Washington Senators: The last game was a riot, a historic broadcast

RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., circa 1969. (Photo by Nate Fine/Getty Images)
RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., circa 1969. (Photo by Nate Fine/Getty Images) /
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Washington Senators: The Last Game Was a Riot

Williams ordered his bullpen pitchers to get the hell out of there—but forgot to tell them to take the safer route out of sight and under the stands to the clubhouse. The pitchers trotted out of the pen and down foul territory. “That’s when all hell broke loose,” wrote Tom Deveaux in The Washington Senators, 1901-1971. Menchine’s radio call tells the story of that fatal inning a little bit better.

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"A pinch hitter for the Yankees, for Jack Aker, Felipe Alou . . . Alou hitting .286 . . . with eight home runs, 21 doubles, six triples, and 69 runs batted in. The pitch to Felipe—a ground ball to short, Toby Harrah up with it, bobbles it, picks up, throws to first, in time to get Alou! Good recovery by Toby Harrah . . . and we are now two outs away from the conclusion of major league baseball in the nation’s capital. Hopefully, it won’t be too long . . . The fans have demonstrated their enthusiasm tonight. The batter is Bobby Murcer, who takes the pitch in for a strike . . . 14,460 showed up tonight . . . The one-strike pitch is outside, one and one . . . Murcer has flied to center, hit a two-run homer, his 25th of the year, then he grounded out to first to the pitcher covering, and walked . . . He swings and misses, strike two. One ball and two strikes on Bobby Murcer. He’ll be the second leading batter in the American League, trailing only the batting champ Tony Oliva of the Minnesota Twins. The one-two coming—is outside, it’s two and two. Bobby Murcer—batting for the New York Yankees with one out and nobody on in the ninth inning . . . the two-two from Grzenda—once back to Joe, he spears it, he throws to Tom McCraw at first, and there are two outs."

At which point, the crowd noise swelled, with loud groaning included, and the listener just knew all hell broke very loose.

"And some youngsters are coming out on the field. This will not be a complete game unless they get back. This will not be a complete game unless they get back. So we certainly hope that this ball game can be concluded. The players now are clearing the field . . . As pandemonium has broken loose . . . and the field is filled with many souvenir hunters . . . The Senators lead, seven to five, with two outs . . . Police are trying to restore order, but the crowd continues to mill all around the field . . . Some fans are scooping up dirt . . . more and more now are converging on the field . . . The Senators are one out away from victory . . . the Yankees have two outs in the top of the ninth inning . . . realistically, they’re a lot closer to defeat, because they’ll never get this ball game underway again . . . The bases are gone, there’s a patrolman standing on home plate, and another one on the mound, and they’re very rapidly becoming out-numbered . . . (more crowd noise) . . . A mass of bodies on the field . . . most of them just standing there, getting a glimpse of RFK Stadium, the site of major league baseball perhaps for the last time . . . it may well be that the Senators will be denied their final victory . . . Now fans are converging upon the scoreboard . . . And again, the souvenir hunters are trying to get anything from the stadium . . . They are succeeding . . . and reinforcements have been called, and hopefully the field will be cleared so we can get the final out in this historic ball game . . ."

Menchine’s broadcast partner Tony Roberts broke in, saying, “Realistically, Ron, it’ll take the National Guard to get ‘em out of here, because there won’t be much left of this scoreboard. It’s like an army of ants out there going through the jungle. They’re just chopping away at anything they can get their hands on!”

Then Menchine spoke again.

"It’s a shame they couldn’t have waited for one more out. But they didn’t. And now the job at hand . . . is to try and clear the field so this ball game can continue . . . The remainder of the fans, and I don’t believe anyone has left this ballpark tonight, are watching the activity on the field . . . but it is activity everyplace . . . The scoreboard has been completely decimated. Nothing remains . . . I hope (scoreboard operator) Norm Hammer does . . . I wonder what goes on in Normie’s mind out there right now . . . I believe (public address announcer) Bert Hawkins has just said that this game will be forfeited to New York . . . Well, it’s a strange way to lose a ball game. It’s a strange way to wind up major league baseball in the nation’s capital . . . but I guess it’s been a topsy-turvy season, no one believed that there would not be major league baseball in the nation’s capital. But it’s sad to report there no longer is."

Or would be, until a different round of baseball leadership shenanigans ended by moving the Montreal Expos to Washington to become the Nationals. That’s when the ball Joe Grzenda was unable to pitch to Horace Clarke finally got thrown from the mound to home plate—by President George W. Bush, to whom Grzenda handed the ball for a ceremonial first pitch in RFK Stadium on Opening Day 2004.

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The number of years it took for the Show to return to Washington turned out equal to the number on Frank Howard’s uniform when he cranked that final Senators home run. Thirty-three.