Walter Johnson, 1929-1932
Record as Senator Manager: 350-264, .570 Pct.
1929: 71-81 .467 5th
1930: 94-60 .610 2nd
1931: 92-62 .597 3rd
1932: 93-61 .604 3rd
To blunt a possible public relations fallout for the dismissal of the popular Bucky Harris, Clark Griffith choose a man who was more popular than Harris, the immortal Walter Johnson. After his retirement in 1927, the Big Train managed for a season in Newark of the Eastern League. Johnson’s hiring was greeted with enthusiasm among Nats fans.
Less than thrilled with the 1928 roster, Johnson pleaded with Griffith to reacquire Buddy Myer from Boston. Griffith got Myer back in Washington in a 5 player trade in December, 1928. Johnson planned to place Myer at 3B and move regular 3B Ossie Bluege to SS and bench Joe Cronin. Eventually, Johnson became impressed by Cronin and kept him at SS and moved Myer to 2B. But it was not enough to prevent the 1929 Senators from dropping into the second division for the first time in 7 years. Shoddy pitching and a below average offense were the culprits for the 5th place showing.
1930 would be a trying year personally for the Big Train. While the Nats rebounded to a 2nd place finish, Johnson suffered a devastating loss in July when his beloved wife Hazel passed away. The deadline trade of Goose Goslin to St. Louis for Heinie Manush and P General Crowder sparked Washington to a 10 game winning streak and a hold of 1st place in early July. Manush would hit .362 in 88 games after the trade. The bats of Joe Judge, Sam Rice, Myer and Sammy West produced .300 or better batting averages. The most important development was the breakout season for Cronin. The 23 year old walloped to a .346 beat with 13 HR and 126 RBI. On the pitching staff, four 15 game winners (Bump Hadley, Crowder, Sam Jones and Firpo Marberry) also contributed to the runner up finish.
Cronin would continue his ascent in 1931, bagging another 126 RBI on 12 home runs. Manush would hit .306 with 70 RBI in his first full season in Washington. Playing regularly in the starting nine, Joe Kuhel rewarded Johnson’s faith by replacing the aging Judge at 1B and driving in 85 runs. Crowder would lead the pitching with an 18-11 mark. In all, the Senators dropped a notch to 3rd place and 2 less wins than in 1930.
Unchanged in 1932, the Senators once again came home with a 3rd place showing. Cronin and Manush bashed in 116 RBI apiece, hitting .318 and .342 respectively. The extraordinary Rice, now 42, hit at a .323 clip in 106 games. Crowder silenced opponents to the tune of 26 wins, with Monte Weaver throwing in 22 of his own. If the Nats were in the National League, they would have won the 1932 NL pennant. But, in the ultra competitive AL, the Nats could only muster 3rd place, 16 games in back of the Yankees.
It was implicitly implied that Johnson was to win the AL flag in 1932 in order to remain the Nats skipper. When the pennant failed to materialize, Griffith, in deference for all the Big Train had done for the franchise, asked Johnson if he could dismiss him as an employee. Knowing he was kindly being fired and realizing Griffith wanted to get his $25,000 contract of the books, Johnson respectfully replied yes and parted with Griffith on good terms.
Marion John (Marty) Kutyna B Nov. 14, 1932 Still Living
Pitcher Marty Kutyna was originally signed by the St. Louis Cardinals. He’d spend time in the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds organizations before being traded to the Kansas City Athletics prior to the 1959 season.
Kutyna would finally make his major league debut in mid-September of ’59, pitching in 4 games, earning 1 save. He’d appear in 51 games for the Athletics in 1960, posting a 3-2 record with a 3.94 ERA.
Traded to the expansion Senators for Haywood Sullivan shortly after the expansion draft, Kutyna would pitch for Washington in 1961 and 1962, posting records of 6-8 and 5-6. His last major league appearance would come in late September of 1962.
John Frank Lelivelt B Nov. 14, 1885 D Jan. 20, 1941
Outfielder and occasional 1st baseman Jack Lelivelt would debut with the Washington Senators in late June of 1909 as a 23 year old rookie. Hitting .292 in 91 games, Lelivelt would remain on the Senators rosterin 1910, when he’d hit .265 in 110 games and 1911, hitting at a .320 pace in 72 games.
On the roster of the New York Highlanders in 1912, he’d appear in just 36 games hitting.362.
Lelivelt would start with the Yankees, having changed their name from Highlanders during the off-season. He’d only appear in 18 games for the Yankees in 1913, his BA dropping to .214. Traded Cleveland Naps, Lelivelt would respond to the change in scenery by hitting .391 in 23 games.
Lelivelt would finish his career in Cleveland in 1914 hitting .328 in 34 games, his last appearance in the majors coming in mid-June.
Joseph Howard Leonard B Nov. 14, 1893 D May 1, 1920
Joe Leonard made his major league debut in late April of 1914 as a 22 year old rookie with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Primarily a 3rd baseman, Leonard would play in 53 games in his rookie season, hitting .198.
Out of the majors in 1915, Leonard would return with the Cleveland Indians in 1916, playing in just 3 games. In mid-August he’d be traded, along with Elmer Smith, to the Washington Senators for Joe Boehling and Danny Moeller.
Playing in Washington for the remainder of 1916, Leonard would appear in 42 games, hitting .274. His most active season would be 1917 when he’d play in 99 games but would see his batting average drop to .192. He’d rebound in 1918, raising his average to .258 in 71 games.
Leonard would start the 1920 season in Washington but would appear in just 1 game, on April 23rd, 1 day shy of the 6th anniversary of his first major league appearance.
8 days later, Leonard died, his cause of death listed as acute appendicitis.
James Anthony Piersall B Nov. 14, 1929 Still Living
Signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1948, Jimmy Piersall would debut with the Red Sox in early September of 1950, appearing in 6 games. He wouldn’t play in the majors in 1951 but would return with the Red Sox in 1952, playing in 56 games, hitting .267.
Piersall would remain on the Red Sox roster through 1958, being named to the American League All Star Team in 1954 & 1956.
After the 1958 season, Piersall would be traded to the Cleveland Indians where he’d spend 1959 through 1961.
Traded again, this time to the Washington Senators for Dick Donovan, Gene Green and Jim Mahoney after the 1961 season, Piersall would play in 135 games for the 1962 Senators, going 115 for 471, good for a .244 BA.
Piersall would start the 1963 season in Washington but after 29 games would be sent to the New York Mets in exchange for Gil Hodges who became the manager for the Senators.
Piersall would spend just over 2 months with the Mets. On June 23rd, Piersall would “celebrate” his 100th career home run by running the bases backwards-an act that particularly infuriated Mets manager Casey Stengel, who supposedly said something to the effect that “There’s only room for one clown on this team!” Piersall was hitting a mere .194 at the time and was released one month later but was immediately signed by the Los Angeles Angels.
Piersall would remain with the Angels through 1967, making his last major league appearance in mid-May.
During his 17 year playing career, Piersall would lead the American League in doubles in 1956, sacrifice hits in 1953 and sacrifice flies in 1956.