Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Game 7: Exciting World Series Finales (1924)

October 10, 1924
Griffith Stadium, Washington D.C.
Washington Senators vs. New York Giants

The Giants were making their fourth straight World Series appearance while the Senators had never made it to the postseason. The Giants roster featured seven Hall of Famers, among them second baseman Frankie Frisch, first baseman Bill Terry and outfielder Hack Wilson, who would later set a single-season record for RBIs while playing for the Cubs. The Senators had rebounded from a sub-.500 record in 1923 to capture the pennant by a slender margin over the Yankees. Thirty-six year old right-hander Walter Johnson--nearing the end of his career--was the heart and soul of the Washington squad, capturing a pitching triple crown while being named AL MVP. He was not the only superstar in D.C. that year as the Senators outfield was patrolled by future Cooperstown inductees Sam Rice and Goose Goslin.

The Series was marred by controversy when Phillies shortstop Heinie Sand reported that Giants outfielder Jimmy O'Connell had offered him a bribe to throw a September 27 game between the two clubs. O'Connell admitted his indiscretion and fingered New York coach Cozy Dolan along with three other players. Both Dolan and O'Connell were run out of baseball.

Another scandal broke when rumors surfaced that thirty percent of the '24 World Series tickets had fallen into the hands of scalpers, who were charging outrageous prices. The Series was not expected to go seven games and, when Washington evened the affair at three games apiece on October 9, the Senators had not even printed tickets yet for the following day's contest. Fans camped outside Griffith Stadium all night and there was mass confusion when the box office opened.

Those who were lucky enough to gain admission witnessed a marathon twelve inning encounter that ended on a bizarre note. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife were on hand. The Senators scored first in the bottom of the fourth on a homer by player/manager Bucky Harris. In the top of the sixth, the Giants took advantage of some sloppy infield play by the Senators. Consecutive errors by first baseman Joe Judge (one of the most gifted defensive players in baseball) and third baseman Ossie Bluege led to a 3-run New York outburst. The Senators answered with a pair of runs in the eighth and the score remained knotted at three into the twelfth inning.

With one out in the bottom of the twelfth, Senators catcher Muddy Ruel hit a pop-up near home plate. The sure-handed Hank Gowdy settled under it, but dropped the ball after stepping on his own discarded catcher's mask. Given a second chance, Ruel drilled a double to left field. The comedy of errors continued for the Giants when Walter Johnson, summoned in relief on short rest, reached on a bobble by Hall of Fame shortstop Travis Jackson. Earl McNeely then hit a potential double play ball to Fred Lindstrom at third. The ball hit a pebble and took a weird hop over Lindstrom's head, scoring the winning run and giving the Senators their first championship.

The Giants had been heavily favored to win and most sportswriters were stunned. "This is non-fiction," an incredulous Shirley Povich wrote. "It happened in 1924. I was there." The error would haunt Lindstrom for the rest of his career, though he would eventually be enshrined at Cooperstown. Many years after the fact, he insisted that if that ball hadn't bounced over his head, most people would have forgotten him. "You know the old saying, 'That's the way the ball bounces'?" He joked. "Well, it was never more appropriate than in the seventh game of the 1924 World Series." 

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