A long-time reader and follower of bad sports teams writes to tell us that fifty years ago today, the expansion Washington Senators played their first baseball game. They lost 4-3 to the Chicago White Sox. Our reader writes:
Before the game America’s newly-minted President, John Kennedy, threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the newly-minted Major League baseball team – the first to take the field in 58 years. The real first pitch was thrown by Kennedy’s fellow Massachusetts native, Dick Donovan. Donovan had excelled for the White Sox in the 1959 World Series.
The Senators staked Donovan to an early lead with a two-run first keyed by Gene Woodling’s triple. The White Sox cut the lead in half in the second inning when Roy Sievers, whose exploits for the original Senators have been chronicled on Power Line, homered. The Senators got the run back in the bottom of the inning, but the White Sox scored in the top of the third on back-to-back doubles by Floyd Robinson (pinch hitting for Early Wynn) and Luis Aparicio.
Donovan preserved the 3-2 lead until the seventh inning when his defense let him down. Jim Landis tripled with one out, but Donovan struck Sherm Lollar out. He then induced Earl Torgeson to hit a grounder to Dale Long. The slugging first-baseman, whose pinch-hit for the Yankees in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series had paved the way for so much drama, booted the ball allowing the White Sox to tie the game.
Defense was also Donovan’s undoing in the eighth. Minnie Minoso, whom Donovan had hit, stole second and took third on a throwing error by catcher Pete Daley. That man Sievers then drove Minoso home on a sacrifice fly. The White Sox thus took the lead without the benefit of a base hit. Reliever Frank Baumann made the lead stand up.
In all, the Senators committed four errors. But errors would not be their problem over the course of a dismal 61-100 season. The problem would instead by an anemic offense which produced only 618 runs, by far a league low.
Most discouragingly of all, the average age of the Senators opening day line-up, all of whose members logged significant playing time over the course of the season, was 32. I doubt that any modern expansion team would think of using so many aged players. In fairness to the Senators, though, their fellow expansionite Los Angeles Angels used a line-up whose average age was almost 30.5 when they opened the next day in Baltimore.
Short-term thinking seems less prevalent today, at least when it comes to sports.
Early April is way too early to panic, but anemic offense is something that Minnesota Twins fans are becoming accustomed to. In this photo, President Kennedy throws out the first pitch on April 10, 1961:
2011 is a remarkable year: the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, and the 50th anniversary of the 1961 baseball season, one of the most storied in history. No doubt we will have more to say about both as the year unfolds.