Reading that Washington reached the post-season in baseball this year for the first time since 1933 started me thinking about what kind of Chattanooga connections may have existed back then.
The reason, of course, was that the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league team was long affiliated with the old Washington Senators.
Actually, the Washington-Chattanooga baseball connection was apparently still in its early stages in 1933, even though Lookouts president Joe Engel had been connected with the Senators even longer as a scout.
However, an online search did find quite a few local connections to both of the teams in the 1933 World Series -- Washington and the New York Giants.
So as another World Series gets started – without, of course, Washington or even the locally popular Atlanta Braves -- let us look at not only some of the local connections, but also some of the differences between the way the World Series was presented then and now.
And a lot of differences did exist, even though baseball – perhaps more than any other major sport -- has had a sameness quality over the years that fans love.
One difference from today was that all of the World Series games in 1933 were played on consecutive days and started at 1:30 in the afternoon, according to the articles in the Chattanooga Times. This was true even though the teams traveled by train.
Of course, no coast-to-coast trips had to be made in those days.
TV, of course, also did not exist, although two major networks were airing radio broadcasts.
Chattanoogans, who apparently were on central time then, could go to the fairly new Memorial Auditorium and watch information and/or pictures about the game on the facility’s “big automatic board” on a play-by-play basis. The cost was 10 cents, and some 600 Chattanoogans took part that first day.
Another difference was that both Washington’s manager – Joe Cronin – and the Giants’ skipper – Bill Terry – were still standout players for their respective teams. Perhaps only Cincinnati’s Pete Rose has been a player/manager in recent decades.
Also different from today was that a number of players were featured in a newspaper advertisement saying that smoking Camel cigarettes helped calm their nerves for big games.
Maybe that was the performance-enhancing drug of that era!
Among the Chattanooga connections with the 1933 Washington team were pitchers Tommy Thomas and Ed Linke. Thomas actually would not pitch for Chattanooga until 1938, while Linke was with them in 1933, 1934 and 1936.
Another Washington pitcher who had been with the Lookouts in 1932 and 1933 and would later play for them through 1936 was Alex “Red” McColl. He would play a key role in the 1933 World Series, despite being 39 years old.
Georgian Cecil Travis, who would play with the Senators his entire major league career, was also called up from Chattanooga that year, although he would not be on the World Series roster.
He had played with Chattanooga since 1931 and made quite a debut with the Senators. He made a long train ride up from Chattanooga and, despite having a spike wound on his finger, singled his first five times at the plate in his first major league game at Washington’s Griffith Stadium against the Cleveland Indians on May 16, 1933.
He lived until 2006, when he died at the age of 93.
Washington catcher Cliff Bolton played with the Lookouts from 1930-32, hitting .380 in Chattanooga in 1930.
Although they apparently did not play in Chattanooga, Washington standouts Leon “Goose” Goslin and Joe Cronin were discovered by Engel, a former major league pitcher who roomed with the great Walter Johnson.
Cronin, one of several future Hall of Famers in the 1933 World Series, later managed the Boston Red Sox.
The great 1933 Giant shortstop Travis Jackson had been discovered by another Chattanoogan – Kid Elberfeld. Elberfeld had managed the Lookouts from 1915-17, and, while later managing the Little Rock Travelers, staged a tryout for the 14-year-old Jackson.
Elberfeld, a former big league baseball player, lived on Signal Mountain for a number of years until his death in 1944.
The Giants also featured such players as Hank Leiber and Phil Weintraub, who played for teams that competed against the Lookouts. Manager Terry was also from Memphis, and the Bluff City was planning a salute after the World Series.
New York also had such stars as future Hall of Famers Carl Hubbell, a screwball pitcher, and rightfielder Mel Ott.
Paul Richards, who was the general manager of the Atlanta Braves when they won the Western Division in 1969, also played for the Giants in 1933, as did future big league manager Chuck Dressen.
The first game of the World Series was held on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 1933, at the now-razed Polo Grounds in Manhattan, just across the East River from Yankee Stadium.
Yankee great Babe Ruth and many others picked the Senators to win. And they had a good reason: they had finished 99-53, seven games ahead of the runner-up Yankees in the American League.
The New York Giants finished 91-61, five games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League.
The Giants – led by the screwballs from southpaw Hubbell – won 4-2 in the opener. Hubbell had 10 strikeouts and withstood a tense-filled last couple of innings.
Yes, another difference from today was that pitchers of yesteryear tried to go nine innings.
Hubbell was aided by the play of Ott, who had four hits, including a first-inning home run.
In the second game, also at the Polo Grounds, New York appeared to be taking command, as the Giants won 6-1. Goslin, who had been discovered by Engel, did hit a home run for Washington, while former Lookout pitcher Alex “Red” McColl enjoyed a positive experience in the loss that he could recall fondly until his death in 1991 at the age of 96.
In what was his first World Series appearance, he retired all six Giant batters he faced in the seventh and eighth innings on just 11 pitches.
When the two teams arrived later that night at the Washington train station, the Washington fans greeted both with mostly cheers. The Giant team had arrived 10 minutes earlier.
Goslin received the loudest applause from the fans for his home run.
Former Giants manager John McGraw and former Senators great and manager Walter Johnson, who had been key figures when the Senators defeated the Giants in the 1924 World Series, had disembarked from their trains with little notice.
In the third game on Oct. 5, a small crowd of 25,727 – including President Franklin Roosevelt – braved chilly conditions at Griffith Stadium to watch the Senators regain hope with a 4-0 win led by the pitching of ace Earl Whitehill.
President Roosevelt, who was from New York, was said to have divided loyalties.
The next two games were also held at Clark Griffith Stadium, which was located between Georgia and Fifth avenues in Washington and was torn in 1965 to become the site of Howard University Hospital.
In the fourth game on Oct. 6, a thriller resulted. The game was tied at 1-1 after nine innings, and after 10. But a base hit by young shortstop John C. “Blondy” Ryan in the top of the 11th broke the tie.
In the bottom of the inning, tension and excitement filled the stadium as the Senators loaded the bases. But they hit into a double play to end the game.
The winning pitcher for the Giants was none other than Hubbell – who pitched only 11 innings.
That game also included an ugly scene not much different from what happened in the Atlanta-St. Louis wildcard matchup this year.
It occurred when future Hall of Famer Heinie Manush of the Senators was called out at first base by National League umpire Charley Moran on a close and exciting play in the sixth inning.
Using strong language, he complained to Moran and was thrown out of the game, but he went to his leftfield position at the start of the seventh inning.
Another big debate ensued before he became the first player to be thrown out of a World Series in a number of years.
After the game, many Washington fans milled around the clubhouse to vent their displeasure before Moran finally left in a small car without incident.
Moran, by the way, had a number of local connections. He had played football at Tennessee in 1897 and baseball with the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1902. He was also the head football coach at Texas A&M and later recommended to Tennessee that they hire as head football coach one of his former players – Robert Neyland.
The fifth game was do or die for Washington. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis ruled the Manush could play and would not be fined, and some took this to mean the commissioner had disagreed with the ejection.
New York went ahead 3-0 after the top of the sixth inning, but Washington battled back in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game.
It remained that way until the top of the 10th, when none other than the great Louisianan Mel Ott hit a home run into the bleacher pavilion.
However, in this crazy Series, it was not going to end quite like that. Umpire Charles Pfirman first thought it was a ground-rule double because the Senator centerfield Fred Schulte dove among the spectators for the ball and had his glove on it before falling head-first over a small fence into the bleachers, with the ball careening out.
The Giants protested, and Pfirman later reversed his decision after consulting with the other umpires. They agreed that the ball went over the fence in the air.
The Senators were now the team disappointed, but it would not do any good, as they would lose to the underdog Giants.
That Ott hit would serve as a metaphor for subsequent decades. And for all the years the team would be in Washington, the Senators would not return to the World Series, although the franchise would play again in the World Series in 1965, 1987 and 1991 as the Minnesota Twins, winning the last two.
But the Giants – long since moved to San Francisco – are back this week to battle the Detroit Tigers.