On August 7, 1967, the Washington Senators reached the .500 mark by beating the Minnesota Twins 5-0 at Metropolitan Stadium. Phil Ortega, an undistinguished pitcher enjoying a career year, shut out the mighty Twins on three hits.
Reaching .500 might not seem like much. However, the expansion version of the Senators had never been close to that mark as late as August during their six year history. And the original Senators (now the Twins) had hit that mark that late in the season only once since 1953, when they finished .500. This was in 1960 amid rumors, true as it turned out, that the team would move to Minnesota.
The ’67 Senators never exceeded the .500 mark. However, they were still at .500 on August 13, when they completed a ten game western road trip. In the final game of that trip, young Frank Bertaina outdueled Jim “Catfish” Hunter, allowing only five hits in a 2-0 victory.
When the Senators arrived at home late that Sunday night, four or five dozen of fans (if memory serves) greeted them at the airport. The players, used to the fan indifference, expressed disbelief
More than 27,000 fans (including me) turned out for their next game, played on Tuesday night. That’s not a big crowd by today’s standards. However, it was more than three times the Senators normal Tuesday night attendance.
Unfortunately, the Senators lost to Cleveland, 3-0. In fact they dropped all three games of the Cleveland series on their way to losing 10 out 12. They finished the 1967 season at 76-85, tied for sixth with the defending champion Orioles in the ten team American League.
Washington fans weren’t the only people impressed by what the ’67 team accomplished. The New York Mets hired Senators manager Gil Hodges and most of his coaches at the end of the season. Hodges still had a year remaining on his contract, so the Mets had to pay the Senators cash and send a player our way (Bill Denehy, who would pitch only two innings for Washington and 51 in total after leaving the Mets).
In 1968, Hodges had the perennially hapless Mets hovering near .500 at the all-star break. In 1969, he led them to the world championship.
That same year, Ted Williams, making his debut as a manager led the Senators to their first above .500 year since 1952. We’re still waiting for our first World Series crown since 1924, though.