1940 Washington Nationals
Manager: Bucky Harris 17th Season (11th with Washington 855-824-17)
64 W 90 L 0 T 665 RS 811 RA 7th AL 26 GB (Detroit 90-64-1)
4.32 RPG (AL = 4.97) 4.59 ERA (AL = 4.38)
.675 DER (8th AL)
All Stars (2) Dutch Leonard, Cecil Travis
Franchise (1901-1940) 2888-3117-87; 8-11 WS
On April 16, 1940, baseball entered the television age when an exhibition game between the Cubs and the White Sox was televised by WGN. Meanwhile, through the summer of 1940, German aggression in Europe continued to a point where President Roosevelt and the United States could no longer remain neutral. In September, Roosevelt signed the US Conscription Bill, and by October young American men began to enlist, including baseball players.
Washington’s ball club continued its slide and finished 7th in the American League. The season, however, was not without its interesting stories.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1940
C Rick Ferrell .273/.365/.340 0 HR -0.2 BFW 9 WS 16 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
At the age of 34, Ferrell was still a very solid defensive catcher. Still, Jake Early would take over the catching duties in 1941, and Ferrell was traded away that May. After spending three good seasons in St. Louis, he would return to finish his career in Washington during the war years.
1B Zeke Bonura .273/.358/.373 3 HR -1.1 BFW 8 WS -4 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Once the club decided that Mickey Vernon needed another year in the minors, Griffith and Harris went about the business of finding the team an every day first baseman for the 1940 season. Jimmy Wasdell was the opening day choice, but after an 0-4 start Griffith quickly made a change.
The choice of Bonura was a surprising one for Griffith, who had publicly called Bonura the “worst major leaguer ever” on several occasions. As the story goes, Bonura was unhappy with the Giants, and had a longing to rejoin his former team in Washington. In spring training, he managed to get an audience with Griffith, and reportedly begged to return to the Senators. Griffith downplayed the conversation, claiming he was just listening to be polite, and reiterated that he had no interest in Bonura.
Despite Griffith’s denial, the correspondence between him and Bonura continued through spring training and ultimately landed Bonura a job as an every day first baseman in Washington even though, by all reports, he was overweight and slower than ever. The job didn’t last long, however, and the “cumbersome” Bonura was sold to the Cubs in late June.
For the rest of the season, the Nats first base position was a revolving door that included Sam West, Jack Sanford, and Jimmy Bloodworth. Thankfully, the Nats won’t have to worry about finding a first baseman for the next two decades.
2B Jimmy Bloodworth .245/.272/.386 11 HR -0.4 BFW 8 WS 27 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
The 22-year-old once again earned the favor of Harris, and got the starting nod over Buddy Myer.
SS Jimmy Pofahl .234/.298/.330 2 HR -1.4 BFW 6 WS 17 FRAR 2.0 WARP3
Cecil Travis accepted a move to third base in order to make room for Pofahl, who was a highly-touted prospect that was to play for the Nats for a long time. Unfortunately for Pofahl, a taxi accident in the off season affected his throwing arm, and he never really hit well at the major league level. Travis moved back to short stop in 1941, and Pofahl was back in the minors. In 1943 he retired from baseball for a military career.
3B Cecil Travis .322/.381/.445 2 HR 3.1 BFW 22 WS 35 FRAR 8.7 WARP3
Travis rebounded from a mildly disappointing 1939 season to come back up to a level more in line with the rest of his career. He also showed his versatility by playing third base every day after spending the last three seasons at short stop. For his effort, Travis earned some MVP votes and went to his second All Star game.
LF Gee Walker .294/.325/.432 13 HR -0.8 BFW 14 WS 6 FRAR 4.1 WARP3
32-year-old Gerald Holmes Walker came to Washington from the White Sox in exchange for Pete Appleton and Taffy Wright. Walker had been a valuable part of the Tigers’ championship team in the mid-1930’s, but his reputation as a clown and a flake wore out his welcome with management in Detroit. He only stayed in Washington for one year, and it was the second of four post-Chicago stops he would make before ending his career in 1945.
CF George Case .293/.349/.375 5 HR -0.9 BFW 17 WS 15 FRAR 5.3 WARP3
Once again Case led the league in stolen bases with 35.
RF Buddy Lewis .317/.393/.443 6 HR 1.8 BFW 22 WS 18 FRAR 8.0 WARP3
As part of the infield shufle, Buddy Lewis moved from third base to right field in 1940. Though he continued to play occasionally at third for the next couple of years, Lewis adjusted well and spent the bulk of his career in the outfield.
SP Dutch Leonard 14-19 3.49 ERA 1.41 WHIP 1.9 PW 20 WS 8.2 WARP3
Leonard’s win total might have been down, but his ERA remained well below league average. He played in his first All Star Game in 1940.
SP Ken Chase 15-17 3.23 ERA 1.54 WHIP 2.6 PW 20 WS 8.1 WARP3
At age 26 Chase had his best season as a professional pitcher. He still managed to walk 143 batters in 261 2/3 innings pitched, a number that easily led the league.
SP Sid Hudson 17-16 4.57 ERA 1.40 WHIP -1.0 PW 13 WS 4.7 WARP3
The 6’4″ rookie pitcher is a good example of how a pitcher’s win/loss record has always been an over-valued tool for assessing effectiveness. Hudson finished 14th in AL MVP voting, while neither Chase nor Leonard earned a single vote, despite the fact that both of them had an ERA that was at least a full run better than Hudson’s. Still, Hudson’s season was pretty good for a rookie, and he actually carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the A’s on June 21.
SP Walt Masterson 3-13 4.90 ERA 1.66 WHIP -1.6 PW 3 WS 1.2 WARP3
The quality of starting pitching took a dramatic drop after the top three, with Masterson getting the most work of the bunch.
RP Alex Carrasquel 6-2 4.88 ERA 1.48 WHIP -0.4 PW 3 WS 1.4 WARP3
Carrasquel will shave more than a full run off of his ERA in 1941.
RP Joe Krakauskas 1-6 6.44 ERA 1.93 WHIP -1.4 PW 0 WS 0.2 WARP3
A poor season landed Krakauskas on the trading block, and he was sent to Cleveland on Christmas Eve for a returning Ben Chapman.
RP Rene Monteagudo 2-6 6.08 ERA 1.79 WHIP -1.3 PW 1 WS 0.9 WARP3
The Cuban’s most successful year as a ballplayer came after the war and as an outfielder for the Phillies.
RP Joe Haynes 3-6 6.54 ERA 1.88 WHIP -2.0 PW 0 WS -0.2 WARP3
Washington sold Haynes to the White Sox after the season. He went on to have some decent years as a pitcher, the best of which was 1947 when he was 14-6 with a 2.42 ERA for Chicago. Haynes would return to Washington to finish his career.
1940 World Series
The Cincinnati Reds defeated the Detroit Tigers in seven games. After All Star catcher Ernie Lombardi went down late in the regular season, the Reds called on 39-year-old coach Jimmie Wilson to do the catching in the Series. He responded by hitting .353/.389/.353 in the tightly contested series.