The World Series is over, and so ends the noise pollution barrage that Fox Sports’ announcers besieged their viewers with.
Perhaps Joe Buck and John Smoltz were under an executive office edict to never stop talking – leave no second of airtime empty. Much of what Buck and Smoltz parroted was beyond the grasp of a large audience segment – exit velocity, launch angle, spray charts, WAR, Whip and other superfluous sabermetric mumbo jumbo.
Dinosaur fans remember the days when a single broadcaster occupied the booth to provide merely the baseball basics – the pitch count, inning, on-deck hitter. But when the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Vince Scully retired in 2016, that ended the long-ago era when silence was golden.
In their commitment to talk more but say less, Buck and Smoltz never followed up on the 1933 Washington Senators, as the Nationals were then known. They mentioned numerous times that the 1933 Senators were, until 2019, the last Washington team to appear in the World Series. More’s the pity that Buck and Smoltz dropped the ball because that Senators team had Hall of Fame frontline players, and a supporting cast that was even more interesting.
Led by 26-year-old shortstop/manager Joe Cronin and sluggers Heinie Manush and Goose Goslin, the Senators ended the season with a seven-game regular season margin over the Ruth-Gehrig New York Yankees. Bit Senators players included Cecil Travis whose Hall of Fame-bound career ended when in World War II his feet became frostbitten. There was also part-timer Moe Berg, whom Casey Stengel called “the strangest man ever to play baseball,” a reference to the catcher’s Princeton University and Columbia Law School degrees, and to his subsequent assignment as a World War II Officer for Strategic Services, later the CIA. The OSS licensed Berg to kill, literally.
Then, there’s Senators’ outfielder Sam Rice, who was involved in one of the World Series’ most controversial plays. The play’s final disposition – safe or out – wasn’t resolved until after Rice died. In the 1925 series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Rice dove over the center field fence to stab a long fly. Rice, recognized as a peerless ballhawk, emerged waving his glove with the ball intact. The umpire signaled out. But since Rice was outside of everyone’s on field line of vision, the Pirates immediately challenged the call, and ultimately appealed the safe decision to Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ office. Landis declared that he couldn’t override the ump.
For years, journalists pleaded with Rice to come clean. Rice would only say that the ump ruled “out,” case closed. Finally, at Rice’s 1963 Hall of Fame induction, he promised that he would provide the specifics in a letter to be opened after his death. When ten years later Rice’s letter was read, he had written that at no time did he lose control of the ball.
In 1933, D.C. was on a high. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt replaced Calvin Coolidge in the Oval Office. Prohibition was over. FDR’s New Deal gave hope to the Depression-ravaged nation. When the loaded Senators clinched the pennant, D.C. fan euphoria was as high as it was in 2019. Despite winning 90 games or more in 1930, 1931 and 1932, the Senators finished behind the hated Yankees.
But unfortunately for the Senators, the New York Giants, managed by first baseman/manager Bill Terry, ran roughshod over the D.C.-nine. The Senators fell in five games, losing two to future Hall of Famer Carl Hubbell. Not for nothing was Hubbell nicknamed “the Meal Ticket.” In his two complete game victories, the lefty didn’t allow an earned run.
Skeptics who question why anyone should care about a World Series played more than eight decades ago must remember that baseball history is American history.
Sabermetrics, on the other hand, is just cold numbers, incomprehensible to most.
Joe Guzzardi is a Society for American Baseball Research and Internet Baseball Writers Association member. Contact Joe at [email protected]