1943 Washington Nationals
Manager: Ossie Bluege 1st Season (1st with Washington 84-69)
84 W 69 L 666 RS 595 RA 2nd AL 13.5 GB (New York 98-56-1)
4.35 RPG (AL = 3.89) 3.18 ERA (AL = 3.30)
.716 DER (4th AL)
All Stars (4) George Case, Jake Early, Bob Johnson, Dutch Leonard
Franchise (1901-1943) 3104-3359-89; 8-11 WS
While war raged overseas, baseball continued on in 1943. It was the same game, but teams had to be creative to assemble rosters out of players who were not serving in the military.
While the Nats struggled in the early war years, Clark Griffith showed his ability to spot talent as the war went on. In 1943, under new manager Ossie Bluege, Washington stayed neck and neck with the New York Yankees for the bulk of the first half of the season. Though Washington never took over first place after opening day, they were tied with the Yankees as late as July 3 when both teams had a 36-30 record. Though Washington continued to play good baseball after July 4 (they went 48-39 from Independence Day to the end of the season), the experienced Yankees pulled away, going 64-28 in that same time period to win the AL by 13.5 games.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1943
C Jake Early .258/.346/.362 5 HR 1.1 BFW 17 WS 15 FRAR 4.4 WARP3
Early caught the entire All Star Game for the American League and actually earned some MVP consideration at the end of the season. In the spring of 1944, Early entered the Army and would miss the next two full seasons before returning to Washington.
1B Mickey Vernon .268/.357/.387 7 HR 0.1 BFW 21 WS -4 FRAR 4.4 WARP3
Vernon had his best season so far and looked to be on his way to reaching the potential that so many thought he had. Like many ballpayers, Vernon missed 1944 and 1945 due to military service.
2B Jerry Priddy .271/.350/.359 4 HR 2.4 BFW 20 WS 46 FRAR 8.8 WARP3
Priddy was a product of the Yankee farm system that was blocked by the presence of Joe Gordon on the major league roster. He was traded to Washington in the winter of 1943, and flourished in his first season as a regular player. Priddy provided a consistent bat that was not expected from a middle infielder; but he also provided some range defensively, something Washington lacked in the early 1940’s. Priddy played a couple more years with Washington after his military service was complete.
SS John Sullivan .208/.298/.250 1 HR 0.0 BFW 10 WS 46 FRAR 4.9 WARP3
Like in his rookie season, Sullivan did not impress with his bat. The difference in 1943, however, was that his defense was much better.
3B Ellis Clary .256/.370/.339 0 HR 0.3 BFW 8 WS 2 FRAR 2.2 WARP3
With the arrival of Jerry Priddy from New York, Clary moved from second base to third base. He started there until he was traded to the Browns in August. in a trade that would work out well for Washington’s future, Griffith got starting pitcher Johnny Niggling and 3B Harlond Clift in return for Clary and Ox Miller, a seldom-used relief pitcher.
LF Bob Johnson .265/.362/.400 7 HR 2.0 BFW 19 WS 18 FRAR 6.0 WARP3
In the spring of 1943, Griffith sent Bobby Estalella to Philadelphia in return for long-time Athletic Bob Johnson. Johnson was 37 years old when he arrived in Washington, but still had a lot of life in his bat. “Indian” Bob, as he was called in reference to his Cherokee roots, performed well for the Nats in 1943, but not up to his career standards. After the season, in a move that Griffith later referred to as a mistake, the Nats sent Johnson to Boston for cash. He had two more very good seasons there before he retired in 1945.
CF Stan Spence .267/.366/.405 12 HR 2.1 BFW 28 WS 9 FRAR 6.6 WARP3
Spence was probably the team’s MVP in 1943, though in terms of his career it was a bit of a down year. 1944 would be his best season.
RF George Case .294/.341/.374 1 HR 1.1 BFW 25 WS 23 FRAR 7.4 WARP3
At the age of 27, Case’s numbers were down a bit from their peak in 1942, but he was still very good and made it to his second career All Star Game. He stole 61 bases in 1943, the highest single-season total in the majors since 1921.
SP Early Wynn 18-12 2.91 ERA 1.23 WHIP 1.9 PW 19 WS 6.2 WARP3
After a tough first season as a regular starter, Early Wynn came back to be the ace of the Washington staff in 1943. This would be his best season in Washington. Though Wynn will pitch in the nation’s capital until 1948, he won’t again match he 1943 performance until he is with Cleveland.
SP Dutch Leonard 11-13 3.28 ERA 1.20 WHIP -0.5 PW 10 WS 2.6 WARP3
The 34-year-old knuckleballer made his second All Star appearance in 1943, even though that honor probably should have gone to his teammate Early Wynn. Leonard will look more like an All Star pitcher over his next two seasons in Washington.
SP Milo Candini 11-7 2.49 ERA 1.26 WHIP 1.5 PW 12 WS 4.7 WARP3
Candini also came from the Yankees in the Priddy trade, but had no major league experience at the time he was dealt. He quickly earned the respect of his teammates, however, and started his major league career with a 7-0 run. He won’t duplicate his rookie numbers, and will spend the balance of his career pitching out of the bullpen.
SP Ewald Pyle 4-8 4.09 ERA 1.58 WHIP -1.2 PW 2 WS 0.2 WARP3
Pyle was a veteran whose career benefited from the shortage of eligible pitchers during the war. He lasted for five seasons with various teams though he never had good numbers.
RP Mickey Haefner 11-5 2.29 ERA 1.13 WHIP 1.6 PW 14 WS 4.7 WARP3
Milton Arnold Haefner was 30 years old by the time he played his first major league game in 1943. One of the few left-handed knuckle ballers in baseball history, Haefner put together a nice career during the war and the years immediately after.
RP Alex Carrasquel 11-7 3.68 ERA 1.48 WHIP -1.1 PW 6 WS 1.1 WARP3
Carrasquel posted the best record of his career, but really didn’t have a very good season outside of that.
RP Jim Mertz 5-7 4.63 ERA 1.43 WHIP -1.6 PW 2 WS 0.5 WARP3
This was Mertz’ only major league season.
RP Ray Scarborough 4-4 2.83 ERA 1.62 WHIP 0.2 PW 5 WS 1.3 WARP3
Scarborough was off to war following the 1943 season, but would return and be an effective starting pitcher in the post war years.
1943 World Series
The New York Yankees defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in five games to avenge their loss in ’42 and to win their sixth championship in the last eight years. Spud Chandler allowed just one earned run in two complete game pitching in the Series.