Nationals manager Jim Riggleman's foray into batting the pitcher eighth in the lineup was really nothing new. Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals has done it on several occasions, and some local fans of a certain age have seen it done in Washington.
Remember Wayne Terwilliger, the classic good-field, no-hit second baseman for several teams from 1949-60, including the Senators in 1953-54? Bucky Harris managed the ballclub then, and had no problem at all hitting Terwilliger ninth and the pitcher eighth, particularly if the pitcher was Mickey McDermott.
McDermott was a fun-loving (and hard-drinking) left-hander who pitched for a half-dozen clubs between 1948-61. He broke even for his career - 69 wins, 69 losses and a 3.91 ERA - and he was a good enough batter to be used as a pinch hitter many times throughout his career. He hit .252 in 682 plate appearances, with nine home runs and 74 RBIs. McDermott loved to frequent the local nightclubs wherever he was at the time and sing with the bands.
When McDermott was a Nat, it just made sense for Harris to move him up in the order. It's not like Terwilliger struck out all the time - he didn't. In 1954, however, Terwilliger struggled at the plate all season, hitting just .208. McDermott was coming off a year with the Red Sox where he'd hit .301. It was a natural thing to do from Harris' perspective, though '54 turned out to be McDermott's worst year with the bat.
Terwilliger, by the way, turns 86 later this month, and was still active in baseball last year as a coach with the Ft. Worth Cats of the independent American Association (where ex-Nat Mike Bacsik is pitching coach) . McDermott passed away in 2003 at 74. Though he'd quit drinking in 1991, his earlier lifestyle caught up with him. He apparently really enjoyed the last several years of his life. His late wife had been a lottery winner, and McDermott had a lot more chances to sing with bands in various watering holes out west.