The Washington Senators have a long and storied history as three separate baseball franchises. Originally founded in 1891 as the Washington Statesmen
of the American Association
. They finished last in the AA, with a 44-91 record, and the league folded at the end of the season. Changing their name to the Senators, they joined the National League
a year later. In eight years with the league, playing at sparsely attended Boundary Field
, the Senators finished no higher than sixth, finishing last or second-to-last four times. When the National League contracted in 1900, the team folded.
The Senators made a comeback, however, when the American League was founded in 1901. The Senators joined the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Phildelphia Athletics, Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Blues, and Milwaukee Brewers in a upstart rival league to the NL. It should be noted here that the Baltimore Orioles became the New York Yankees in 1913, the Brewers became the St. Louis Browns the next year and then the Orioles in '54, the Blues became the Indians, and that the A's moved to Kansas City in '54 and then to Oakland in '68. But I digress...
The Senators languished near the bottom of the standings at as-of-yet unnamed Griffith Stadium, despite the efforts of Walter Johnson, argueably the most dominating pitcher of all time. The two-hundred pound Big Train picked up steam in his early years and by 1910 was one of the premier pitchers in baseball, competing with the likes of Smokey Joe Wood, Dutch Leonard, Grover Alexander, and Christy Mathewson. Johnson dominated the next fifteen years, winning the MVP twice, the pitching triple crown three times, the ERA title five times, and leading the lead in strikeouts 12 times, including eight seasons in a row. When all was said and done, Johnson had won 417 games, second only the Cy Young, and was the all-time strikeout leader (although he was passed 62 years later by Steve Carlton).
Despite the year-in and year-out performance of Johnson, the Senators could finish no better than second place until 1924. The Senators rolled off 92 wins that year, won their first pennant and the right to face the New York Giants in the World Series. And while Johnson pitched even better than he did in the regular season, he was tagged for losses in Game One and Game Five. Down 3-2 in the Series, the Senators scrapped back to force a Game Seven. With the score tied 3-3 after eight, the Big Train strolled out of the bullpen in relief, pitching shutout inning after shutout inning before the home crowd, until the Senators finally scored in the bottom of the twelfth to win the game and the Series.
This was to be the high point in the history of the Senators, winning one of the most dramatic World Series of all time. The Senators returned to the Series the following year, and Walter Johnson picked up two wins, but the Senators didn't have enough and were overtaken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 7 games. Another World Series loss to the Giants in 1933, this time in five games, marked the last time the Senators would reach the playoffs. They would come close in 1945, finishing a game and a half behind the Tigers. Never would they come any closer.
At the end of the 1960 season, team president Calvin Griffith made the announcement that the Senators were moving to Minnesota to become the Twins. The fortune of that franchise would almost immediately turn around. On the very same day of Griffith's announcement, Major League Baseball made the announcement that D.C., along with Los Angeles, had been awarded expansion teams. The "new" franchise's first game was a microcosm of the Senators' history - a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. In 1962 the team moved into D.C. Stadium (later renamed R.F.K.), but doom was imminent for baseball in Washington. The Orioles were drawing the region's fans, while the Senators were again cellar-dwellers, managing to finish over .500 just once in their ten years as a resurrected franchise.
While the Senators were busy losing, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was busy trying to prove itself worthy of a major league franchise. Charlie Finley tried unsuccessfully to move th Kansas City A's to the area, and the site lost out to Montreal and San Diego when the National League expanded in 1968. Rumors of the team's move to Dallas became prevalent in 1971, and shortly before the end of the season, team owner Robert E. Short announced that the team would to Arlington, Texas. In a fitting end to Washington baseball, the Senators forfeited their final game when fans stormed the field in the ninth inning with the Senators up 7-5 over the Yankees. Mark it in the book as a 9-0 loss.
Aside from Walter Johnson, the team had a number of great players come through town. Outfielder Sam Rice is a member of the 3,000 hit club, and first baseman Harmon Killebrew is sixth on the all-time home run list. Other Senators in the Hall Of Fame include Goose Goslin, power-hitting outfielder of the 20's and 30's, and 6-time all-star infielder Joe Cronin, in the Top 50 in career doubles and RBI.