“It’ll be different in Washington,” said Senators third base coach Al Schacht after Washington lost Game Two in New York to fall behind, 2-0, in the 1933 World Series.
“Yeah, it’ll be different when we beat (Earl) Whitehill for a change,” responded Giants second baseman Hughie Critz.
Rain fell on Washington D.C. on the morning of October 5th to threaten a postponement of Game Three until the next day. When the grandfather clock in the White House struck noon, the skies had become darker while the rain continued at a steady pace.
As the citizens of Washington talked about the weather, the Senators, and the President planning to attend today’s game, Joe Cronin entered a confused clubhouse at Griffith Stadium. When the twenty-six year-old manager saw a few of his players pacing the floor while talking to themselves, and others sitting in silence as they starred into space, he immediately called for a team meeting to get his players refocused on the tough job that was ahead. “I hope you’re as ashamed as I am over what happened in the first two series games,” he told his team. “We’re a better ball club than the Giants, and now is the time to show it to a city that has supported us all season.”
The manager’s pep talk put the team in better spirits before they headed onto the field for their pre-game warm-ups. When the rain picked up, the players walked back to the clubhouse, while the ground crew dragged a tarp over the infield.
Meanwhile, Capital Hill was busy with debt negotiations in discussion among U.S. Representatives and delegates from Great Britain. The ambassador of Argentina was in conference with U.S officials discussing the weighty conditions of the trade Reciprocal Trade Treaties. The Senate committees were discussing the weighty conditions of the stock market. When word was received that the game was still on, the meetings abruptly ended and lunch was served.
At the White House, the President concluded a busy morning in the Oval Office before taking time to have a quick lunch at his desk. As the President ate, a motor cavalcade surrounded policemen on motorcycles waited in the driveway, ready to take the president to the game.
At Griffith Stadium, Earl Whitehill, a twenty-two game winner for Washington in 1933, began to throw in the right field bullpen when he felt something pop in his left elbow. He ignored the injury, as if it never happened, and continued to throw. Today’s game would fulfill his strong desired to pitch in a World Series game – a vision he held in his heart during his ten-year pitching career. No chance was he going to let an injury, or anything else, interfere with his wish.
President Roosevelt headed to the door after finishing lunch. He grabbed his hat and a few other things and then walked through the rain to his cavalcade. A few other high-ranked officials would ride with him. The first Lady would not be joining him due to a previous engagement.
Word was received at 1:25 that the president was on his way. The start of Game Three would be delayed until after the Commander and Chief was comfortably seated.
At 1:36, the right field gate was opened. Whitehill halted his warm up as the President’s car entered. The cavalcade rode along the first base side before stopping at the President’s box, located beside the Washington dugout. As Roosevelt was being helped out of his car and escorted to his seat, Whitehill began to throw again. Cronin came over to check on his pitcher and noticed the swelling on the elbow of the pitcher’s throwing arm. “Pack it in,” he told him. He said he was going to start a different hurler.
Whitehill did not take the news lightly. Known as one of the biggest hotheads of his time, he let his manager have some of his finest language. Cronin took offense and shouted back. It appeared that the manager and pitcher would go at it before the president, delegates, and twenty-five thousand fans until Whiltehill regained his composure. “Can I please pitch today?” he asked. As Cronin looked into his determined eyes, he decided to honor the request.
“That is plain luck,” a fan said after Roosevelt entered his box. “Everything the man touches turns to sunshine.” Incredibly, the rain had stopped and the sun broke through when the President arrived for another one of those “Roosevelt miracles.”
Whitehill retired the Giants in order in the first inning. His curveball was sharp and he was throwing strikes. The elbow was swelling by the minute, but that hardly fazed the focused pitcher.
Buddy Myer, the leadoff batter for the Senators, received a loud cheer when he entered the batter’s box. True he had a nightmare of a game at New York with three errors in Game One, but the Washington fans appreciated his efforts during his fine 1933 season. And the Washington second baseman received more applause when he hit a pitch into left field for a hit.
Next up was fan favorite, Goose Goslin. He got hold of one and sent it for a long ride to right field. The ball hit a barbershop sign atop the thirty-foot wall for a double. After an out, Cronin grounded one to the pitcher for the second out, but Myer scored on the play for a 1-0 lead. Fred Schulte followed with the third hit of the inning to score Goslin to make it 2-0.
The Giants got something going in the second inning with a hit and a walk. Whitehill threw a sweeping curveball to the next batter who hit the ball on the ground for an inning ending Cronin-Myer-Kuhel double play.
A double by Ossie Bluege and a Myer hit in the bottom of the inning put Washington ahead by three. After that, Whitehil was in control. He retired the Giants on just four pitches in the fifth inning. In the sixth frame, he retired New York on five pitches. In the seventh, he retired the side on six pitches for nine outs on fifteen pitches.
Myer singled home another run in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-0 Washington lead. “Roosevelt luck extends to baseball,” the delegates told the President. FDR laughed as he downplayed the compliment. “Well, it’s a grand old game,” he replied.
In the eighth inning, Whitehill retired the first batter to make it eleven consecutive outs. Finally, a New York batter singled to snap the string, then Cronin made an error to put two runners on base with just one out, but Whitehill retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.
In the joyous Washington clubhouse after the win, Whitehill looked at his sore elbow which was now the size of a baseball. His teammates patted him on the back and congratulated him on a marvelous effort. Someone handed him a telegram sent by his proud father in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The pitcher opened it and read it out loud: “I’m the happiest man in Iowa – Dad.”
Gary is the author of The Wrecking Crew of ’33; The Washington Senators’ Last Pennant.