1924: First in War; First in Peace

Firpo Marberry about 1924

Firpo Marberry about 1924

There are a lot of World Series games that are considered classics. Game 5 of 1956 (Larsen’s perfect game), game 7 of 1991 (Jack Morris vs. the Braves), game 7 of 1965 (Koufax on short rest), game 8 of 1912 (BoSox vs. Giants) all come to mind. But a lot of World Series’ taken as a whole aren’t particularly memorable. One of the better, and one of the more obscure, was the 1924 World Series.

The American League representative in the 1924 World Series was the Washington Senators. Yep, the famous mantra “First in War; First in Peace; and Last in the American League” had broken down. For the first time ever, a team from Washington was a pennant winner. In the entire history of the National League going back to 1876, no Washington franchise had finished first. In the entire history of the American League going back only to 1901, the Senators had never finished first. In the National Association and the Union Association and the Player’s League and the American Associations (professional leagues of the 19th Century) no Washington franchise had ever finished first. The Series became famous for that fact alone.

In the midst of the first big run by the Babe Ruth led New York Yankees, the Senators finished first in 1924 by two games over the Yanks and six over third place Detroit. It was a pitching heavy team. Catcher Muddy Ruel hit .283 with no home runs, but did a decent job catching a powerful staff. Most powerful was all-time great Walter Johnson. Johnson was 36 and late in his career. For the season he went 23-7 with 158 strikeouts to go with 77 walks, an ERA of .272 and an ERA+ of 149. He led the AL in wins, winning percentage, strikeouts, shutouts (6), ERA, ERA+, WHIP (1.116) and posted a 6.8 WAR (BaseballReference.com version). After the season ended he would win the MVP award. Tom Zachary was 15-9 with an ERA of 2.75 and an ERA+ of 148 (WAR of 4.7). George Mogridge was 16-11, but gave up more hits than he had innings pitched. The rest of the starters were 20-20. But owner Clark Griffith was an old pitcher and had spent much of his later active years in the bullpen. He knew the value of a good bullpen man and had cornered one of the first great relief men. Firpo Marberry was 11.-12 with a 3.09 ERA in 50 games. He had 15 saves, which, along with the 50 games, led the league. The 15 saves were also a Major League record (to be fair, no one knew that as the “save” stat had yet to be invented).

The infield consisted of Joe Judge, Bucky Harris, Roger Peckinpaugh, and Ossie Bluege from first around to third. Harris served as manager (and later went to the Hall of Fame as a manager) and hit .268. His 20 stolen bases were second on the team. He was all of 27. Judge was 30 and had been around since 1915 (in 1916 he replaced Black Sox player Chick Gandil at first). He was in a stretch where he was regularly hitting over .300 (.324 in 1924). His WAR was 3.9 (he had a 4.0 a couple of times) one of the highest of his career. He hit for little power. Peckinpaugh was a minor star.  He’d come over from the Yankees in 1922 and played a good shortstop. He usually hit in the .260s to .280 range with some speed and little power (He would win the 1925 AL MVP Award). Bluege was the kid. He was 23, in his third season, and getting better each year. He hit .280 and put up an OPS of .711.

The outfield had Nemo Leibold in center. At least he played the most games there. Leibold was one of the “Clean Sox” of 1919. He’d been in a platoon system (with Shano Collins) in right field then and came to the Senators in 1923. He hit .293 in 1924 (his next to last season) and had a WAR of 1.0. The corners of the outfield showcased two future Hall of Fame members. Goose Goslin was in left. He hit .344 for the season, led the team in home runs (12) and triples (17). His 129 RBIs led the American League. He had an OPS+ of 143 and a WAR of 6.4. Sam Rice held down right field. He started with the Senators in 1915 and had been a consistent star. He hit .334 in 1924, led the AL in hits with 216, led his team with 24 stolen bases and posted a 114 OPS+ with a 4.4 WAR.

As with a lot of teams in the 1920s, the Washington bench was thin Wid Mathews and Earl McNeely both hit .300 as backup outfielders while Doc Prothro spelled Bluege at third. For the Series, McNeely would do most of the work in center field, spelling Leibold. Those were the only players with 35 or more games played. For the Series, infielder Tommy Taylor, who got into only 26 games in 1924 (his only year in the Majors), would also play a big role. No bench player hit even a single home run (Johnson had one giving the entire bench plus staff exactly one homer for the season).

It was a good team, a  surprise team. They weren’t expected to win the AL pennant and were slight underdogs in the World Series. They would draw the New York Giants, a team competing in its fourth consecutive World Series.

 

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3 Responses to “1924: First in War; First in Peace”

  1. wkkortas Says:

    Firpo Marberry, the proto-Dave Righetti.

  2. William Miller Says:

    They just don’t name kids Firpo anymore. Can’t understand why not.
    Nice post, V.

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