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Yankees Awarded Forfeit in Senators Final Game

By Sal Maiorana

December 2023

***

Sal Maiorana, a friend of the site, will be sharing some of his thoughts on the Yankees here on SSTN.


For honest, unfiltered analysis on the New York Yankees, you can subscribe to Sal Maiorana's free Pinstripe People Newsletter at https://salmaiorana.beehiiv.com/subscribe.

***

Hello everyone.

I’m starting a new feature for the newsletter to take us through the Yankees offseason. 

As you can see, it’s called Pinstripe Past, and what I’ll do is have a story each Wednesday about either something I find interesting in Yankee history which could be a game, a performance, or an odd occurrence, and in other weeks it will be a player feature revolving around his birthday.


This first story is somehow something that I only just learned about, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it. Lets get to it.

***

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 30, 1971) - Given the long and tortured history of the Washington Senators, what happened on this day was probably about as appropriate an ending as one could have imagined for baseball in the nation’s capital.


Knowing that the Senators were moving to Arlington, Texas for the 1972 season and becoming the Texas Rangers - the second time in 12 years that Washington was losing its team - many in the crowd of 14,460 who showed up for the season finale against the Yankees decided to let their actions speak for how they felt about the situation.


With two outs in the top of the ninth inning and the Senators leading the Yankees 7-5, hundreds of fans poured onto the field as Washington reliever Joe Grzenda was about to pitch to New York’s Horace Clarke.


And make no mistake, this was an angry mob protesting owner Bob Short’s decision to sell his team to Tom Vandergriff, the mayor of Arlington who had been trying to procure a major league franchise for the Dallas-Fort Worth area for at least a decade. 


The first signs of trouble occurred in the eighth inning with the score tied at 5-5 when several fans sprinted onto the field throwing confetti in the air and the game was delayed five minutes as security guards cleared them away. When order was restored, the Senators took the lead by scoring twice off Yankees reliever Jack Aker as Yankees third baseman Ron Hansen and shortstop Frank Baker committed the last of New York’s five errors in the game.


That set the stage for an RBI single from Tommy McCray and a sacrifice fly by Elliott Maddox and it seemed like the Senators would close out 71 years of a mostly futile existence with a victory. But then in the ninth, after Grzenda retired Felipe Alou and Bobby Murcer, the fans couldn’t wait for the third and final out to be recorded.


Here’s how esteemed Washington Post sports columnist Shirley Povich described the scene for the next morning’s edition, focusing on one fan who stole first base. “He grabbed first base and ran off with it. Some unbelievers, undaunted by the warning of forfeit, cheered, and from out of the stands poured hundreds, maybe a couple of thousand fans. They took over the infield, the outfield, grabbed off every base as a souvenir, tried to get the numbers and lights from the scoreboard or anything else removable, and by their numbers left police and the four umpires helpless to intervene.”


The umpire crew chief was Jim Honochick, a 24-year veteran who after his retirement in the mid-1970s appeared in one of the popular Lite Beer from Miller commercials along with Orioles slugger Boog Powell. If you recall that ad, Honochick played an umpire who couldn’t see without his glasses, of course a joke every umpire puts up with. He’s going through the whole spiel next to Powell, and at the end he dons his glasses and only then realizes who is next to him. “Hey, you’re Boog Powell!”


Honochick didn’t need glasses to see what was happening at RFK Stadium. It was mayhem, and after surveying the scene for several minutes, he decided there was no way the game could be completed. 

"I just remember those crazed fans running onto the field, and we ran like crazy. First it was a few, then it was thousands pouring out. Nobody warned us this might happen.” Bobby Murcer

And with that, the Senators’ 7-5 victory became a 9-0 forfeit loss, the first forfeit in an MLB game since July 18, 1954 when the umpires awarded the second game of a doubleheader in St. Louis to the Phillies. Oh, and there was a story about that forfeit, too.


That day, a storm blew through St. Louis’ Busch Stadium and caused a delay in the first game which pushed back the start of the nightcap to beyond 6 p.m. There was a stupid National League rule at that time that decreed if the second game of a doubleheader started after 6 p.m. the lights could not be turned on. 


What? I mean, I have no words to even explain why that would be a rule, but because of it, there was almost no way the nightcap would make it through nine innings. With the Cardinals trailing 8-1 in the fifth inning, a brawl broke out which included the managers of both teams - Eddie Stanky of the Cardinals and Terry Moore of the Phillies - squaring off. 


After an eight-minute delay, the game resumed, but here, with darkness approaching, Stanky tried to make sure the fifth inning would not be completed and thus make the game official. He made three unnecessary pitching changes and the umpires finally called him on it and forfeited the game to Philadelphia. Imagine that happening today!


Anyway, back to Washington. The highlight on the field for the Senators came in the sixth inning when they were trailing 5-1 but scored four times with slugger Frank Howard starting the rally with a solo homer off Yankees starter Mike Kekich. 


The original Senators franchise, which began play in 1901 and won the 1924 World Series, moved to Minnesota in 1961, but Major League Baseball awarded an expansion team to Washington as a replacement. Not surprisingly, the team lost at least 100 games in each of its first four seasons, but slight improvement came in 1965, the year Howard - who just passed away last month at the age of 87 - was acquired in a trade from the Dodgers.


Howard became the most beloved player of the new Senators’ 11-year existence as he played seven seasons in Washington and hit 237 of his 382 career home runs while also compiling an OPS of .882. His 44 homers in 1968, the famed Year of the Pitcher, led all of MLB and were eight more than the runners-up (Willie McCovey and Willie Horton); his 48 in 1969 trailed only Harmon Killebrew’s 49; and Howard’s 44 homers and 126 RBI in 1970 led the league.


After his home run off Kekich - his 26th and last in Washington which he was forever convinced was a purposely grooved pitch because he saw catcher Thurman Munson looking into the dugout asking what to do - Howard was given a standing ovation and he came out of the dugout for a curtain call, blowing kisses and doffing his cap to the fans.


After the game, Howard was predictably emotional. “What can a guy do to top this?” he said of that home run, this from someone who had hit a home run off Whitey Ford in Game 4 of the 1963 World Series to help the Dodgers complete a four-game sweep. “A guy like me has maybe five big thrills in his lifetime. Well, this was my biggest tonight. I’ll take it to the grave with me. This was Utopia. I can’t do anything else like it. It’s all downhill the rest of the way.”


The loss was the Senators’ 96th of the season and left them in fifth-place in the six-team AL East, 16 games behind the fourth-place Yankees who finished 82-80. In their second iteration in Washington, the Senators managed one winning season, that in 1969 when Red Sox legend Ted Williams became manager. Beyond that, their second-best record came in 1967 when they were 11-games below .500.


“This isn’t exactly a pleasure,” Howard said when he was asked about the team leaving Washington. “I’ve been playing for the Senators for seven years, and I think of this city as my home, no matter how bad we were. But nobody’s going to buy a (bad) product and that’s what we’ve been.”


The team moved to Texas in 1972 - Howard hit the first home run for the Rangers - but the losing did not stop. The Rangers did not make it to the postseason until 1996, and they did so again in 1998 and 1999, and in all three of those years they lost in the divisional round to the eventual World Series champion Yankees.


The Rangers didn’t win their first postseason series until 2010, the same year they made their first World Series which they lost to the Giants. They lost the 2011 Series to the Cardinals, too, but the World Series trophy finally made it to Arlington last month when the Rangers defeated the Diamondbacks, ending 61 years of frustration dating back to the days in Washington.

5 comentários


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
15 de dez. de 2023

Forfeits always seem to have interesting stories connected with them -- Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey, 10-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland.

Curtir

Mike Whiteman
15 de dez. de 2023

Great article!

Curtir

yankeerudy
14 de dez. de 2023

So Howard homered in a game his team lost, 9-0. That's baseball, Suzyn.

Curtir

yankeesblog
14 de dez. de 2023

I remember it well

Curtir

ldegraphics
14 de dez. de 2023

Heard that game on the radio. Had no idea a forfeit was 9-0....lol

Curtir
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