitch, but there was something else on them, too. Frisch will tell you that. He swung three times, missed three times and sat down.
But the danger was not over yet. Young and Kelly were still to come. Young came, and went to first on four pitched balls. Kelly came, and the Senators came in to bat. Long George had paid dearly for that home run he hit off Johnson last Saturday. He knows now why they call Walter the Old Master.
Once more in the twelfth the Giants put the Big Train in the hole at the start when Irish Meusel singled to right, but this time the lower end of the batting order was up and Wilson fanned, Jackson grounded to Bluege and Gowdy flied to Goslin.
Johnson not only saved the game with his arm, he also helped to win it with his bat. In the tenth he nearly turned the trick all alone. He drove a mighty fly to deep left center, but it lacked a few feet of being long enough for a home run, which would have turned a great game into an epic.
Wilson was under the ball and Sir Walter was out, but not down. He came back in that fierce and final rally in the twelfth. With Miller out on a grounder to Frisch, Gowdy made a $50,000 muff of a foul pop off Muddy Reul's bat when he stumbled over his mask and let the ball get away from him. It was baseball history repeating itself. McGraw and Christy Mathewson lost the 1912 championship when Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball in the tenth.
Granted this reprieve, little Muddy from the Big Muddy hammered a double over third base and Washington's first baseball championship was in the making. Johnson jabbed a hard grounder at Jackson and Travis made the second error of a bad afternoon. Ruel wisely clung to second while Jackson scrambled for the ball.
With first and second occupied, Earl McNeely hit another hopper over Lindstom that was a twin brother to Harris' hit of the eighth except that it was a little harder and, therefore, a more legitimate hit. As the ball rolled into left Ruel, running as he had never run before, rounded third and charged toward the plate. Meusel, galloping from deep left, picked up the ball, but didn't even throw it. It would have been the proper gesture, but neither one of the Meusel boys are given to gestures.
Many in the roaring throng that came piling on the field like college boys after the victory of their football team thought that it was Pep Young who carried off the ball that beat the Giants. With two out and two on, in the Senators' half of the eleventh, and Bluege, a dead left-field hitter at bat, McGraw had shifted Young and Meusel to get the faster man into left, but they went back to their regular positions in the twelfth.
This jockeying about of players was typical of the entire game, for it was a battle of wits as well as bats and balls. Manager Harris tried to cross his veteran rival on the New York bench even before the game started. He announced that he would pitch Curley Ogden, a right-hander, and actually sent him to the mound, although he planned to have him pitch to only one batter. The idea was to induce McGraw to name the line-up he had been using against right-handers and then to send Mogridge, a southpaw, to the mound.
The New York manager could, of course, shift his team to meet the change, but if he did he could not change back again if Mogridge was knocked out and Marberry, another right-hander, sent in. In other words, Terry's being named in the line-up actually put him in the game and he could not be withdrawn and then sent back.
Ogden stuck out Linstrom and then started walking toward the Washington bench, but Harris showed himself to be a shrewd leader by calling him back and having him pitch to Frisch also. If Ogden was going to have a great day -- and that would have been wholly possible in the face of his record -- Bucky wanted to take advantage of it. He worked the same trick in Detroit near the end of the American League race, and successfully, but against the canny McGraw he derived no great benefit from it.
McGraw allowed Terry to stay in until the pinch in the sixth, when he substituted Meusel. Harris met the change by waving in Marberry to replace Mogridge, but Meusel hit the Texas right-hander for a fly that traveled long and far to right and Young scored with the tying run. So while there was no very decisive and far-reaching effect from the strategy one way or the other, what little there was came to McGraw.
Just prior to this, and in the same inning, McGraw had introduced a bit of strategy on his own part which had far more effect on the game. With Young on first, Kelly at bat and Mogridge patently nervous, McGraw called for the hit and run, with the count three balls and one strike on Kelly. The obvious play, of course, would have been to let Kelly take the next one in the hope that it would be a fourth ball. But McGraw seldom does the obvious thing. He figured that Mogridge would try for the heart of the plate, and that was just what Mogridge did. Kelly singled over second and Young easily reached third. It was from that point that he counted on Meusel's fly, and it was smart baseball that had put him there.
From the eighth on both teams were threatening each time they came to bat and any one of a hundred things might have changed the result completely.
There was Virgil Barnes of Centerville, Kan., for instance. Virgil proved that while all the great pitchers may come from his state they do not all come to Washington. For seven and two-thirds innings Barnes was a master pitcher. Until Harris hit a long fly, which just did drop over the temporary bleachers wall for a home run in the fourth, the Senators had not got a single ball past the Giant infield. Only three batters faced Barnes in each of the first three innings, four in the fourth, three in the fifth and three in the sixth, and four in the seventh again, making only twenty-three batters to face him in seven innings.
In those seven frames he yielded only three hits, a homer and fluky single by Harris and single by Goslin. Even in the eighth, when he was taken out, he did not break completely, but he faltered, and that was enough to let the Senators break through and cause his downfall. That blow of Harris', which a high bound and the sun in Lindstrom's eyes helped to make a hit, was the one that ruined him. Until then he had furnished the most brilliant bit of pitching seen in the series. Besides Barnes, there were Frisch, Kelly and Wilson, all three of whom made sparkling plays in the field and timely hits at bat.
But to the victor belong the spoils. When future generations are told about this game they will not hear about Barnes, or Frisch, or Kelly, or even about Harris or McNeely. But the boy with his first love and ball crowding up to his father's knee, will beg:
"Tell me about Walter Johnson."
Article reprinted with permission of The New York Times