1939 Washington Nationals
Manager: Bucky Harris 16th Season (10th with Washington 791-734-17)
65 W 87 L 1 T 702 RS 797 RA 6th AL 41.5 GB (New York 106-45-1)
4.59 RPG (AL = 5.21) 4.60 ERA (AL = 4.62)
.966 DER (7th AL)
All Stars (1) George Case
Franchise (1901-1939) 2824-3027-87; 8-11 WS
In 1939, Washington posted its worst winning percentage (.428) since 1919, but the season wasn’t all lost. There was a mini youth movement among the Nats, and 1939 saw the debut of Mickey Vernon, who would hold down first base in Washington for most of the next two decades.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1939
C Rick Ferrell .281/.377/.336 0 HR 0.1 BFW 7 WS 7 FRAR 2.0 WARP3
At 33 years old, Ferrel was only able to play 87 games. Tony Giuliani did the catching when Ferrel wasn’t in the lineup.
1B Mickey Vernon .257/.317/.351 1 HR -1.9 BFW 3 WS -2 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
After Griffith got rid of Zeke Bonura after the 1938 season, first base became somewhat of a revolving door in Washington. Jimmy Wasdell was the starter on opening day, but he didn’t hit enough for the Nats, and was replaced by veteran Ossie Bluege. Though Bluege showed some success, he was 38-years-old and unable to play the position every day. The team tried to move Sam West in from the outfield, but he never really go the hang of the position. After a few weeks with a young Bob Prichard at first, it was decided to call up the 21-year-old who had impressed so much in spring training: James Barton “Mickey” Vernon. Vernon was found by a Washington scout while he was attending Villanova University. In his first year as a pro in 1938, Vernon hit .346 for Greenville of the South Atlantic League. He was described in The Sporting News as a “tall, spare young man who is handy with the glove” – though it was speculated that he might be “too green” to hold down the job for the rest of the season. Though Vernon took his lumps in 1939, he was the regular first baseman for the balance of the season.
2B Jimmy Bloodworth .289/.313/.409 4 HR 0.9 BFW 7 WS 25 FRAR 3.4 WARP3
2B Buddy Myer .302/.396/.376 1 HR 1.1 BFW 9 WS 16 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
Myer started the 1939 season in an extended slump. Just as he was starting to hit, he was injured in a collision at home plate. Harris called Jimmy Bloodworth’s number to replace Myer, and was so impressed with Bloodworth’s offense and defense that he remained the starter even when Myer was healthy and ready to play.
SS Cecil Travis .292/.342/.403 5 HR -0.1 BFW 13 WS 35 FRAR 5.8 WARP3
1939 was a down year for just about everyone member of the Nats, and Travis was no exception. This was his worst season so far in his career.
3B Buddy Lewis .319/402/.478 10 HR 3.9 BFW 22 WS 33 FRAR 9.3 WARP3
Buddy Lewis was the exception in 1939. While most of the team had a down year in some way, Lewis broke out in his fourth full season to have his career year up to that point.
LF Bobby Estalella .275/.368/.468 8 HR 0.1 BFW 8 WS 3 FRAR 2.6 WARP3
Estalella, a native Cuban, played a handful of games for Washington in 1934 and 1935, but this was his first season with significant playing time.
CF George Case .302/.369/.377 2 HR -0.2 BFW 15 WS 15 FRAR 4.8 WARP3
Case’s 51 stolen bases led the American League (he was only caught stealing 17 times). 1939 was the first in a string of five consecutive singles in which Case will top the AL in the stolen bases category.
RF Taffy Wright .309/.359/.435 4 HR -0.1 BFW 13 WS 11 FRAR 4.3 WARP3
A year after establishing himself as one of the best pinch hitters in the league, Wright earned himself a full time job in right field. After having a pretty good season, Wright was traded along with Pete Appleton to the White Sox for Gee Walker.
OF Sam West .282/.387/.397 3 HR 0.4 BFW 13 WS 14 FRAR 4.5 WARP3
At age 34, West played some at each outfield position, and even had a tryout at first base. 1939 would be the last season in which West would get significant playing time, though he stayed on the roster until he retired in 1942. In 10 seasons with Washington (1927-1932; 1938-1941), West batted .297/.358/.419 (101 OPS+) despite the fact that his prime offensive years were spent in St. Louis. He was probably one of the better defenders to have patrolled center field in Griffith Stadium, and compiled 211 FRAR over those 10 seasons.
SP Dutch Leonard 20-8 3.54 ERA 1.23 WHIP 2.3 PW 21 WS 7.3 WARP3
Leonard had a very good season, and even though his ERA was a few points higher than in his 12-win season of 1938, he became the first Nat to win 20 games since since 1933. Most remarkable, however, is that he won 20 games with the league’s worst offense providing the run support. It will be the highest win total of the knuckle-baller’s career. On July 4, the day that Lou Gehrig gave his famous speech at Yankee Stadium, Leonard won the front end of a double-header.
SP Ken Chase 10-19 3.80 ERA 1.42 WHIP 1.2 PW 13 WS 5.5 WARP3
On July 28, the lefty Chase took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians. He lost the no-no when Cleveland hitter got two base hits off of him in the final frame, but held on for the 2-0 win. The opposing pitcher that day was 20-year-old Bob Feller.
SP Joe Krakauskas 11-17 4.60 ERA 1.58 WHIP -0.4 PW 11 WS 4.5 WARP3
Lou Gehrig’s famous games played streak ended with an 0-for-4 against Krakauskas on April 30, 1939. This will be Joe’s only season as a regular in the starting rotation.
SP Joe Haynes 8-12 5.36 ERA 1.53 WHIP -1.9 PW 4 WS 1.1 WARP3
The 21-year-old had a rough rookie season, and was even worse in 1940. He will improve, and actually become one of the better relievers in baseball with the Chicago White Sox. Haynes was married to Clark Griffith’s adopted daughter Thelma, and would ultimately make his way back to Washington to finish his career.
RP Pete Appleton 5-10 4.56 ERA 1.48 WHIP -0.5 PW 5 WS 2.2 WARP3
Appleton was sent to Chicago after the season in the trade that brought Gee Walker to Washington. He still had a few major league seasons ahead of him, including a return to Washington; but at the age of 35, Pete Appleton’s days of effective pitching were over.
RP Alex Carrasquel 5-9 4.69 ERA 1.46 WHIP -0.2 PW 8 WS 2.8 WARP3
The Venezuelan became a fixture out of the Washington bullpen in the 1940’s.
RP Walt Masterson 2-2 5.55 ERA 1.95 WHIP -0.6 PW 1 WS -0.1 WARP3
Masterson got a chance to play at the age of 19 thanks to a lack of other options for Harris. He’ll have some better seasons after a few years of military service in the war.
RP Harry Kelley 4-3 4.70 ERA 1.55 WHIP -0.2 PW 3 WS 1.1 WARP3
The career minor-leaguer finished off his major league career at the age of 33.
1939 World Series
The ’39 Yankees are still listed among baseball’s best teams of all time. True to form, they swept through the Cincinnati Reds with relative ease in the World Series. Charlie Keller had three home runs in the series.