Nationals Return To Glory PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 November 2010 14:25

With a thrilling 7-game World Series victory, the nation's capital is abuzz once again about their ball club. Baseball fans around the country, not just in the Northeast, were treated to an instant classic in this matchup, the Washington Nationals and the NL champ Brooklyn Dodgers.

After exchanging wins for the first 4 games, Brooklyn turned to late season call-up Ossie Judd. A 3rd round pick in the 1940 draft, Judd had only 6 games under his belt when he found himself on the mound in the decisive Game 5 of a tied World Series. Just like in his few starts in the regular season, though, Judd dominated, hurling a complete game, 2-hit shutout.

The series headed back to Washington with the Nat'ls trailing 3-2; they were to be facing Brooklyn ace Joe Gonzales (who was 5-0 in the post-season coming into the game, and only had allowed 2 earned runs in his 39 innings) and that their own ace, Lefty Gomez, had come up on the short end of this matchup twice already in the series. As might have been predicted, Smokey Joe Gonzales went right through the weak Nationals lineup, holding them hitless through 6, and giving up only a leadoff double to Frank McCormick in the last of his 7 innings. But when you're the 7th-ranked offense in the AL, you get used to scoring scrappy runs, or you don't score at all. That one hit was turned into a run with two subsequent sacrifices. Lefty Gomez shook off a sub-par playoff run by shining brightest when the pressure was highest, in a World Series elimination game. His 8 innings of scoreless ball allowed Washington's closer, Wayne LaMaster, to finish off the Game 6 gem, a 1-0 Washington victory.

“Game Seven,” the most exciting two words in sports, featured a red-hot Ad Liska (5-1 in the playoffs, despite of only going 17-15 in the regular season for the Nat'ls) against a struggling Tex Hughson (who would win only 1 of his 5 playoff starts). The Washington offense erupted for 5 runs in the 3rd inning (this represents more than a third of the runs they scored all series, by the way), and the score stood at 5-2 when Liska was lifted in the 7th. This left Brooklyn with a seemingly insurmountable 3-run deficit against the elite bullpen in the majors (2.88 regular season ERA), and only 2 innings to do it. But an error on Washington's young centerfielder, Wally Judnich, allowed the Dodgers to plate a run in the 8th, and when LaMaster surrendered a solo homerun in the 9th to Frank Reiber, that put Brooklyn's homerun leader, Danny Litwhiler, at the plate as the tying run with two outs. Never one to do things the easy way, LaMaster allowed Litwhiler to lay into one, but when it settled into 35-year-old rightfielder Randy Moore's glove, it was the Washington Nationals, not the Brooklyn Dodgers, who poured out onto the field to celebrate their World Series victory.

That these two teams with solid pitching but weak lineups would square off in the Series was rather unexpected. Washington had to first dispose of the powerhouse Cleveland Indians, a 98-win team, who not only scored the most runs in the majors (820) but also was second only to Washington runs allowed in the AL (600). Like Washington, Brooklyn ranked in the bottom 2 in their league in runs scored, and had to face a giant of their own: the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates won 93 games, and were 3rd in the majors leagues in runs scored, and 2nd in runs allowed. While both 90+ win teams had impressive resumes, they proved unable to overcome teams that could counter their strengths and muster timely hitting.

After almost a decade without a title, the National's 3rd straight division title, coupled with the World Series title this season, has even reserved fans giddy at the prospect of the return to a Washington National's dynasty. Not since their incredible run through the 1920's (10 straight WS appearances from 1919-1928, with 7 titles) has the area been so struck with baseball fever, optimism bolstered by the fact that almost all of their core players are already locked up for at least 3 more seasons.

This fact helps make owner/GM Dave Schwaller something of a local celebrity, rather the toast of the town. A fixture in the capital's high-society social circuit, Mr. Schwaller, in his trademark top hat and monocle, can regularly been seen in his private balconey at the opera or at various box socials and garden parties, where he is a enjoying the fruits of his success and the attention running a successful professional ball club brings.

Whether such dalliances will affect his focus on the long term success of the team remains to be seen. What is clear is that it has proven difficult to repeat in the modern MLB under any circumstances. The last six World Series' have, rather astoundingly, featured 11 different teams: A's, Cubs, Tigers, Pirates, Yankees, Reds, Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, and Nationals. The Pirates are the only team to make it back to the Series twice in that time, and are the only repeat champs, as well.

This provides hope for next season for fans of all the also-rans from this year; but for now, all the joy belongs to the city of Washington.