1947 Washington Nationals
Manager: Ossie Bluege 5th Season (5th with Washington 375-394-3)
64 W 90 L 496 RS 675 RA 7th AL 33 GB (New York 97-57-1)
3.22 RPG (AL = 4.14) 3.97 ERA (AL = 3.71)
.697 DER (8th AL)
All Stars (3) Buddy Lewis, Walt Masterson, Stan Spence
Franchise (1901-1947) 3395-3684-95; 8-11 WS
Washington had never been known as an offensive juggernaut. Playing in spacious Griffith Stadium has tended to take the pop out of the bat, and even when the team has been successful in its 46 years of existence, it has typically been because of Hall of Fame pitching. 1947 may have been a new offensive low, even for the lowly Nats. The team managed to score just over three runs a game in a league that averaged better than four. The team as a whole batted .241/.312/.321 compared to the AL average .256/.333/.364. The team was shut out 18 times, and there were a few stretches of more than a week in which the Washington offense didn’t manage to score any more than two runs in a game.
That the team managed to win even 64 games is a testament to the starting pitchers, who somehow held things together without any run support. In fact, it was often the pitching staff that provided the offense, knocking in 33 runs as a staff, good enough for fifth on the team.
It was to be expected that the frustration would boil over, and it did so late in August. Burton Hawkins, a young sportswriter who covered the Nats for the Washington Sun, penned an article on a slow news day suggesting that there was some dissension in the Washington clubhouse. The piece centered around manager Ossie Bluege, who Hawkins said had lost the confidence of his team. Hawkins reported that several players were thinking of quitting due to their feelings about the manager.
In a pretty transparent PR move, all of the Washington players signed statements indicating they were behind the manager. Still, Bluege wasn’t going to let the young sportswriter simply slide by. In a team clubhouse meeting, Bluege called Hawkins out and reportedly punched him twice before they were separated by onlookers.
Bluege finished the season but resigned as manager early in October. He stayed with Washington as the farm director.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1947
C Al Evans .241/.303/.304 2 HR -1.0 BFW 7 WS 14 FRAR 1.7 WARP3
Evans was never known for his bat, but this was a down year for him at the plate. He will rebound and be back to his career averages in 1948.
1B Mickey Vernon .265/.320/.388 7 HR -1.4 BFW 15 WS 0 FRAR 2.7 WARP3
After exploding back into the majors in 1946, Vernon returned to earth quite a bit in 1947. The 29-year-old was down in almost every offensive category, and would continue to fall in 1948. Vernon’s troubles in 1947 were a microcosm of the Nats’ troubles as a team. Vernon’s struggles through the season were constant fodder for local and national sportswriters, who all had their suggestions for the 1946 batting champion. As the season wore on, and Vernon continued slumping, the buzz turned from ideas for correction to trade rumors.
2B Jerry Priddy .214/.301/.283 3 HR -1.8 BFW 9 WS 31 FRAR 3.4 WARP3
Priddy was one of the instigators in the Bluege affair, and was likely the source for Hawkins’ article. After a tough year at the plate, Griffith wanted Priddy out of Washington, and he did so when Priddy was apparently traded to the Browns in November. Washington was to get Johnny Berardino, an infielder with a light bat. Berardino wasn’t interested in moving to Washington, however, and announced that he was going to retire from baseball in order to devote full time to his movie career. The deal was nullified by Commissioner Chandler, and just as quickly Berardino changed his mind and decided to return to St. Louis. Priddy joined him later in the off season when he was sold to the Browns.
SS Mark Christman .222/.287/.281 1 HR -2.2 BFW 6 WS 27 FRAR 2.6 WARP3
Christman was a 33-year-old veteran by the time he came to Washington, and spent two years as the starting short stop. His older brother was NFL quarterback and later announcer Paul Christman.
3B Eddie Yost .238/.314/.292 0 HR -2.7 BFW 7 WS 1 FRAR 0.4 WARP3
Yost played a handful of games with the Nats as a teenager in the mid-1940’s, but this was his first full season. After spring training, it was agreed by both Griffth and Yost that the best move would be to send the 20-year-old to the minor leagues. It was discovered, however, that such a move would violate the GI Bill of Rights. Yost had served as a sailor, and was therefore entitled under the Bill to work for the Washington Baseball Club through July 15th of that year. Griffith tried to get around the law, but in the end it proved impossible. As it turned out, Cecil Travis, the opening day starter at third base, hadn’t recovered from his war injuries enough to be effective, so the club was looking for someone to fill in. Yost performed well enough in his first few days that he was the starter for the rest of the season, and considered by many the best rookie player in the league in 1947. This would be the last season in which Yost would strikeout more than he walked (45 BB, 57 K) and would go on to become famous for his ability to draw the free pass.
LF Joe Grace .248/.348/.359 3 HR -0.2 BFW 7 WS 4 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
Grace came from the Browns in a mid-season trade in 1946. This would be his last season in the majors.
CF Stan Spence .279/.378/.441 16 HR 2.5 BFW 25 WS 16 FRAR 7.1 WARP3
While the rest of the Washington offense was just about non-existant, Stan Spence had another very good season with the bat. He led the team in almost every offensive category, and was elected to his fourth All Star Game. Spence was traded to Boston and got his first real chance to play for a contending team. Though Washington didn’t get a whole lot in return for their best hitter, the move turned out alright because Spence was out of the majors within two years.
RF Buddy Lewis .261/.330/.342 6 HR -1.3 BFW 10 WS 6 FRAR 2.5 WARP3
Lewis was among the Washington hitters who took a huge nosedive from their 1946 performance. Late in the year Lewis injured his hip in a collision with Spence. The injury was enough for Lewis to announce his retirement. After sitting out the entire 1948 season, Griffith talked one of his favorite players into returning for the 1949 season. After another disappointing year, Lewis retired for good before the 1950 season.
UT Sherry Robertson .233/.318/.301 1 HR -1.4 BFW 4 WS 1 FRAR 0.4 WARP3
On June 8 the Nats’ pitching staff was able to hold the White Sox scoreless for 17 innings to give its anemic offense a chance to win the game in the 18th inning. With Al Evans on third thanks to a triple, Clark Griffith’s nephew Sherry Robertson hit a sacrifice fly for the only run in the fourth 18 inning, 1-0 game in history. The White Sox and the Nationals had been involved in one of the other 18 inning 1-0 games as well when Walter Johnson shut out the Sox on May 15, 1918.
IF Cecil Travis .216/.273/.260 1 HR -1.7 BFW 1 WS 7 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
It was Griffith’s hope that Travis could overcome his wartime injury to be the Nats’ starting third baseman in 1947, but it was not to be. After a poor season, Travis retired, leaving behind a .314/.370/.416 line in his 12-year career spent entirely in Washington.
SP Walt Masterson 12-16 3.13 ERA 1.23 WHIP 1.7 PW 21 WS 8.5 WARP3
During that June 8th 18-inning game, one of the forgotten heroes was Walt Masterson. Though he didn’t figure in the decision, Masterson shut out the White Sox for 16 innings, allowing just seven singles in the equivalent of more than a game and a half of work. That performance was seen as a coming out party for the young pitcher who was already a veteran of seven seasons. 1947 was by far his best season to that point. He still managed to walk a large number of hitters (97 on the year – sixth in the AL in that category), but was able to show enough control to earn his first All Star Game appearance.
SP Early Wynn 17-15 3.64 ERA 1.38 WHIP 0.9 PW 20 WS 7.3 WARP3
Wynn came into training camp about 20 pounds overweight after, in the words of Shirley Povich, “indulging too happily in his off season vacation and lazing about happily in Florida.” He got off to a slow start but quickly straightened things out as his weight dropped to where Clark Griffith wanted it in early June. In addition to helping the team as a pitcher, Wynn may have been the Nats’ best hitter next to Spence. At one point in the season manager Bluege, in an attempt to create some spark in the lineup, placed Wynn sixth in the batting order. Wynn finished the season batting .275/.281/.375 with a couple of home runs.
SP Mickey Haefner 10-14 3.64 ERA 1.45 WHIP 0.1 PW 13 WS 5.4 WARP3
The 34-year-old knuckleballer pitched fewer than 200 innings for the first time since 1943. His workload will continue to get lighter and lighter until he retires at the age of 37.
SP Ray Scarborough 6-13 3.41 ERA 1.44 WHIP 0.0 PW 10 WS 4.0 WARP3
Scarborough developed a curve ball after the war, and the results started showing in 1947. He is just a year away from his best season.
SP Sid Hudson 6-9 5.60 ERA 1.61 WHIP -2.0 PW 2 WS 1.4 WARP3
Another pitcher that could hit better than most of the regular lineup, Hudson batted .308/.325/.333 in 1947. On May 11, Hudson doubled over in pain after throwing a pitch against the Athletics. He pulled himself out of the game and struggled with a pulled muscle in his side for the better part of two months, unable to throw his bread and butter pitch, the fastball. When he was not injured, Hudson showed flashes of dominance in 1947, and would stay healthy long enough to put up some good numbers in the next couple of years.
SP Bobo Newsom 4-6 4.09 ERA 1.63 WHIP -0.4 PW 4 WS 1.5 WARP3
Dubbed the Marco Polo of pitchers, Newsom started the season with Washington but was sold to the Yankees on July 11th. It was the journeyman’s eighth different major league team. He will add a ninth when he plays for the Giants in 1948.
RP Tom Ferrick 1-7 3.15 ERA 1.28 WHIP 0.6 PW 7 WS 3.0 WARP3
Ferrick, a 32-year-old veteran purchased from the Browns in the off season, instantly brought some credibility to one of the worst bullpens in recent memory.
RP Milo Candini 3-4 5.17 ERA 1.51 WHIP -0.9 PW 1 WS 1.1 WARP3
RP Scott Cary 3-1 5.93 ERA 1.70 WHIP -0.9 PW 0 WS 0.1 WARP3
RP Marino Pieretti 2-4 4.21 ERA 1.73 WHIP -0.5 PW 0 WS 0.7 WARP3
Below Ferrick, there wasn’t much depth in the pen. This will be the left-handed pitching Cary’s only major league season, and Pieretti will be traded to Chicago in June of 1948. Only Candini will stick around in Washington for another couple of years.
1947 World Series
The Yankee-Dodger rivalry began before the season started, when Yankee owner Larry MacPhail named former Dodger coach Charlie Dressen as his team’s new manager despite the fact that Dressen had a verbal agreement to return to Brooklyn for the 1947 season. Brooklyn manager Leo Durocher and general manager Branch Rickey fired back by charging that MacPhail had entertained gamblers in his private box at en exhibition game in Cuba. Ultimately, the managers served suspensions of varying lengths (Durocher for the entire season) and each club was fined $2000 for “public feuding.” The feud remained public when the Yankees won the subway series in seven games over the Dodgers.