On the last day, hope and desperation swirled through Washington like the October breeze that forced men to don double-breasted topcoats and tug down their fedoras under bright sun.
Past the Navy Yard, where 7,000 men in a double line four blocks long camped out at 10 p.m. a few days earlier to apply for 500 jobs as laborers. Pay started at 43 cents per hour when nearly a quarter of the country sat unemployed. Nearby, in the forgotten grit off South Capitol Street, where a celebration drenched in beer and shaving cream would rage almost 79 years later, sat Schindler Peanut Products and Isadore Kobler’s grocery and an undertaker’s office, interspersed with a lumberyard, coal yard and Standard Oil’s fuel plant.
Through the pages of the city’s six daily newspapers that preached recovery and spoke of the Great Depression in the past tense: “We’re doing our part Gathering momentum with each succeeding day America is going places again.” Advertisements for porterhouse steaks and ankle-length coats made of 48 seal pelts and 11-tube radios that snatched broadcasts from Europe reclined next to tales of work camps in the Midwest to house a million homeless and men drinking poison or shooting their families, then themselves after losing jobs.
“A new hope,” Rev. James E. Freeman, the bishop of Washington, wrote, “is evident in the hearts of the people.”
And across town, amid the scatter of Stadium Lunch and vacant storefronts and the Home Plate Filling Station, the hope and desperation swept up against James W. Craig. Off Georgia Avenue, a few steps from U Street to the south on land that would become Howard University Hospital decades later, the guardian of the gate for employees and players at Griffith Stadium had a mission.
Down three games to one to the New York Giants in the World Series, the Washington Senators were in a fix Oct. 7, 1933. That didn’t stop boys from donning white coats to try and sneak past Craig. No luck. A man showed up with two bottles of liniment he insisted Senators trainer Mike Martin sent for. Not true. Another hefted a wash basin, allegedly on order from the Senators’ clubhouse. Craig turned him away, too.
In the outfield stands, a U.S. Army band played “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” American flags fluttered from the second level of grandstands. But on the last day a Major League Baseball postseason game would be played in Washington for almost eight decades, only the temporary wedge-shaped bleachers in center field that held around 800 fans for $1.10 each were full.
Scalpers unloaded tickets bearing Senators owner Clark Griffith’s facsimile signature at a loss. Three bucks for a box seat, the price of two dinners in front of Maxim Lowe’s Famous Shoreham Orchestra at the tony Shoreham Hotel overlooking Rock Creek Park.
“This will go down in the annals of scalping,” one reporter wrote in the Washington Herald, “as one of the greatest tragedies ever to befall the gentle guild which earns its coffee and cakes buying low and selling high.”
Three hundred and fifty policemen eyed the crowd. Prohibition would end in December. Concern about the nation’s whiskey supply — 18 million gallons — loomed. Would there be enough? Three-point-two-percent beer, the only alcohol 26-year-old Senators manager and shortstop Joe Cronin drank, already was legal. Pabst Blue Ribbon insisted its brew “soothes jaded nerves, develops fresh energy and helps build a sound, healthy body.” But Griffith Stadium remained as dry as the afternoon. That was a good thing for home plate umpire Charley Moran.
After a close call at first base the night before, Moran ejected Senators outfielder Heinie Manush in the sixth inning of the Giants‘ eventual 11-inning win. The first ejection in World Series history enraged Manush and the crowd. Soda bottles showered the field. Manush had to be restrained from attacking Moran, compared to a battleship pursuing a tugboat. Manush succeeded in snapping the umpire’s black bow tie back against his throat.
From the stands, a “well-known gambler” shouted at Moran: “We’ll get you for that!”
And a woman of “unmistakable culture, breeding and fashion” sitting near President Franklin Delano Roosevelt added: “Oh, kill the umpire!”
So, a phalanx of grumbling officers protected Moran as the 28,454 fans (extra stands increased capacity to 35,743) waited for the Senators and President Roosevelt to emerge. Regarded as a good-luck charm after throwing out the first pitch in Game 3, the president told 100 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America visiting him in the White House’s Red Parlor the day before that he would attend Game 5. Then the president threw an arm around Babe Ruth, on hand along with Walter Johnson, and recalled when Ruth upstaged a campaign stop in Binghamton, N.Y., in 1920. No one knew which team the New York-born president supported, but the Senators figured they needed all the help they could muster.