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The New Washington Senators
While (now) ”classic” songs such as “Blue Moon” by the Marcels, “Runaway” by Del Shannon and “Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K. Doe were playing over local transistor radios throughout the D.C area, the new Washington Senators were playing their first ever spring training game in Florida. The date was Saturday, March 11, 1961, and the expansion version of the Washington Senators — a group of draftees and free agents that had replaced the original franchise in Washington – faced off against the Kansas City Athletics before an overflow crowd of approximately 4,000 at Pompano Beach Stadium.
Dick Donovan, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in December’s expansion draft, drew the starting assighnment for the first unofficial game involving a major league expansion team. Donovan allowed only two hits in three scoreless innings and left with the score tied at 0-0. The game remained scoreless until the A’s picked up a run off Tom Sturdivant in the fifth inning.
The Senators responded with two runs in the bottom half on a two-run triple by Marty Keough that drove in Sturdivant and center fielder Chuck Hinton with the new team’s first runs. In the sixth inning, catcher Pete Daley hit the first-ever expansion Senators home run. The blast, which carried over the 380 sign in left-center field, gave the Senators a 3-1 lead. The home team built a 7-1 lead after seven innings and held on to post a 7-5 win.
Sturdivant pitched three innings and received credit for the first spring training victory. Keough was the hitting star with a single, a double and a triple, and three runs batted in. Daley added a double and drove in two runs. Meanwhile, in Orlando, the old Senators were dropping a 4-1 decision to the Tigers.
The first-year Senators went on to post an American League-leading 15-10 record in exhibtion play, but the euphoria would not last. After a promising 30-30 start in the regular season, the new expansion team stumbled badly and finished their inaugural year tied with the A’s for ninth place with a record of 61-100.