First in war, first in peace and last in any league
The 1912 edition of the Senators became the first team in franchise history to finish with more wins than losses in a season. But, did you know, they were also the first professional Washington team to ever finish above .500? Here is a list of the teams prior to the formation of the American League Senators in 1901 with W/L records and the leagues they competed in.
Year Team W-L League
1884 Washington Nationals, 12-51, American Association
1884 Washington Nationals, 47-65, Union Association
1886 Washington Senators, 28-92, National League
1887 Washington Senators, 46-76, National League
1888 Washington Senators, 48-86, National League
1889 Washington Senators, 41-83, National League
1891 Washington Statesmen, 44-91, American Association
1892 Washington Senators, 58-93, National League
1893 Washington Senators, 40-89, National League
1894 Washington Senators, 45-87, National League
1895 Washington Senators, 43-85, National League
1896 Washington Senators, 58-73, National League
1897 Washington Senators, 61-71, National League
1898 Washington Senators, 51-101, National League
1899 Washington Senators, 54-98, National League
The most noteworthy player from those dismal teams was the debut of a skinny, 23 year old catcher on September 11, 1886. Connie Mack was behind the plate for the Senators on that day, a 4-3 victory over the Phillies that halted an 8 game losing streak.
“Now batting for the Senators, Ty Cobb??”
Fresh from that 2nd place finish of 1912, manager Clark Griffith sought the final piece that would bring the American League flag to Washington. While the pitching was in good hands with Walter Johnson, Bob Groom, and Tom Hughes, the offense needed another bat. Not just any player, but a player who was suited to the spacious dimensions League Park (Griffith Stadium) who could hit balls into the gaps, had speed, and a high batting average. In essence, the hitting equivalent of Walter Johnson: Ty Cobb.
Brushing aside the pesky fact that he was only a one-tenth owner of the Senators and would have to answer to the Senators board of directors, Griffith approached Detroit owner Frank Navin dangling a check for $100,000 for the “Georgia Peach”. Navin may have considered the offer for a split second before blowing off Griffith. Navin’s rejection may well have been a good thing for Griffith considering the aforementioned board of directors. Had Navin said yes, where was the $100,000 going to come from, the directors would demand to know. Griffith, however, wasn’t called the “Silver Fox” for nothing.
Prepared for the best case scenario of a Cobb purchase, Griffith’s plan for raising the $100,000 was to sell 100,000 one-dollar tickets to fans who could use them for whichever game they chose, wrote late Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich. With $1 being a high cost for a blue collar worker in 1913, Griffith nonetheless believed the fans would enthusiastically gobble up the $1 dollar ducats. With Navin saying no, a contentious meeting with the directors never materialized and the Cobb and Johnson dream team remained a fantasy.
Griffith’s high regard for Cobb did not abate in the ensuing years. When Cobb was released from the Tigers before 1927, Griffith, now sole owner of the Nats, made a hard play for Cobb. With the A’s, Browns, Dodgers and Sens climbing all over themselves in pursuit of Cobb, Griffith offered Cobb a high undisclosed salary, with the sweetener that Cobb can “come and go as he pleases”. The offer was not good enough for Cobb, who took the highest salary offer of $50,000 from Connie Mack’s A’s.
Myles Lewis Thomas B Oct. 22, 1897 D Dec. 12, 1963
Pitcher Myles Thomas would play for 5 years with the Yankees and the Senators. Making his major league debut with the Yanks in April of 1926, Thomas would appear in 33 games, pitching in 140 and 1/3rd innings, posting a 6-6 record with a 4.23 ERA. Thomas would pitch in 2 games of the 1926 World Series, as the Yankees lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.
In 1927, Thomas would have his best year on the mound, posting a 7-4 record in 21 games although his ERA would rise to 4.87.
He’d only pitch in 12 games in 1928, compiling a 1-0 record, but would lower his ERA to 3.41, the best season of his career.
Thomas would begin the season with the Yankees in 1929, appearing in 5 games, going 0-2. He’d be purchased in mid-June by the Senators.
Finishing the season in a Washington uniform, Thomas would post a 7-8 record in 22 games.
1930 would be Thomas’ last season in the majors as he’d appear in 12 games for the Senators, compiling a 2-2 record but would see his ERA swell to 8.29. He would play in his last major league game in late June of ’21.