1948 Washington Nationals
Manager: Joe Kuhel 1st Season (1st with Washington 56-97-1)
56 W 97 L 1 T 578 RS 796 RA 7th AL 40 GB (Cleveland 97-58-1)
3.75 RPG (AL = 4.73) 4.65 ERA (AL = 4.29)
.699 DER (6th AL)
All Stars (2) Walt Masterson, Mickey Vernon
Franchise (1901-1948) 3451-3781-96; 8-11 WS
In Joe Kuhel’s first year as manager, the Washington Nationals finished with their worst record since 1909. Similar to 1947, Washington had little-to-no run scoring capability in the lineup. Unlike the previous year, the 1948 pitching staff was about as bad. Still, Kuhel was given high marks by Clark Griffith at the end of his first season. Griffith liked the hustle and felt that Kuhel did a good job managing the players he was given.
Bold = Player new to Washington in 1948
C Jake Early .220/.322/.276 1 HR -0.7 BFW 7 WS 16 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
C Al Evans .259/.367/.338 2 HR 0.0 BFW 8 WS 13 FRAR 2.4 WARP3
With the catching situation a big question mark into spring training, Clark Griffith made a cash deal with the Browns to being back a familiar face. Jake Early had played in Washington from 1939-1946, but was traded to the Browns after the ’46 season. Among those most excited for Early’s return was coach Rick Ferrell, who was getting pressure to end his retirement from playing to catch again. The season started with Early backing up Evans, but those roles reversed quickly. Though not known for their bats, the pair combined to virtually shut down the running games of every other team in the American League.
1B Mickey Vernon .242/.310/.332 3 HR -2.4 BFW 7 WS 29 FRAR 3.7 WARP3
Vernon’s season-long slump of 1947 continued into 1948 where he had his worst season as a professional. Not surprisingly, Vernon found himself on the trading block, and was sent to Cleveland in December. He’ll regain his form in 1949, and ultimately return to Washington the following year.
2B Al Kozar .250/.327/.326 1 HR -3.2 BFW 9 WS 21 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
Kozar came with Leon Culberson in the trade that sent Stan Spence to the Red Sox. Culberson was a utility player who didn’t see much playing time with Washington, but Kozar was the jewel of the deal from Griffith’s perspective. He never advanced to the major league club in Boston due to the presence of Bobby Doerr, but was considered a top-flight prospect at second base. Kozar got his chance as a regular with Washington in 1948.
SS Mark Christman .259/.303/.318 1 HR -4.0 BFW 4 WS 13 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
After serving as the starting short stop in 1947, Christman was set to back up John Sullivan in 1948. Along with the demotion for 1948, Christman was forced to take a $1,000 pay cut by Clark Griffith who said he wasn’t going to pay that much for someone who would just sit on the bench. The Sullivan experiment ended abruptly when he didn’t take the field opening day in Washington due to the boos from the bleachers. While Christman was a solid glove, Sullivan proved to be anything but, and had kicked balls around throughout the exhibition season. The plan was to put Sullivan back into the lineup for the first road trip of the season, but he never did hit, and was replaced by Christman almost immediately. Christman’s playing time will be cut drastically in 1949, his final season in the majors.
3B Eddie Yost .249/.349/.357 2 HR -1.7 BFW 14 WS 17 FRAR 4.2 WARP3
The 21-year-old became a legitimate major league third baseman in 1948. He’ll continue to improve in 1949.
LF Gil Coan .232/.298/.333 7 HR -2.1 BFW 10 WS 24 FRAR 3.1 WARP3
In his first full major league season, Coan used his speed to finish second in AL stolen bases with 23. Unfortunately, he didn’t really get on base enough to take full advantage of his speed.
CF Carden Gillenwater .244/.358/.357 3 HR -0.3 BFW 7 WS 0 FRAR 1.1 WARP3
CF Junior Wooten .256/.324/.322 1 HR -0.6 BFW 6 WS 6 FRAR 1.0 WARP3
Wooten and Gillenwater split time in center and performed almost equally poorly. Neither played at the major league level in 1949 or beyond.
RF Bud Stewart .279/.361/.439 7 HR 0.1 BFW 15 WS 7 FRAR 3.7 WARP3
Stewart came in an early season trade with the New York Yankees. He had played as a backup from 1941-1942 in Pittsburgh, but Washington presented him with his first chance to be a regular after being out of baseball during the war. After getting off to a slow start, Stewart established himself as one of the better hitters on the team.
SP Early Wynn 8-19 5.82 ERA 1.67 WHIP -3.3 PW 3 WS 1.5 WARP3
After coming into 1947 a bit overweight, Wynn earned a bonus by reporting in the spring of 1948 at the weight Griffith had requested, 195 lbs., rather than the 225 he reported at a year earlier. Wynn started the season with a horrible outing on opening day against the Yankees, and never really seemed to recover. The 28-year-old lefty had his worst season as a professional and partially blamed his performance on the weight loss, feeling that he wasn’t able to get as much velocity on his fast ball. His poor performance combined with the seemingly constant squabbling with management over his weight made Wynn a prime candidate for a trade at the end of the season. He was packaged with Vernon and sent to the Indians in exchange for three players. Indians owner Bill Veeck immediately got Wynn on the phone and told him to “eat his head off all winter” and report to camp with at least 20 extra pounds. The strategy worked, and Wynn went on the have a Hall of Fame career. In his eight seasons with the Nats, Wynn won 72 games, lost 87 and had an ERA of 3.94.
SP Sid Hudson 4-16 5.88 ERA 1.78 WHIP -2.2 PW 2 WS 2.2 WARP3
Wynn was not the only Washington pitcher to run into problems in 1948. Sid Hudson was forced to change to a sidearm delivery due to shoulder pain. After a very good start, Hudson struggled the rest of the season.
SP Walt Masterson 8-15 3.83 ERA 1.56 WHIP 1.2 PW 13 WS 5.9 WARP3
Though he had a poor record, Masterson actually did not have all that bad of a season in 1948. In fact, the 28-year-old was the starting pitcher for the American League in the 1948 All Star Game.
SP Ray Scarborough 15-8 2.82 ERA 1.28 WHIP 3.4 PW 18 WS 8.1 WARP3
Scarborough bucked the trend and actually had his best season as a professional in 1948. He was in the middle of a major umpiring controversy on July 20 in a game against Cleveland. Scarborough spent much of the game complaining about umpire Bill McGowan’s strike zone. Tired of the constant complaining, McGowan tossed his ball/strike indicator to Scarborough, starting an ordeal that led to several Washington coaches being ejected, and ultimately getting McGowan suspended for 10 games.
SP Mickey Haefner 5-13 4.02 ERA 1.44 WHIP 0.0 PW 7 WS 3.2 WARP3
The last of the four war time knuckle ballers on the Washington roster, Haefner was sold to the White Sox in July of 1949.
RP Tom Ferrick 2-5 4.15 ERA 1.53 WHIP 0.2 PW 6 WS 2.5 WARP3
After the season Ferrick was traded to the Browns along with John Sullivan in exchange for Sam Dente.
RP Forrest Thompson 6-10 3.84 ERA 1.43 WHIP 0.7 PW 10 WS 3.9 WARP3
The 30-yea-old lefty appeared in nine games in 1949 then was out of the majors.
RP Milo Candini 2-3 5.15 ERA 1.69 WHIP 0.0 PW 5 WS 1.8 WARP3
This is Candini’s last full season with Washington. In May of 1949 he was traded to the Pacific Coast League, though he would resurface with the Phillies after being drafted away in the Rule V draft.
RP Dick Welteroth 2-1 5.51 ERA 1.88 WHIP -0.5 PW 2 WS 0.5 WARP3
Welteroth was signed in 1945 at the age of 17, when he was too young to enter the draft. He finally made the majors in 1948.
RP Earl Harrist 3-3 4.60 ERA 1.76 WHIP -0.3 PW 3 WS 1.0 WARP3
Harrist was the first AL pitcher to face Larry Doby in 1947 when he was with the White Sox. Griffith sent Marino Pieretti to the Sox to acquire Harrist in the middle of the 1948 season. His career with Washington was short, and he was sold to the Yankees in September.
1948 World Series
One of the most exciting AL Pennant races in history ended with the Cleveland Indians defeating the Boston Red Sox in a one game playoff to earn the right to play the Boston Braves in the World Series. Cleveland won its first series since 1920 by taking the series in six games.