Ted Williams was becoming known as someone it might be better to walk than to let hit. He was enjoying a spectacular 1941 season, one that most dedicated fans know resulted in the last time a major-league player hit over .400 in a full season. After a doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics on August 31, he had a batting average of .407 – but that was down two points, since he’d gone only 1-for-4 in the twin bill. His on-base percentage had gone up, though, to .550, since he walked four times. In fact, he’d walked 17 times in his previous 32 plate appearances, and at least once in every game over the prior eight.
Williams drew two more bases on balls against Washington Senators pitching in each game of the September 1 doubleheader, and also went 3-for-5 at the plate – with every one of the three hits a home run. After both games, his batting average rose from .407 to .410.
The Red Sox, though in second place, were still nowhere near first place. As August ended, they were 19½ games behind the first-place New York Yankees. They were in a fight for second place, just a half-game ahead of the third-place White Sox and a game and a half ahead of the Cleveland Indians. They were hoping to pad their lead a bit in the doubleheader against the last-place Senators.
Bucky Harris’s Senators had come to Boston on a three-game losing streak. They were 32 games behind the Yankees. The Red Sox had lost six of their last 10. They needed to right the ship to maintain their hold on second place.
The Senators scored first. The first batter of the game, left fielder George Case, singled. He stole second and then advanced on an out made by center fielder Doc Cramer, in his first year with Washington after a five-season tenure with the Red Sox. Shortstop Buddy Lewis singled and Case scored.
Alex Carrasquel was Washington’s starting pitcher. A right-hander from Venezuela, Carrasquel was in his first season in the big leagues. He was 6-2 with a 3.28 ERA for the season.
With one out in the first, Red Sox right fielder Pete Fox tripled. Cronin, playing third base as well as managing, doubled. It was 1-1. Ted Williams walked but the next two batters made outs.
Harris faced three batters in the second inning, striking out two of them. The Red Sox added a pair of runs in their half of the inning. The catcher and shortstop (Johnny Peacock and Skeeter Newsome) both singled, and Harris himself drew a base on balls. Dom DiMaggio struck out, but Peacock scored on an out made by Fox. Cronin doubled and Newsome scored, but Harris was thrown out trying to advance to third base. 3-1, Red Sox.
The only baserunner for either side in the third inning was Williams, who walked again.
The Senators scored five times in the top of the fourth, taking a 6-3 lead. First baseman Mickey Vernon singled, followed by a double by third baseman George Archie. After an unproductive out, catcher Al Evans doubled, scoring Vernon.
Carrasquel walked, loading the bases. Doc Cramer doubled, clearing the bases, with an error by second baseman Bobby Doerr allowing the third run to score.
The Red Sox clawed back one run in the fourth on a one-out single by Newsome, a walk, a force out at second that sent Newsome to third, and a single by Fox.
But the Senators immediately matched Boston’s run with another of their own in the fifth. Cronin’s error allowed Archie to reach first. A single, a strikeout, and a walk loaded the bases. Case bunted for a single, scoring Archie.
Leading off the bottom of the fifth, Ted Williams homered. It wasn’t the hardest-hit ball; it went “floating into the grandstand just beyond the foul line.”1 The Boston Herald dubbed it a “wind-aided sock.”2 It was 7-5, Senators.
Washington added two more runs in the sixth, taking a 9-5 lead, on a one-out error, singles by Travis and Vernon, a force play on which Travis scored, and a run-scoring single by second baseman Jimmy Bloodworth.
Both Kennedy and Evans had questioned plate umpire Ernie Stewart’s calls during the two walks. After the umpire called a strike on Cronin, Kennedy “stood on the pitcher’s mound and salaamed five times in Stewart’s direction.”3 Stewart ejected Kennedy, and Bill Zuber took the mound. Zuber induced Cronin to pop up for the first out.
Ted Williams came to bat and hit what was “possibly the longest ball he ever hit. It went out of Fenway Park completely over the right-field roof. The roof is around 60 feet high at that point and 400 feet from home plate. No one had ever hit a ball over the right-field roof before, and only one person has ever done so since (Carl Yastrzemski); the only problem is that both Ted’s and Yaz’s balls hit out were both foul balls.”4 Taking another swing, Williams flied out to right field. Pytlak tagged and scored.
Though Williams’s drive was caught by Lewis in right field, the Boston Herald’s Burt Whitman wrote that it was “caught so deep that it would have been a sure homer in every other A.L. ball yard.”5 Jimmie Foxx flied to center for the third out. The score was now 9-6, the Senators with a still-healthy lead.
Nels Potter relieved for Boston. Neither side scored in the seventh, nor did the Senators in the top of the eighth.
The Red Sox then poured the runs across in the bottom of the eighth. Lou Finney pinch-hit for Potter and got on first base with a walk. DiMaggio whiffed, but Pete Fox hit a “vicious double”6 to center field. Cronin singled off the left-field wall, scoring both Finney and Fox. Washington’s lead was down to 9-8.
Williams faced Zuber for the second time. This time, he found his range. Williams homered on a 2-and-1 count, his second home run of the game, a two-run blast. He “drove in the tying and winning runs in the eighth frame, this wallop being a 420-foot drive in the bleacher … just above the Red Sox bullpen roof in right field.”7 It landed “in the sixth row of the center-field stands.”8 Boston had gone ahead, 10-9.
The inning wasn’t over yet. Jimmie Foxx singled. Doerr doubled. Bucky Harris beckoned in another reliever, Walt Masterson. He retired Peacock, but then walked Newsome, and Finney (batting for the second time in the inning) hit a three-run two-base hit to right-center field. Seven runs on seven hits and the score was 13-9 with Boston in the lead.
Jack Wilson pitched the ninth and retired each of the three Senators he faced.
With four RBIs apiece, Cronin and Williams led the pack, but pinch-hitter Finney had three. Potter got the win, Zuber the loss.9
The doubleheader drew a reported 22,577. With 22 runs scored, 32 base hits, and four pitchers used by each team, this first game lasted 2:47.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 Hy Hurwitz, “Ted Lifts Hit Mark to .401 Before 22,577 Sox Fans,” Boston Globe, September 2, 1941: 1, 4.
2 Burt Whitman, “Williams Wallops 3 Homers as Sox Win Two,” Boston Herald, September 2, 1941: 1, 14.
3 “8 Pitchers Fail to Halt Boston Bats,” Washington Post, September 2, 1941: 20. Whitman said that Kennedy got on his knees to salaam, did so three times “in devout Moslem manner[,]” and was pretty much automatically ejected. He added that there was “the suspicion that Kennedy wanted to get out of there, anyhow.” Whitman.
4 Bill Nowlin, 521 – The Story of Ted Williams’ Home Runs (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rounder Books, 2013), 61.
8 “8 Pitchers Fail to Halt Boston Bats.”
9 Zuber was the only pitcher who ever beaned Ted Williams. It happened in 1938, when Ted was playing for the Minneapolis Millers and Zuber pitching for Milwaukee. Williams was knocked unconscious and was in the hospital for two days. In the first five games after coming out of hospital, he hit three homers and drove in 12 runs. Zuber joined the Red Sox in 1946 and was 5-1. He was also, to the best of our knowledge, the only major-league pitcher born in a commune: the Community of True Inspiration (the Amana Colonies, in Iowa.) See Nowlin, 62.