The Confusing History of the Washington Baseball Franchise!

The Confusing History of the Washington Baseball Franchise!

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1924 World Series Photo Gallery
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 The Confusing History of the Washington Baseball Franchise!

“Washington: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League!”San Francisco Chronicle columnist Charley Dryden

Yes…It’s time for a history lesson!

I realize that many of the readers of our Old Time Baseball Photos Facebook page are pretty knowledgeable when it comes to their baseball history. But even so, the history of baseball in the nation’s capital is so confusing that it might be time for a short “refresher course.”

In the featured photo below, we see a scene from before the seventh game of the 1924 World Series played in Washington, D.C., between the New York Giants and the Washington Senators. This game became known as the infamous Freddie Lindstrom “Pebbles Game” and gave the 1924 World Series championship to the Senators.

Click on the link to see a nice photo tribute to the 1924 World Series, the greatest year in the long history of the Washington baseball franchise:

What got me thinking about all this is that I noticed this week marked the fifty-sixth anniversary of the first game played by the Minnesota Twins, April 21, 1961. The Twins, formerly known as the Washington Senators, lost their first game at Metropolitan Stadium 5-3 in front of 24,606 fans. They drew 1,256,723 fans their first year in Minneapolis, much better than the previous year attendance in Washington of 743,404, the worst gate in the American League.

Now here’s a quiz: Who beat the Twins – the former Washington Senators – in that first game? Want to take a guess?

Would you believe me if I told you the Twins lost to…none-other-than…the Washington Senators!

That’s right. Baseball – in its infinite wisdom – moved the Washington Senators to Minnesota to become the Minnesota Twins due to failing attendance, while at the same time, started an expansion team in Washington…named the Washington Senators!

There’s probably a reason for this…but don’t ask me for it. But wait…it gets even more confusing! Read on…

The “original” Washington Senators were one of the American League’s eight charter franchises in 1901, the first year of the American League’s existence. The Senators began their history as a perennially losing team, at times so inept that the above quote by Charley Dryden turned them into a national joke. In 1905 they officially changed their name to the Nationals, even though the names “Senators,” “Nationals,” and “Nats” were used interchangeably for the next 60 years, until the name “Senators” was restored in 1956.

The early years were mostly marked by futility with many second division finishes, but the team’s fortunes finally changed in the 1920’s as they won American League pennants in 1924 and 1925, and the franchise’s only World Series championship in 1924. Another pennant followed in 1933.

The team’s rosters in these successful years  included Hall-of-Famers like Goose GoslinSam RiceJoe CroninBucky HarrisHeinie Manush and one of the greatest players and pitchers of all time, Walter Johnson, a hero of the 1924 World Series. This short-lived success was followed by more years of mediocrity which including six last place finishes in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Joe JudgeCecil TravisBuddy MyerRoy Sievers and Eddie Yost were a few of the notable Senators players whose careers were spent in obscurity due to the team’s lack of success during this time.

As I mentioned, the team moved to Minneapolis for the start of the 1961 season and at the same time an expansion team was placed in Washington. This “second” Senators franchise lasted in D.C. until 1972, when they also moved, this time to Texas, where they became the Texas Rangers with Ted Williams as their first manager.

The city of Washington, D.C. was without a team until the Montreal Expos moved there, and became…you got it!…the third and current incarnation of baseball in Washington, this time known as the Washington Nationals!

Hope you can keep all this straight!

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Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Washington Senators Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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