Mark Hornbaker: Can Nationals' progression match 1920s Senators?

Even with the Nationals in the midst of a six-game losing streak, I feel like this team is heading in the right direction overall. The Nationals organization is doing a very good job putting together the nucleus of a solid and soon to be a winning baseball team together in the nation's capital.

I believe this team is on its way to become a team to reckon with in the National League East. I think during the next season or two we could find the Nationals contending for a playoff spot. Hopefully, the Nats will be playing in meaningful series against the Phillies and the Braves in late August and September that will decide the division championship.

Things were not too much different in the nation's capital in the early 1920s as they are today. The 1922 Washington Senators ended the season in sixth place in the American League with a dismal record of 69-85. In 1923, the Senators improved by finishing in fourth place in the AL with a 75-78 record.

Then it all came together in 1924, with the Senators and 27-year-old player-manager Bucky Harris. Harris, who received the nick name "The Boy Wonder," led by example, was well-respected by veterans like Walter Johnson and Sam Rice, and was young enough to relate well with young players like Goose Goslin and Ossie Bluege.

The much-improved Senators found themselves in a real dogfight with the reigning World Series champions, the New York Yankees. The Senators were only a half-game behind the Bronx Bombers going into a four-game series that started Aug. 28 at Yankee Stadium. The first game of the weekend series was played on Thursday afternoon in front of 25,000 fans at Yankee Stadium.

The first game of the series did not lack excitement, as the Yankees and Senators combined for 17 runs and 31 hits. The great Babe Ruth improved his batting average to a league-leading .392, hit his league -high 41st and 42nd home runs, and increased his league-best RBI total to 107 as he powered the Yankees to a 6-3 lead going into the eighth inning.

Goslin, who was en route to hitting the first ever cycle in Yankee Stadium, and Sam Rice, who went 5-for-6, led the pesky Senators to an eight-run eighth inning and gave the Senators an 11-6 lead going into the bottom of the inning. The Senators' star relief pitcher, Firpo Marberry, gave up one hit and struck out three as he registered his 10th save of the season. Allen Russell got the win and improved his record to 4-1 and the Yankees' Milt Gaston (5-3) took the loss.

The visiting Senators had the momentum and a half-game lead going into game two against the mighty Yankees. The Senators kept the 25,000 fans at Yankee Stadium quiet as Goslin hit a home run and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. Goslin's outburst and quality pitching from starter Johnson and reliever Marberry led the Senators to a 5-1 victory.

In the third game of the series, the Yankees held their ground in front of 40,000 fans as they beat the Senators 2-1 and pulled within a half-game of the Senators. Goslin stayed hot going 2-for-4

The two teams met for the series finale on Sunday Aug. 31 in front another crowd of 40,000. The teams found themselves deadlocked at 2-2 after nine innings. In the top of the 10th, Rice hit a double off Yankees' reliever Bullet Joe Bush, knocking in two runs to give the Senators a 4-2 lead. Marberry took the mound in the bottom of the 10th and retired the Yankees to preserve the victory for the Senators.

The 4-2 victory improved the Senators' record to 74-55 and gave them a 1 1/2-game lead over the Yankees with a month of baseball to go in the 1924 season. The Senators left New York with all of the confidence in the world.

During the series, Goslin went 11-for-16 with two home runs, 10 RBIs and 21 total bases. Rice also had a very productive weekend, going 9-for-17. And we should not forget Senators first baseman Joe Judge, who drove in a run in each of the four games.

Quick facts : Goose Goslin:

* Goslin became the first player to hit for the cycle at Yankee Stadium.

* Goslin prevented Ruth from winning the Triple Crown by leading the league with 129 RBIs.

* Goslin hit more home runs (32) in Yankee Stadium than any other visiting hitter.

* Goslin only hit 38 career home runs at Griffith Stadium. Ruth hit 34 home runs at Griffith Stadium.

Quick Facts: 1924 Washington Senators:

* The Senators never gave up the lead for the rest of the 1924 season, beating the Yankees by two games to win the American League pennant.

* The Senators won the 1924 World Series by beating the New York Giants, four games to three.

Mark Hornbaker blogs about the Nats at Nationals Daily News and shares his views on baseball in D.C. as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative to welcome guest bloggers to out little corner of the Internet. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

blog comments powered by Disqus