Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Damn Senators: My Grandfather and Washington's Only World Series Championship

Judge, Mark Gauvreau. Damn Senators: My Grandfather and Washington's Only World Series Championship. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003.

Very few people are still alive who would remember the Washington Senators (either the original franchise which became the Minnesota Twins in 1961, or the expansion club that moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972) as anything other than the doormats of the American League; their third and last appearance in the World Series was in 1933. But in 1924 they put it all together to win the championship from John McGraw’s vaunted New York Giants. This lovingly rendered account is both a history of the Senators’ rise and triumph and a biographical sketch of Washington first baseman Joe Judge, the author’s grandfather. Even by the standards of his time, Joe Judge was an atypical first sacker: a slightly built slap hitter who managed only 71 home runs in a twenty-year career. But he was a consistently good hitter, amassing a lifetime .298 batting average, and was a Senators regular for fifteen years. In 1924 he hit .324 in the regular season and .385 in the Series.

Mark Judge begins his story by tracing the early (and lackluster) history of professional baseball in Washington. Later chapters recount how the team began to take a turn for the better with the hiring of Clark Griffith as manager in 1912 and the flowering of Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson’s career. After the championship season of 1924 the Senators again went to the World Series in 1925, but lost to the Pirates. After 1933 the team deteriorated rapidly; in a final chapter titled “Twilight” Judge outlines this terminal slide and follows up with the rest of his grandfather’s life story. This history of a largely forgotten team is a great October read. The title’s ironic play on the well-known Broadway musical may have unintended resonance with today’s disaffected American voters.

Previewed by Jack Ray.  Click here to read the book

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