May 17, 1912
St. Louis Browns 6-17; 8th in American League vs
Washington Nationals 12-12; 3rd in American League
After the 1899 season, the National League contracted four of its twelve franchises, including the Washington Senators- a team that didn’t have a single winning season in its nine year existence in the NL. When Ban Johnson decided to compete with the monopoly the NL had created by changing his Western League into the new American League, the league immediately added a franchise in Washington. Though the official nickname of the new franchise was the “Nationals”, fans continued to refer to them as the “Senators”.
Whatever name they were called, the new Washington Franchise was worse than the original in its early years. From 1901-1911, the ‘Nats did not have a winning season, and finished no better than sixth in the AL, and finished dead last in four of those seasons.
The highlight of the early years was the discovery of a tall pitcher playing in an Idaho league. Walter Johnson made his debut for the Nationals in 1907 and quickly became the face of the franchise, winning 25 games in both 1910 and 1911.
The Nationals would have likely finished last several more times if it weren’t for the St. Louis franchise. Originally a member of the Western League as the Milwaukee Brewers, the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1902 in order to provide direct competition to the NL’s Cardinals. The Browns had immediate success in 1902, finishing second in the AL behind the bats of Jesse Burkett and Charlie Hemphill. The success, however, proved to be fleeting as the Browns didn’t finish any better than fifth from 1903 to 1911, including back to back last place finishes in 1910 and 1911.
Early in the 1912 season, the Browns had already settled into the familiar last place slot with a 6-17 start. The Nationals, on the other hand, were making some noise behind Walter Johnson, who was looking especially dominant in the early months of the season.
On Friday May 17th, the Nationals and the Browns prepared for the first game in a three game series in Washington.
Bobby Wallace (2nd year; 2nd with St. Louis) vs
Clark Griffith (12th year; 1st with Washington)
Game by game data is not currently available for the 1912 season, so all stats are from the 1911 season
STL Elmer Brown 1-1 6.48 vs
WAS Walter Johnson 25-13 1.90
Browns Lineup 3.8 RPG
1. Burt Shotton RF .255/.317/.302 0 HR
2. Jimmy Austin 3B .261/.351/.359 2 HR
3. George Stovall 1B .271/.306/.338 0 HR
4. Del Pratt 2B (rookie)
5. Willie Hogan LF .260/.328/.348 2 HR
6. Frank LaPorte RF .314/.361/.446 2 HR
7. Ed Hallinan SS .207/.268/.237 0 HR
8. Paul Krichell C .232/.276/.268 0 HR
9. Elmer Brown P .125/.125/.125 0 HR
Nationals Lineup 3.9 RPG
1. Danny Moeller LF no major league stats
2. Eddie Foster 3B no major league stats
3. Clyde Milan CF .315/.395/.394 3 HR
4. Carl Cashion RF .324/.342/.351 0 HR
5. Germany Schaefer 1B .334/.412/.398 0 HR
6. Bill Cunningham 2B .190/.239/.278 3 HR
7. George McBride SS .235/.312/.269 0 HR
8. Eddie Ainsmith C .221/.275/.275 0 HR
9. Walter Johnson P .234/.234/.344 1 HR
Nationals 6, Browns 2
First St. Louis Battle Easy National Victory
Result Assured, With Johnson Going in His Best Form, When Schaefer Singles with Sacks Full in the First Inning.
by Joe S. Jackson
After the first inning of the opening battle with the Browns it was more a question whether rain would beat a result whether than what that result would be. Right off the reel, taking advantage of couple of breaks, the Nationals scored two runs, Schaefer putting across the timely hit, with the bases jammed, that so often has been lacking in similar starts.
Ultimately Washington won by a 6 to 2 count, but the first pair looked large enough, the way Johnson started. He was good, and only twice this season, in nine starts, has he needed more than two runs to win a game. The fray, incidentally, went the whole distance, its latter chapters being played under ideal weather conditions. The field was better than had been hoped.
Superior pitching robbed the game of the elements of a contest in its early innings, Johnson fanning six men in that time, and allowing but one runner to reach second base. Fast work by the St. Louis infield, which turned three double plays in the first round, prevented it from being more one-sided.
-Washington Post, May 18, 1912 accessed via ProQuest
Washington: Brown pitching. Moeller walked; Foster safe at first on error by Hallinan, Moeller to second; Milan singled, Moeller to third, Foster to second; Cashion fouled out; Schaeffer singled, Moeller scored, Foster scored, Milan to second.
Washington 2, St. Louis 0
Washington: Hamilton pitching. Ainsmith singled; Johnson doubled, Ainsmith scored; Moeller singled, Johnson scored, Moeller to second on the throw; Foster singled, Moeller to third; Milan hit a sac fly, Moeller scored.
Washington 5, St. Louis 0
St. Louis: Johnson pitching. Stovall singled; Pratt grounded into a fielder’s choice, Stovall out at second; Hogan grounded out, Pratt to second; Laporte singled, Pratt scored, Laporte to second on the throw home.
Washington 5, St. Louis 1
Washington: Hamilton pitching. Moeller doubled; Foster singled, Moeller scored.
Washington 6, St. Louis 1
St. Louis: Johnson pitching. Stovall singled; Pratt fouled out; Hogan flied out; Laporte doubled, Stovall scored.
Washington 6, St. Louis 2
Stars of the Game
St. Louis would win the next night, but Washington would come back two days later to take the series two game to one.
1912 ended up being Walter Johnson’s best season so far. He ended the year with a 33-12 record (1st in the AL), 1.39 ERA (2nd), and had 303 strikeouts (1st). With is help, the ‘Nats had the best season of their existence, finishing 91-61, second in the American League.
A year later, the “Coffeyville Whirlwind” would turn in the best season of his career, posting a 36-7 record with a 1.14 ERA, and winning the AL MVP award. Once again Washington finished near tha top of the AL, but ended up in second place. The team would not rise above third place again for another 10 years. In 1924, things came together for Johnson and the ‘Nats as they won the franchise’s first world championship, the only championship to date for the city of Washington, though the franchise would win two more in its new location in the Twin Cities.
The Browns lost 101 game in 1912, and were able to finish two games out of last place. Losing became the standard for St. Louis’ American League franchise. The Browns would have but seven winning seasons in the next 30 years. The team one a single pennant in St. Louis in 1944. Finally, in 1954, the team relocated to Baltimore, where it would enjoy a sustained run of success in the late 1960’s to early 1980’s.