The Franchise 1957

1957 Washington Senators
Managers: Chuck Dressen 10th Season (3rd with Washington 116-212-1) and Cookie Lavagetto 1st Season (1st with Washington 51-83)
55 W 99 L 603 RS 808 RA 8th AL 43 GB (New York 98-56)
3.92 RPG (AL = 4.23) 4.85 ERA (AL = 3.79)
.694 DER (8th AL)

All Stars (1) Roy Sievers

Franchise (1901-1957) 4017-4599-102; 8-11 WS

Three weeks into the 1957 season, the Nats had a 5-16 record and were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak. Calvin Griffith, in damage control mode, made a trip to Detroit to meet with his weary team and enact a plan in which manager Chuck Dressen would be offered a front office job, softening the news that he would be removed as manager.

Unfortunately, word of the plan leaked, and Griffith was met in Detroit by a group of reporters anxious to break the story. Griffith had yet to present the “offer” to Dressen, so it came about that Chuck Dressen learned that he was to be fired as manager of the Washington Senators by the newspaper writers.

Though he was cold to the offer at first, Dressen consented to stay on in a front office job while Cookie Lavagetto took over as manager. Lavagetto had been a long time assistant to Dressen, and initially balked at the idea of replacing Dressen. It was Dressen who eventually convinced Lavagetto to take the position.

The change of managers had little effect on the field as the Senators finished in last place in the American League. Despite that, Cookie Lavagetto got a vote of confidence from Griffith at the end of the year in the form of a one year extension and a fairly significant raise.

Talk of franchise relocation cooled significantly in 1957, though occasionally Griffith would make a remark about how “greatly surprised” he would be if the franchise were to move. There were some discussions with both Minneapolis and Saint Paul, including an offer from Daniel Ridder who published the Pioneer Press at the time, but Griffith denied there was any substance, saying that he talked to city officials simply out of courtesy.

At the same time that both the Dodgers and the Giants were heading to the West Coast, rumors all but ceased in Washington. On October 13, Ann Robertson Griffith, Clark’s widow, died in her home at the age of 82. Focus from that point on turned to on the field issues, and Calvin’s annual promise that there would be some major personnel overhauls before the 1958 season.

Bold = Player new to Washington in 1957

C Lou Berberet .261/.359/.398 7 HR 0.4 BFW 10 WS 9 FRAR 2.7 WARP3
C Clint Courtney .267/.346/.414 6 HR 0.5 BFW 8 WS 6 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
The team had to fairly pleased with what they got out of the catcher’s spot, particularly considering the players involved. Berberet came from the Yankees in February of 1956. He made just one error in 59 games caught in his first season with Washington, then bested that mark by appearing in 77 games as a catcher in 1957 and not making a single error (one of only four regular catchers in history with zero errors). When Berberet was not in the lineup, Clint Courtney was a solid back up. Berberet will be traded to Boston in May of 1958 and Courtney will once again be the starting catcher.

1B Pete Runnels .230/.310/.298 2 HR -2.3 BFW 7 WS 14 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Runnels had his worst season as a professional in 1957. Lavagetto moved Runnels around in the infield, attempting to find something that would help him emerge from the dreaded “season long slump,” but nothing seemed to work. Though his batting eye seemed to be returning towards the end of the season, Runnels was traded to the Red Sox in January of 1958. In return, the Nats acquired Albie Pearson, who was thought to be the center fielder of the future; and veteran first baseman Norm Zauchin, who was to replace Runnels at first base. Neither of those players lived up to the hype, and both were gone from the team before the 1959 season was over. Runnels, on the other hand, had a career resurgence in, where from 1958-1962 he batted .320/.408/.427 (124 OPS+) and appeared in three All Star Games.

2B Herb Plews .271/.326/.362 1 HR -0.7 BFW 7 WS 2 FRAR 1.0 WARP3
Plews posted numbers nearly identical to his 1956 season, and it earned him a chance to start again in 1958.

SS Rocky Bridges .228/.298/.304 3 HR 2.0 BFW 7 WS 39 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
29-year-old Rocky Bridges was a career utility infielder known for his light bat and very good defense. The Senators found him when Cincinnati placed him on waivers in May, and Bridges immediately became the every day short stop. Though he sparkled in the field, Bridges continues to struggle at the plate, though he did have a reputation in the papers for connecting with “timely hits.”

3B Eddie Yost .251/.370/.372 9 HR -0.6 BFW 13 WS 1 FRAR 2.1 WARP3
Yost, at 30, made some waves in spring training for different reasons than Washington fans had become accustomed. The “walking man” started slugging, creating buzz that he might be moved from the lead off spot if he continued to hit the ball out of the park. Yost was, for a time, moved to the cleanup role, and had some success there, but he didn’t end up with huge slugging totals. Most of Yost’s headlines in 1957 were for off the field matters, including how he impressed on Capitol Hill in Congressional hearings on the reserve clause, and that he was voted best dressed in the American League. Following the season, Yost, who was at one time pegged to be the future manager by Clark Griffith, found himself on the trading block, though the younger Griffith didn’t find the deal he wanted in this off season.

LF Roy Sievers .301/.388/.579 42 HR 4.0 BFW 32 WS 10 FRAR 8.9 WARP3
Prior to the late 1950’s, “great” seasons in Washington were usually limited to pitchers. There were certainly exceptions, Goose Goslin being the primary example, but the history of the franchise had mostly been a pitcher’s history. Roy Sievers was instrumental in changing that, and his 1957 season ranks among the best for a hitter in franchise history. Sievers, for the third consecutive season, broke his own franchise single season home run record. Somewhat uncharacteristically, Sievers got off to a fast start, and never really slowed down. He had broken the club record when he hit home run number 30 on August 3. That day was also significant because it was the sixth consecutive game in which Sievers had homered, tying the AL record. Sievers ended the year with 42 home runs and 114 RBI, both good enough to lead a league that included names like Williams and Mantle. Sievers’ season provided a boost for lagging attendance in Washington, and captured the attention of vice-president Richard Nixon, who donated to the “Sievers” fund which ultimately went towards purchasing a new station wagon for the slugger and his family.

CF Bob Usher .261/.324/.342 5 HR -0.9 BFW 6 WS 0 FRAR 0.6 WARP3
Usher came in an early season trade with the Indians. At age 32, he wasn’t more than a stop gap in the increasingly difficult to field starting center field position. This was Usher’s last season in the majors.

RF Jim Lemon .284/.345/.450 17 HR -0.3 BFW 16 WS 2 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
Lemon didn’t keep pace with Sievers quite as well as he had the previous year, but still had a very good season. Once again, he led the AL in strikeouts, but got a bit of a pass on the issue by baseball writers relative to the previous season because he improved his total from 138 in 1956 to 94 in 1957 (with about 40 fewer PA’s in the latter season).

SP Chuck Stobbs 8-20 5.36 ERA 1.49 WHIP -4.1 PW 3 WS 1.5 WARP3
Quick trivia question: Prior to Stobbs’ 20 loss season in 1957, who was the last Nat to do so? (Answer at the end of the paragraph). Stobbs dropped his first 11 decisions in 1957, and sat 0-11 going into his start on June 21 (it is also worth noting that his ERA was 8.90 at the time). Stobbs, hoping that he could find some luck, changed his jersey number to 13, and the Senators ran a promotion in which they distributed rabbit’s feet to fans in attendance. Something worked, because Stobbs broke the streak with a 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians. From that game on, Stobbs pitched much better, going 8-9 with a 3.85 ERA the rest of the way. Still, it wasn’t enough to save him from hitting the dreaded 20-loss mark, and feat that was last accomplished for the franchise by Walter Johnson in 1916 when he went 25-20 – the same year he carried a 147 ERA+.

SP Pedro Ramos 12-16 4.79 ERA 1.39 WHIP -2.4 PW 7 WS 3.8 WARP3
In June of 1957, Ramos allowed 17 home runs, believed to be a major league record. That month he started eight games and pitched a total of 49 innings, emerging with a 1-3 record and a 6.24 ERA. For the season, Ramos allowed 43 home runs – an AL record at the time.

SP Russ Kemmerer 7-11 4.96 ERA 1.65 WHIP -2.3 PW 4 WS 1.2 WARP3
Kemmerer came from the Red Sox early in an early season trade. Kemmerer looked great in his rookie season with Boston in 1954, but this was the start of three mediocre seasons with Washington.
SP Camilo Pascual 8-17 4.10 ERA 1.39 WHIP -0.5 PW 7 WS 5.2 WARP3
Though this was, in a lot of ways, Pascual’s best season to date, he was still sort of treading water as a major league pitcher. Somewhere between 1957 and 1959 he perfected his curveball, and would become one of the more dominant pitchers in baseball. His improvement early in his career is demonstrated by his strikeout rates (per nine innings)

1954: 5.7
1955: 6.7
1956: 9.1
1957: 7.2
1958: 8.9
1959: 8.3
1960: 9.9

SP Ted Abernathy 2-10 6.78 ERA 1.94 WHIP -2.9 PW 0 WS 0.1 WARP3
Abernathy had a rough go of it in 1957, and spent most of the next three seasons in the minor leagues. He was finally released by the club in 1960. Abernathy ended up having a lot of success as a reliever in the 1960’s, and retired in 1972 as a journeyman reliever with a 106 career ERA+.

RP Tex Clevenger 7-6 4.19 ERA 1.33 WHIP -0.1 PW 9 WS 4.0 WARP3
Clevenger came from Boston in the Mickey Vernon trade, but didn’t pitch much until 1957. He will be about as consistent a pitcher as Washington had through the last years of the 1950’s.

RP Dick Hyde 4-3 4.12 ERA 1.46 WHIP -0.1 PW 5 WS 2.5 WARP3
RP Bud Byerly 6-6 3.13 ERA 1.22 WHIP 0.9 PW 8 WS 4.1 WARP3
Hyde and Byerly were surprisingly reliable relievers in 1957. While the bullpen overall wasn’t great in comparison with others around the league, it might have been a strength of this struggling team. Byerly will be traded to Boston early in the 1958 season, while Hyde will have a career season with Washington.

1957 World Series
While Boston Braves fans had toiled between 1914 and 1952 without a World Series win, the franchise won just five seasons after moving to Milwaukee, with a 4-3 victory over the Yankees.


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