A long-time reader files this dispatch from the 1961 baseball season:
Baseball fans of a certain age in Boston and Washington, DC will remember this day in baseball history. For on June 18, 1961, in the first game of a double-header, the Boston Red Sox scored eight runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, after two were out, to defeat the Washington Senators 13-12.
The Senators had scored five times in the top of the ninth to take a 12-5 lead, behind rookie starting pitcher Carl Mathias, a left-hander making his debut with the club. Mathias retired Vic Wertz to start the inning and then, after a single by Don Buddin, he struck out pinch hitter Billy Harrell. But then came the following sequence:
Chuck Schilling – single
Carroll Hardy – single (Buddin scores to make it 12-6)
Gary Geiger – walk
At this point, Senators manager Mickey Vernon finally pulled Mathias, bringing in Dave Sisler (son of Hall of Famer George Sisler). A modern manager would have relieved Mathias earlier in the inning, assuming he had even stayed with the rookie into the ninth. But in light of what happened next, it is difficult to blame Vernon for shying away from the bullpen:
Jackie Jensen – walk (Schilling scores to make it 12-7)
Frank Malzone – walk (Hardy scores to make it 12-8)
Jim Pagliaroni – grand slam home run (to make it 12-12)
Astonishingly, Vernon stayed with Sisler. Only after Sisler walked Wertz did Vernon remove Sisler in favor of Marty Kutyna. Buddin greeted Kutyna with a single, sending Wertz to second.
Sensing the most improbable of victories, Boston manager Pinky Higgins brought in Pete Runnels to run for Wertz, and sent up Russ Nixon to bat for Harrell, who himself had pinch hit for pitcher Ted Wills earlier in the inning. Nixon, a pretty fair left-handed hitting catcher, was the logical choice to pinch hit, now that southpaw Mathias was gone and right-hander Kutyna was on the mound. He promptly repaid Higgins’ faith by singling home Runnels with the winning run.
I’ve never been a big believer that the outcome of one baseball game affects the outcome of games that follow. But this wrenching defeat may have had that impact on the Senators. They proceeded to lose the night-cap of this double-header 6-5 in 13 innings and then lost the next six games. On the other hand, the comeback win did nothing to kick-start the Red Sox, a poor team in 1961.
The Senators, an expansion club, had come to Boston with a record of 30-30, one game ahead of the Sox. They were 30-40 before they won again. And this 10 game losing streak was not the end of their woes. They lost 14 straight in late August and then, after winning one game, lost ten more in a row in early September.
The club finished the season 61-100, 47.5 games behind the pennant Yankees and 14.5 behind the fifth-place Red Sox. But no loss in this season, or indeed in the team’s 11 year stay in Washington, was as galling as the one they experienced on this day in baseball history.