This article was written by Joseph Wancho
The Washington Senators were feeling plenty good about themselves. The reigning world champions had won 10 of their last 13 games as they rolled into St. Louis on July 11, 1925. The Senators were in the midst of their Western swing having split a four-game set with the White Sox in Chicago. As the Senators geared up for the four-game series against the Browns, they were 3½ games ahead of second-place Philadelphia. The Browns, despite winning six of their last seven games, were in fifth place, 13½ games off the pace.
The Senators had a strong outfit, starting with the pitching staff, led by Walter Johnson and Stan Coveleski. On this day, Dutch Ruether toed the slab for the visitors. Ruether, who sported a 9-3 record, was matched up with the Browns’ Joe Giard. The rookie southpaw, from Ware, Massachusetts, entered the game with a 1-2 record. His Achilles’ heel was the free pass. By the end of the season, despite a record of 10-5, his total walks (87) doubled his strikeouts (43).
Both teams could fill the box score with explosive offensive statistics. The Nats fielded one of the greatest infields of their era with Joe Judge at first base, Bucky Harris at second, Roger Peckinpaugh at short, and Ossie Bluege at the hot corner. Earl McNeely was the center fielder, and he was flanked by Goose Goslin in left field and Sam Rice in right. Muddy Ruel was the backstop. McNeely would end the season with the lowest batting average of the regulars, .286. As a team, Washington hit .304.
St. Louis countered with George Sisler at first base. Second baseman Marty McManus combined with Bobby LaMotte at short (Wally Gerber was nursing a sore leg) to form the keystone combo. Gene Robertson manned third base. Ken Williams, Baby Doll Jacobson, and Harry Rice made up the Browns’ outfield, left to right. Leo Dixon and Pinky Hargrave shared catching duties. Although Dixon was an outlier with an average of only .224, the Browns hit .298 as a team.
The Senators and Browns were both led by player-managers, not an uncommon occurrence then. Harris led the Senators, while Sisler was the Browns’ skipper. Both were in their second season leading their squads.
Right-handed-hitting Joe Harris, who started at first base against the lefty Giard, slashed a pitch to left field with one out in the top of the second inning. Williams misjudged the ball and Harris landed at third with a triple. He scored on a single by Bluege, and the visitors took the early 1-0 lead.
Ruether escaped unharmed in the bottom of the third inning. He surrendered two walks and made a throwing error to load the bases, but Jacobson struck out to end the threat.
Goslin added to the margin in the fourth with a solo shot to right field, his 11th home run of the season. In the bottom of the frame, Hargrave led off with a double. Two walks later the bases were loaded as Sisler came to the plate. There would be no goose eggs on the scoreboard this time as Sisler sent a triple to right-center. Three runs crossed the plate and the Browns led 3-2 after four innings.
The Senators unraveled in the fifth inning, as two errors and three walks contributed to a six-run inning for St. Louis. Ruether, whose throwing error allowed Jacobson to advance to third base, was ejected by home-plate umpire Harry Geisel. The other error was committed by shortstop Everett Scott, who replaced Peckinpaugh in the first inning after Peck was injured on a hot smash by LaMotte. The big blow in the inning was a grand slam by Sisler off reliever Allen Russell. The Browns blew the game open with a 9-2 advantage. All six runs were unearned.
“It’s the timing of the swing,” said Sisler. “Perfect timing is what enables a little man, even, to get long hits.”1 The seven RBIs were a career high for Sisler.
McManus ended the scoring for the Browns in the sixth inning when he hit a solo shot off reliever Spencer Pumpelly. It was Pumpelly’s only big-league game; he worked one inning. The Senators scored three runs in the eighth inning, but for the most part they were meaningless as the Browns cruised to a 10-5 victory.
Giard went the distance to even his record at 2-2. Ruether was tagged with the loss and dipped to 9-4. The Senators made four errors. Ruether issued seven free passes which, combined with two errors of his own doing, led to his downfall.
Washington went 7-7 on its Western jaunt. After sweeping three at Cleveland to end the trip, the Senators were in a virtual tie for first place with the Athletics, who had the edge in winning percentage. But the Senators ultimately prevailed and captured their second straight pennant, only to lose to Pittsburgh in the World Series.
The Browns made a gallant effort, posting a 50-33 record from July to October, but ended up in third place, 15 games back of Washington. As for Sisler, he ended the season batting .345 with 12 home runs and 105 RBIs. It was the ninth straight year that Gentleman George batted above .300, including two seasons in which he batted over .400 (.407 in 1920 and .420 in 1922).
In 1920 Sisler was within 12 hits of breaking Ty Cobb’s single-season record of 248, set in 1911. There were 11 games remaining in the season. Sportswriter F.C. Lane of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote the following poem in the September 22, 1920, edition of the paper:
Who is the present king of swat?
Who pounds the pill around the lot?
Who is it when he’s on the job,
Evokes the plaudits of the mob,
As in the palmy days of Cobb?
Who is the greatest guy on earth?
Who gives the fans their money’s worth?
Who is the bird who doesn’t pose,
As hero in the movie shows,
But busts the pellet on the nose?
George Sisler 2
Sisler accomplished that and more. He totaled 21 hits in the final 11 games to set a new record with 257. Indeed, George was doing a lot of pellet busting.
This article appears in “Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis: Home of the Browns and Cardinals at Grand and Dodier” (SABR, 2017), edited by Gregory H. Wolf. Click here to read more articles from this book online.
1 Rick Huhn, The Sizzler: George Sisler, Baseball’s Forgotten Great (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 2004), 201-202.
2 Huhn, 93-94.