Baseball History: Senators Final Game

Joe Grzenda 1971 001The Washington Senators were about to leave town and never return.

The Senators would be heading west before the end of 1971 to become the Texas Rangers and the fans in Washington weren’t happy about the move.

Washington’s final game in Robert F. Kennedy Stadium was far from a memorable event for the action on the field during the contest on Sept. 30.

At the going away party, Washington fans went from cheering their favorite son to destroying their surroundings.

As a result of the destruction, the Senators went from victory to defeat without a pitch being thrown.

The New York Yankees had built a 4-0 advantage after the top of the second inning with home runs by Rusty Torres and Bobby Murcer. The Senators got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the frame with an unearned run.

In the fifth, Roy White put the Yankees on top 5-1 when he hit a solo homer off Washington starter Dick Bosman.

The hometown crowd was finally had something to cheer about in the sixth as fan favorite Frank Howard blasted a home run off New York starter Mike Kekich to make it 5-2. The Senators went on to tie the affair at 5-5 before the inning was over.

Washington took the lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth off New York’s Jack Aker on a RBI single by Tom McCraw and a sacrifice fly by Elliot Maddox.

Washington pitcher Joe Grzenda then got the opportunity to record a save from Senators manager Ted Williams in the top of the ninth. He induced Felipe Alou and Murcer to ground out to begin the inning.

With Grzenda needing just one more out to end the game, the fans left the stands and basically took over the field. New York’s Horace Clarke was due up next. He never saw pitch.

The fans ransacked the stadium in response to Washington owner Bob Short’s impending move of the franchise. The umpires eventually declared the contest a forfeit and awarded the Yankees the victory.

Just two days before Washington’s forfeit to the Yankees, Grzenda earned the win in the final victory in the 11-year history of the Senators. Washington beat New York 4-2 and Grzenda worked the final three innings. He finished 1971 with a 5-2 mark and a 1.92 ERA.

Grzenda had a career record of 14-13 during parts of eight seasons in the majors. The left-hander was with Detroit in 1961 and the Kansas City A’s in 1964 and 1966. He was with the New York Mets in 1967. Two years later he played with the Minnesota Twins and pitched in the American League Championship Series.

In 1970, Grzenda was sent to Washington. After playing the 1971 season with the Senators, he ended his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972.

Frank Thomas 1967 001The Capital Punisher

Howard was nicknamed the “Capital Punisher” and he won AL home run titles in 1968 and 1970 with 44 long balls. He had his career high of 48 homers in 1969.

After Howard hit his 237th and final homer for the Senators during the last contest in RFK, he was recognized by cheering fans for several minutes. His quote about the moment used in the 1972 edition of the Sporting News Baseball Guide stated, “It was the biggest thrill I ever had.”

Before joining the Senators in 1965, Howard was the National League Rookie of the year in 1960 with the Los Angeles Dodgers and was a member of their World Series championship team in 1963.

Overall in his 16-year career, the four-time all-star hit 382 homers with 1,119 RBI and a .273 batting average.