In 1924, the New York Giants were the most dominant club in Major League Baseball. 1924 would be their 9th appearance in the Fall Classic under their legendary manager, John McGraw. This was almost twice as many as any other franchise (Boston Red Sox with 5). Their opponent was the upstart champions of the American League, who had dethroned Babe Ruth’s mighty New York Yankees, the Washington Senators.
The Yankees and the Giants had met in the previous three World Series, with McGraw’s boys winning 2 of the three. The New York Giants had captured a 4th straight National League Pennant in a tight 3-team race over the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. To this day, that is the only time a National League team has won four pennants in a row. The St. Louis Browns of the American Association won five in a row from 1884-1888, a feat matched by the American League’s New York Yankees twice, 1949-1954, and 1960-1964. The Bronx Bombers also put together two four year streaks from 1936-1939, and 1998-2001.
The Giant’s American League opponents were making their first appearance in the Series after presenting the city of Washington their first baseball championship of any kind. The Senators had finished a mere 2 games ahead of the hated Yankees in the 1924 regular season.
The Giants were the favorites. Six of their 8 regulars would eventually wind up in the Hall of Fame (1st Baseman George Kelly, 2nd Baseman Frankie Frisch, Shortstop Travis Jackson, 3rd Baseman Fred Lindstrom, Left Fielder Ross Youngs, and Center Fielder Hack Wilson), and a seventh, a youngster just getting started, came off the bench (Bill Terry). This would be McGraw’s last championship team.
On paper the contest was not a mismatch. The Senators had stars of their own. Two of their 3 outfielders were Cooperstown bound, Goose Goslin and Sam Rice. Their manager, Bucky Harris, would also be inducted, but the most prominent of them all was the incomparable “Big Train” himself, Walter Johnson.
Johnson was 36 years old, so he wasn’t the dominant pitcher he had been in the 1910s, but that year he led the American League with 23 wins, an ERA of 2.72 and strikeouts with 158. And, by the way, he would be voted the American League Most Valuable Player for the season.
John McGraw’s Giants might have been the favorite, but the baseball world overwhelmingly was pulling for Johnson and the Senators.
Game 1 was in the nation’s capital at Griffith Stadium. Art Nehf started for the Giants against Walter Johnson. In Johnson’s first ever start in a World Series game he would give up solo home runs to the Giant’s Hall of Fame combo of George Kelley and Bill Terry to trail 2-0. The Senators finally got to Nehf in the 6th. Earl Mcneely led off with a double, and scored later in the inning on a ground out by Sam Rice.
The Giants appeared ready to expand their lead in the top of the 9th, but the Senator right fielder Sam Rice threw out Hack Wilson at the plate to end the threat. In Washington’s half of the 9th, they tied the score on a single by Ossie Bluege and a double by Roger Peckinpaugh. Johnson ended the inning with a fly ball to center with the winning run on third.
Both starters held their opponents scoreless until the 12th inning. Johnson walked Hank Gowdy to lead off the top of the 12th. Pitcher Art Nehf (boy the game has changed) then singled to center, with Gowdy taking third and Nehf advancing to second on an errant throw trying to catch Gowdy at third. Jack Bentley walked, loading the bases for Frankie Frisch. Frisch hit a ground ball to 2nd baseman Bucky Harris, who threw home to force out Gowdy. Ross Youngs then hit a flair to center field that dropped for a hit, scoring Nehf and leaving the bases loaded. A 4th run would score on George Kelly’s long fly to center, giving the Giants a 4-2 lead entering the bottom of the 12th.
Mule Shirley hit for Johnson leading off the home half of the 12th. He hit a pop-up, but Giant’s shortstop Travis Jackson misplayed it for an error allowing Shirley to reach 2nd base. Nehf got McNeely on a fly ball to center, but then Bucky Harris singled to center scoring Shirley. Sam Rice followed by lacing a base hit to center, but he was thrown out attempting to stretch it into a double by center fielder Billy Southworth (who would later manage the Cardinals to two World Series Titles in the 1940s). Nehf got Goose Goslin on a groundout to second, securing the victory, 4-3. How did you like Game 1?
Game 2 was just as exciting. The Senators scored two in the 1st on a home run by Goslin and added another in the 5th on a round tripper by Harris. Washington hurler Tom Zachary gave up a run in the 7th, but carried a 3-1 lead into the 9th. The Giants tied it, with two in the 9th on RBI singles by George Kelley and Hack Wilson.
In Washington’s half of the 9th, Giant starter Jack Bentley walked Joe Judge. Ossie Bluege then bunted Judge over to second. Shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh followed with a line drive double over third base, scoring Judge with the Series tying winning run.
Game 3 saw the Giants knock Senator’s starter Firpo Marberry out of the game after three innings at the Polo Grounds in New York, and then hang on for a 6-4 victory.
Giants led 2-1.
Still in New York, the Senators tied the Series easily in Game 4. Goose Goslin managed four hits, including a 3-run home run in Washington’s 7-4 triumph.
The Senators felt confident in Game 5 with Walter Johnson making his second start, but the Giants torched him for 13 hits in a 6-2 route of the “Big Train” in the final game of the year in New York.
Again New York led, 3-2.
Facing elimination, the Senators returned to Griffith Stadium for Game 6. In a classic pitcher’s duel between Art Nehf and Tom Zachary, Washington took the lead, 2-1, on a 2-out two run single by player-manager Bucky Harris in the bottom of the 5th. Zachary made it stand up and the Series went to a decisive Game 7.
Game 7 would be one of the most memorable games in the history of baseball. John McGraw started 16-game winner Virgil Barnes, while Bucky Harris countered with 9-game winner Curly Ogden.
Starting Ogden was a moment of genius for manager Harris. McGraw liked to platoon Bill Terry, only allowing him to bat against right-handed pitchers. Terry was hitting .500 for the Series (6 for 12), and Harris wanted him out of the game as early as possible. So he started the right handed Ogden forcing McGraw to insert Terry in the starting line-up. After facing two batters, Harris removed Ogden and replaced him with a left-hander, George Mogridge. McGraw let Terry face the left-hander twice, but with runners on 1st and 3rd in the 6th inning, trailing 1-0, McGraw pulled the trigger and brought up Irish Meusel to bat for Terry. Harris immediately brought in a right-hander, Firpo Marberry. Harris had gotten Terry out of the game.
The exchange seemed to favor McGraw at first. Meusel hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the score, and the Senators made back to back errors on ground balls one out later, and the Giants had a 3-1 lead.
The Giant lead held until the bottom of the 8th. Bucky Harris again delivered the key hit. The Senator Manager’s 4th inning home run was their lone tally up until this time, but he produced a 2-out, 2-run single to left to tie the score. Harris’ hit knocked out Barnes and McGraw went to Game 1 hero Art Nehf to get out of the inning.
Walter Johnson replaced Marberry for Washington in the 9th, and immediately surrendered a one out triple to Frankie Frisch, but with two outs and runners on 2nd and 3rd, up came Irish Meusel, who had replaced Bill Terry, and he grounded out to third baseman Ralph Miller. Terry had gone 4 for 7 against Johnson in his previous two starts, with a home run and a triple. Harris’ gambit had paid off.
Both teams failed to score in the 10th and 11th. Johnson gave up a leadoff single in the top of the 12th, but retired the side on a strikeout, a ground out and a fly ball to left field.
Facing Game 5 winner Jack Bentley in their half of the 12th, the Senators Ralph Miller was an easy out on a weak ground ball to Frisch at second. When catcher Muddy Ruel followed with a foul pop-up to his opposite number, Hank Gowdy, the game seemed destined to go into the 13th inning. Gowdy misplayed the pop-up however, and with a second chance Ruel doubled to left. Walter Johnson then hit a ground ball to Giant’s shortstop Travis Jackson, which Jackson muffed for New York’s second error of the inning. The game and the Series ended when the next batter, Earl McNeely hit a high bouncer over the head of Giant 3rd Baseman, Freddie Lindstrom, into left field, driving in Ruel with the Series winning run. Washington had their Championship!
Washington would repeat as American League Champions in 1925, but lose in another memorable 7-game World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Game 7 victory was more attributable to Washington Manager Bucky Harris, who refused to remove an obviously not right Walter Johnson on a muddy field in a driving rainstorm in Pittsburgh. The Senators led in Game 7, 4-0 and 6-3, only to fall 9-7 when Johnson faltered in the late innings. The third and final pennant for the Senators would occur in 1933. They again met the Giants in the fall classic, losing 4 games to one. The overall significance of their 1924 triumph? To this day, that’s the only World Series Title for a franchise representing the Nation’s Capital. Maybe next week Washington will celebrate another.