1921 Washington Nationals
Manager: George McBride 1st Season (1st with Washington 80-73-1)
80 W 73 L 1 T 704 RS 738 RA 4th AL 18.0 GB (New York 98-55)
4.57 RPG (AL = 5.12) 3.97 ERA (AL = 4.28)
.670 DER (5th AL)
Franchise (1901-1921) 1383-1727-61
Since the middle of the decade, Clark Griffith had taken George McBride under his wing in an effort to “train” his successor as manager. With Griffith leaving to tend to his ownership duties, 1921 was the year for McBride. The move was universally praised around baseball, as McBride was very well thought of. Unfortunately, McBride’s stint as manager did not go particularly well.
On the field, Washington had a winning season. They finished fourth in the AL behind a very good pitching staff and an improving offense. From that standpoint, 1921 was a success for the first year manager.
George McBride – from baseballlibrary.com
On July 27, McBride was hit in the head with a thrown ball during practice before a game. The ball struck his temple and caused a concussion and partially paralyzed his face. He did not return to the team until August 4, but was plagued by dizzy spells and fainting for the rest of the season. He wasn’t any better by December, so George McBride turned in his resignation to Griffith on December 6.
While McBride was away during the season, team captain Clyde Milan took over as manager. Milan was well liked and respected by the team, including his best friend Walter Johnson, and would be named as McBride’s replacement for the 1922 season.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1921
C Patsy Gharrity .310/.386/.455 7 HR 2.3 BFW 19 WS 35 FRAR 6.7 WARP3
Gharrity’s 1921 was the best offensive season for a catcher in the history of the franchise. His 118 OPS+ ranked him second among AL catchers behind only Wally Schang of New York (123). Gharrity’s defense was very good again, and overall he was the most valuable catcher in the league. The 29-year-old will not see another season like this in his career, which basically ends after the 1923 season.
1B Joe Judge .301/.372/.412 7 HR -0.5 BFW 19 WS 5 FRAR 3.7 WARP3
Judge fell a bit offensively from his 1920 statistics, but still was among the most reliable first baseman in the league.
2B Bucky Harris .289/.367/.354 0 HR 1.2 BFW 20 WS 41 FRAR 6.6 WARP3
This was about the offensive production Harris would give for the rest of his playing career. He would remain one of the best fielding second baseman in baseball.
SS Frank O’Rourke .234/.287/.329 3 HR -2.6 BFW 8 WS 13 FRAR 0.1 WARP3
The Nats had been searching for a short stop since current manager George McBride last was a regular in 1917. The answer was not Frank O’Rourke. In January of 1922, O’Rourke was sent to Boston in a three-team trade that brought in the man who would finally hold down short stop for a while in Washington: Roger Peckinpaugh.
3B Howie Shanks .302/.370/.447 7 HR 1.9 BFW 21 WS 34 FRAR 6.9 WARP3
At the age of 30, Shanks, a career utility man, was given the everyday third base job for the Nationals. It may just be coincidence, but it was also his best offensive season. This is the only year in Shanks’ 14 seasons that his OPS+ was above 100. Shanks would play 84 games in 1922, and be traded to Boston following that season. In his 11-year Washington career Shanks batted .252/.308/.336 and compiled 31.3 WARP3.
LF Bing Miller .288/.334/.457 9 HR -0.8 BFW 12 WS 2 FRAR 1.9 WARP3
The rookie led the team in home runs with nine, which tied him for most single-season home runs in franchise history. Miller was also involved in the trade that brought Peckinpaugh to Washington, and he went on to have a very good career, mostly with Connie Mack and Philadelphia.
CF Sam Rice .332/.382/.467 4 HR 1.7 BFW 23 WS 12 FRAR 5.2 WARP3
Another very good season for Sam Rice, who, at the age of 31, was still the most dependable bat in the Washington lineup.
RF Clyde Milan .288/.351/.397 1 HR -0.9 BFW 10 WS 2 FRAR 1.3 WARP3
This was his last season as a regular, though he would continue to play as manager in 1922. The easy-going outfielder had a long, slow decline and it would be easy to forget what he had meant to the Nationals in his prime. He was considered one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball in the early part of the 1910’s, and it was hard to find a better hitter in the league not named Cobb during that same time span. Milan’s playing career lasted 16 seasons, and he compiled a .285/.353/.353 line with 55.5 WARP3.
SP Walter Johnson 17-14 3.51 ERA 1.35 WHIP 2.3 PW 23 WS 7.5 WARP3
On September 5, 1921 Walter Johnson passed Cy Young to become the all-time leader in career strikeouts with 2,287. Despite reaching another career milestone, Johnson followed his tough 1920 season with a similar 1921. Once again his numbers were good, but well below what Washington fans had come to expect from the Big Train. It may have seemed that Johnson’s career was almost over, but the 33-year old still had a few good seasons in him.
SP George Mogridge 18-14 3.00 ERA 1.27 WHIP 3.0 PW 26 WS 8.4 WARP3
For the first time in a long time, it was possible that Johnson was not the best pitcher for the Nats in 1921. The numbers indicate that George Mogridge had a better season. Whether or not he outshined the ace, Mogridge’s presence is one of the biggest reasons that the team had a winning season. Mogridge came from the Yankees along with Duffy Lewis in exchange for Braggo Roth. He had been in the league since 1911, but his first good pitching season didn’t come until 1918. Mogridge was anything but consistent in his years with the Yankees, and probably looked expendable due to his 1920 numbers.
1921 137 (WAS)
The 32-year old lefty was a control pitcher who didn’t walk a lot of hitters. His biggest career moment prior to his Washington years was a no-hitter that he pitched against Boston in 1917.
SP Tom Zachary 18-16 3.96 ERA 1.49 WHIP 0.9 PW 19 WS 5.3 WARP3
While once again not a great season, Zachary was a solid third option to start a game for the Nats. He would fluctuate a bit in his career, but his 1921 numbers were pretty representative of what he would give Washington during his career.
SP Eric Erickson 8-10 3.62 ERA 1.37 WHIP 0.3 PW 12 WS 3.1 WARP3
His W-L record is a little misleading. Erickson was actually a slightly above-average pitcher in 1921 based on ERA+ (114). He will fall off in 1922, his last major-league season.
RP Jose Acosta 5-4 4.36 ERA 1.59 WHIP -0.4 PW 7 WS 1.4 WARP3
The Cuban pitched 33 games in 1921, more than in his other two seasons combined. His younger brother Merito also played five seasons as a backup outfielder for the Nats from 1913-1918.
RP Harry Courtney 6-9 5.63 ERA 1.73 WHIP -2.1 PW -0.6 WARP3
Courtney’s 1921 is remarkable in that he got so many innings to pitch even though he struggled. The lefty played five seasons (four with Washington), and had 1.6 career WARP3.
RP Al Schacht 6-6 4.90 ERA 1.66 WHIP -1.2 PW -0.1 WARP3
Schacht was far more famous for his post-playing career than his three mediocre years as a pitcher. After ending his career following the 1921 season due to a sore arm, Schacht took a job as a third base coach with the Nats. He and another coach and former player, Nick Altrock, used that time to develop a comedy routine – an act that Altrock had previously worked on with Germany Schafer. The two would entertain the crowd before the games and during rain delays, and became so popular that Schacht took his show on the road. By the time he retired in 1969, Schacht had entertained at 25 World Series and 18 All-Star games.
Al Schacht – photo from baseballhalloffame.org
1921 World Series
The New York Giants defeated the New York Yankees in the first all-New York series, five games to three. George Burns and Irish Meusel both had a great series for the Giants, and Babe Ruth homered for the Yankees. It was the first World Series for the Yankee franchise, but they would have a few more chances to win one down the road.