Donie Bush, 1923
Record as Senator Manager: 75-78, .490 Pct.
1923: 75-78 .490 4th
Based on their 7th place showing in 1922, little optimism greeted the 1923 edition of the Washington Senators with former Tigers SS Donie Bush at the helm. With the offseason acquisition of C Muddy Ruel and late season call up of P Firpo Marberry, not a single fan knew they would represent the final pieces of the World Championship puzzle. Only problem was, it was still 1923.
For the first 3 and half months of 1923, the Senators looked more like the 7th place club of 1922 than a future championship team. The main blow was Walter Johnson injuring his knee on May 19 at Chicago which adversely hampered the Big Guy’s effectiveness until September. On July 19, the Senators found themselves mired in 7th place with a 34-49 record. The fiery Bush, in his maiden season as a manager at any level, must have wondered what he got himself into by accepting the Nats managerial job.
Just as the Nats appeared on their way to another second division finish, the team quickly righted the ship. With Ruel, 1B Joe Judge, and outfielders Nemo Leibold, Goose Goslin and Sam Rice batting over .300 for the year, the Senators finished out the year on a 41-29 run for an overall 75-78, 4th place finish. Bush installed rookie Ossie Bluege at 3B and the 22 year old showed promise with 42 RBI in 109 games. The outlook for 1924 was brightened even more by a strong finish from Johnson, who went 17-12, the relief performance of spitballer Allan Russell and the 11 game appearance of rookie Marberry, who compiled a 4-0, 2.84 ERA ledger.
The general consensus in baseball circles on Bush was that he did a remarkable job in getting the Nats off the mat with the strong finish. No doubt had Johnson not been injured, observers agreed, Washington would have finished over .500. But Clark Griffith was not pleased. Never seeing eye to eye with Bush, Griffith showed Bush the door. Griffith would be ridiculed for his next choice as his manager: Bucky Harris
Bush deserved a better fate, but leaving Washington was not the end of the line for Bush. In some ways, it was only the beginning. After managing in the minors for 3 seasons, Bush would lead the Pirates into the 1927 World Series against the “Murderers Row” Yankees of Ruth and Gehrig. Bush expected his players, stars included, to play hard at all times and Bush backed what he demanded. When Pirates star Kiki Cuyler failed to slide to break up a double play in August of that year, Bush benched Cuyler for the rest of the regular season and the World Series. After 1929, Bush was dismissed as Pittsburgh’s skipper and landed back in the AL with the White Sox. He would manage Chicago in 1930 and 1931, with his stint punctuated with numerous confrontations with future Senator Art Shires. His last big league managerial stint came for one season in Cincinnati in 1933.
But Bush’s biggest contribution to baseball occurred in 1938 while managing the minor league Minneapolis Millers. On his roster that year was a brash youngster who needed more refinement before being called up to the majors. Under Bush’s tutelage, the youngster improved his batting average by 75 points and became a more well rounded ballplayer. That youngster was Ted Williams, who commented after Bush’s passing in 1972, “I’ve been in the game for 36 years and nobody has any closer affection to my heart than Ownie.”
Herbert Bryan Crompton B Nov. 7, 1911 D Aug. 5, 1963
Senators Short Timer Herb Crompton would debut in a Washington uniform in late April of 1937. Playing in just 2 games for the Senators, Crompton would go 1 for 3 at bat.
Returning to the majors in 1945 with the New York Yankees, Crompton would appear in 36 games, hitting .192, playing in his last major league game in mid-September.
James Lee Kaat B Nov. 7, 1938 Still Living
Jim Kaat played 25 years in the major leagues, pitching in 898 games for 6 different teams.
He’d make his major league debut with the original Washington Senators in August of 1959, going 0-2 in 3 games with a 12.60 ERA. He would appear in 13 games for Washington in 1960, going 1-5, although he’d drop his ERA to 5.58.
After the original franchise shifted to the Twin Cities for the 1961 season, Kaat would respond favorably to the change in scenery. He’d be a mainstay in the Minnesota Twins pitching staff from 1961 through August of 1973. Kaat would find his best success in Minnesota, being named to the All Star Teams of 1962 and 1966 and would lead the American League in wins with 25, also in 1966. He’d post an 18-11 record for the pennant winners in 1965 but would go 1-2 against the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, with a 3.77 ERA over 14 & 1/3 rd innings. Kaat would go 0-1 in the league championship series of 1970 against the Baltimore Orioles.
Released by the Twins in mid-August of 1973, Kaat would be selected off waivers by the Chicago White Sox. He’d show that he could still pitch, finishing the 1973 season in Chicago with a 4-1 record. He’d go 21-13 in 1974 and 20-14 in 1975 with the White Sox and would be selected to the All Star Team one more time in 1975.
Traded to the Philadelphia Phillies after the 1975 season, Kaat would play in Philadelphia for the next 3 seasons, including appearing in the league championship series against the Cincinnati Reds in 1976.
After 3 games with the Phillies in 1979, Kaat would be purchased by the New York Yankees, where he would appear in 40 games, posting a 2-3 record.
Kaat would start the 1980 season in New York but would be purchased by the St. Louis Cardinals in late April. Finishing the 1980 season in St. Louis, Kaat would post an 8-7 record. He’d remain with the Cards in 1981 and 1982, appearing in the ’82 World Series against the Milwaukee Brewers and finally getting a coveted World Series Ring.
After pitching in 24 games in 1983, Kaat would be released by the Cardinals in early July. He’d finish his career with a 283-237 record and a lifetime ERA of 3.45.
Remembered as a great fielding pitcher, Kaat won 16 Gold Gloves and was named The Sporting News American League “Pitcher Of The Year” in 1966.
Alan Cochrane Strange B Nov. 7, 1906 D Jun. 27, 1994
Another Senators Short Timer, shortstop Alan Strange played in 314 major league games, with only 20 of those in a Senators uniform. Making his major league debut with the 1934 St. Louis Browns, Strange would appear in 127 games, hitting .237. Strange would return to play in 49 games with the Brownies in 1935 before being traded in late June to the Senators for Lyn Lary.
For the Senators, Strange would play in just 20 games where he only managed to hit .185.
Disappearing from the Senators roster, and the major leagues, Strange would bounce around the minors until he was picked up again by the St. Louis Browns for the 1940 season. Sparingly used, Strange would remain with the Browns through 1942, his last major league game coming in mid-August of that year.