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DALY: Washington, Boston: Tales of two cities

- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Boston Red Sox are in Washington on Tuesday to play the Nationals in the teams' final exhibition game. And if you've heard once, you've heard 100 times about Red Sox great Ted Williams taking over the Expansion Senators in 1969 and managing them to their only winning record (86-76) — indeed, the best record by a Washington ballclub since the 1945 war year.

But that's hardly the lone intersection between the two baseball towns. In fact, here are nine connections between the Red Sox and Washington's various teams — one for each inning, if you will — that have nothing to do with Ted Williams:

1. The last no-hitter thrown by one of the Original Senators (1901 through 1960) came against the Red Sox. Bobby Burke, a 150-pound lefty, tossed it Aug. 8, 1931 in a 5-0 win at Griffith Stadium.

2. Everybody talks about the Curse of the Bambino, the ill fate suffered by the Red Sox after they sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees. But nobody talks about the Jinx of Joe Cronin. In 1934, the year after the Senators' last World Series appearance, owner Clark Griffith peddled Cronin, his manager-shortstop, to the Sox for $225,000 (and a player no one remembers). Joe, of course, went on to the Hall of Fame. No Washington club, meanwhile, has been to the Series — or even the playoffs — in the 77 seasons since. Heck, that's almost as long as the Ruth curse (85). Granted, from 1972 to 2004 Washington didn't have a team, but maybe that's part of the jinx.

3. Moe Berg. Moe has become quasi famous in recent years for his work as an American spy during World War II. He's probably had more books written about him than any other .243 hitter in baseball history. Anyway, he spent three years as a catcher with the Senators (1932 through '34) and five more with the Red Sox (1935 through '39) — though he didn't, alas, play in the aforementioned '33 World Series.

4. The Red Sox had a fine pitcher named Dutch Leonard in the old days (1913 through '18). The Senators also had a fine pitcher named Dutch Leonard in the old days (1938 through '46). Boston's Dutch, a southpaw, posted an amazing 0.96 earned-run average in 1915, the modern record. Washington's Dutch, a right-hander, won 118 games for the Original Senators, which puts him behind only Walter Johnson (417).

5. Another red-letter day in Senators annals that came at the expense of the Red Sox: In an 11-4 victory at Fenway Park on May 1, 1944, Washington second baseman George Myatt went 6 for 6. In so doing, he set a franchise mark for hits in a game. (Myatt wasn't much for power — as evidenced by his four career homers — but he finished fifth in American League Most Valuable Player voting in 1945.)

6. It wasn't just Cronin. The Senators always were trading good players to the Red Sox — and getting little in return. In 1953, they sent outfielder Jackie Jensen to Boston for an ordinary pitcher (Mickey McDermott) and a less-than-ordinary outfielder (Tom Umphlett). All Jensen did with the Sox was win an MVP Award (1958) and lead the AL in runs batted in three times.

7. Five years later, the Senators dealt infielder Pete Runnels to Boston for outfielder Albie Pearson and nondescript first baseman Norm Zauchin. Pearson, the Freddie Patek of his era at 5-foot-5, was voted AL Rookie of the Year in 1958, but Runnels won two batting titles and played in three All-Star games in his five seasons in Beantown.

8. On Aug. 13, 1955, a Senators team that would end up in last place — is that a redundancy? — bludgeoned the BoSox 18-9 at Fenway behind Carlos Paula's four hits and four RBI. Only once in their last 42 seasons in Washington did the Senators — first edition or second edition — score more runs in a game.

9. The inimitable Jimmy Piersall patrolled the outfield for the Red Sox (1950, '52-58) and the Expansion Senators (1962-63). He's the guy whose adventures in bipolarity led to the book/movie "Fear Strikes Out." (In the film, Anthony Perkins, who played Norman Bates in "Psycho," was cast as Piersall.) Jimmy might be best known for running backwards around the bases when he hit his 100th major-league homer.

OK, I'm all tapped out in the Washington-Boston (non-Ted Williams) baseball connections department. There's only one thing left to do: play ball.

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