November 17, 2008
October 4, 1913
Walter Johnson’s final appearance of the 1913 season came in a game that the New York Times described as “farcical”. The paper’s description was apt. Johnson, the star pitcher, started the game in center field. He came on to pitch to two batters in the eighth inning. Johnson lobbed pitched to the two Red Sox hitters, who each reached safely before the Coffeyville Whirlwind returned to center field to make room for the new pitcher, who happened to be catcher Eddie Ainsmith making his pitching debut. Ainsmith allowed consecutive triples and Walter Johnson was charged with two runs. His ERA moved from 1.09 heading into the game to 1.14.
55 years later those final hitters Johnson faced would have historical significance. Had he not entered the game, his 1.09 ERA would still be the top single-season ERA in baseball history. Instead Bob Gibson’s 1.13 in 1968 has that honor.
Final Numbers (from baseball-reference.com; they don’t match with my running tally from the NYT reports):
48 G 36 GS 36-7 346 IP 232 H 56 R 38 BB 243 K 1.14 ERA 0.78 WHIP
While attempting to cover Walter Johnson’s 1913 season, I discovered how difficult it can be to track statistics from early boxscores. I gave up trying to distinguish earned runs and unearned runs early in the series, and found that assigned wins and losses to pitchers can be tricky too. All said, my running tally wasn’t too far from the actual numbers.
None of this changes, of course, the fact that the season Walter Johnson turned in the summer of 1913 remains without peer.
November 10, 2008
September 29, 1913
It was George McBride day in Washington, and Walter Johnson celebrated his teammate by shutting out the American League champions, 1-0. Since the Athletics had already clinched, Johnson was not facing their best team, but he held the subs to no runs on five hits. Johnson walked one and struck out nine.
47 G 36 GS 35-8 347.3 IP 52 R 229 H 41 BB 245 K 1.35 RA 0.78 WHIP
November 10, 2008
September 25, 1913
Clark Griffith turned Walter Johnson loose on the Yankees, and Chance’s men promplty evacuated seventh place…
Barring a little uprising in the third inning, Johnson held the Yankees powerless, and as soon as the Senators tied up the game in the seventh no one was optimistic enough to think that the home team would win. The final figures were 5 to 2.
Johnson allowed the two runs on four Yankee hits. He walked two and struck out seven.
46 G 35 GS 34-8 338.3 IP 52 R 224 H 40 BB 236 K 1.38 RA 0.78 WHIP
November 3, 2008
September 20, 1913
With Cleveland losing, a Washington win would put the two teams in a tie for second place. Unfortunately, the Senators found themselves down by a score of 3-2 following a three-run top of the sixth inning for the Browns.
Clark Griffith went to his ace to try and stop the bleeding with one out in the sixth. Johnson allowed the third run on a hit allowed to the first batter he faced, then settled down to retire the side. He finished the game without allowing another St. Louis run.
The Nats tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, then went ahead with two runs in the bottom of the seventh. The final score was 5-3.
Johnson earned the win by pitching 3 2/3 innings. He allowed no runs on four hits with two strikeouts.
45 G 34 GS 33-8 329.3 IP 50 R 220 H 38 BB 229 K 1.36 RA 0.78 WHIP
November 3, 2008
September 16, 1913
Walter Johnson struck out an amazing 11 White Sox on his way to a 2-1 victory. Chicago scored their run in the first inning, a result of Buck Weaver’s work on the basepaths after he reached to lead off the game.
The score remained 1-0 in favor of the Sox until Washington tied the game in the bottom of the seventh and scored the winning run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The win improved the Nats to 79-59 on the season. Although well out of the race for first place, Washington was just one game behind Cleveland for second in the AL.
Johnson allowed the one run on six hits with no walks.
44 G 34 GS 32-8 325.7 IP 50 R 216 H 38 BB 227 K 1.38 RA 0.78 WHIP
October 27, 2008
September 12, 1913
Since the sweep of the double header that included Johnson’s 30th victory, the Nats had taken two more from Cleveland, leaving the AL standings looking like this:
Philadelphia 86-47 -
Cleveland 80-56 7.5 GB
Washington 77-57 9.5 GB
Clark Griffith had his ace on the mound in an effort to complete the five-game sweep of the Naps, and Johnson did not disappoint. The NYT reported that “He (Johnson) was in fine form, allowing only four widely scattered hits, striking out seven batsmen, and giving only one base on balls. In the field he accepted six chances perfectly.”
Washington completed the sweep by winning the game 6-1. Johnson went the distance and the Nats were only a game out of second place.
43 G 33 GS 31-8 316.7 IP 49 R 210 H 38 BB 216 K 1.39 RA 0.78 WHIP
October 27, 2008
September 9, 1913
With less than a month left in the season, Washington started an important series against Cleveland with a twin bill. After play on 9/8, the AL standings looked like this:
Philadelphia 85-45 -
Cleveland 80-52 6.0 GB
Washington 73-57 12.0 GB
If Washington was going to make a move in the standings, the feeling was that this series against Cleveland was the last chance.
After his team took the first game by a score of 8-1, Walter Johnson took the mound for the second game. He had a typical Big Train game, which is to say that he allowed one run on two hits before he was pulled after eight innings with an 8-1 lead. He didn’t walk any batters and struck out seven on the way to his 30th win of the season.
42 G 32 GS 30-8 307.7 IP 48 R 206 H 37 BB 209 K 1.40 RA 0.79 WHIP