Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Picture Of The Day--1967 Washington Senators Bullpen

When baseball returned to Washington DC in 2005, The Bullpen of Our Washington Nationals was the heart and soul of the club. Time after time, our relievers kept Washington in most every game, stepping in and shutting down the opponent when the starters faltered or the offense could not produce many runs. The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street ROCKED most every time during those three fun years whenever Gary Majewski, Luis Ayala, Big Jon Rauch, Saul Rivera or "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" trotted out to the mound.

Saving The Day was their motto, A Washington Tradition that was also in fashion late in the 1960's at DC and then later renamed RFK Stadium. The Expansion Washington Senators as a team were not that good. Only the '69 Version managed by Rookie Hall of Fame Manager Ted Williams ever finished above .500. But those late Senators' Teams were competitive thanks to some pretty solid bullpen work as well.

The 1967 Washington Senators Bullpen was a trendsetter in The Nation's Capital.

In the above photo are former Washington Pitchers--Dave Baldwin, Darold Knowles, Casey Cox, Dick Lines & Bob Humphreys (left to right respectively). This quintet would combine to make 275 appearances that season--one of whom was on the mound at the finish for 121 of Washington's 161 games. In fact, a 5th pitcher, Bob Priddy, would close out an additional 13 games. Considering that The Senators' Starters combined to throw 23 complete games in '67, only three other relief pitchers finished any other single game for Washington that season--9 total (one game was postponed and not made up). By comparison, The Inaugural 2005 Version of Our Washington Nationals had just four complete games thrown while 15 different bullpen mates finished their 162 games.

When someone like "Teddy Ballgame" in 1969 handed you ball, you were expected to finish the game. Baldwin, Knowles, Cox, Lines and Humphreys all averaged over 1 inning per appearance. Humphrey over two innings per appearance. They were expected to get the hitters out. Whether you threw righty or lefty, or the hitter faced batted right or left--not a lot situational relieving back then--and very few Ray King's coming in to get that one lefty slugger out at the plate in a tight situation.

The game was different.

Four of these five Washington pitchers would play together through parts of four seasons.

Darold Knowles would become The Star of these five pitchers. A 1969 All-Star in the last Mid-Summer Classic to be held in Washington, DC--Knowles would have the dubious distinction of saving 27 games in 1970 for The Senators, sport a nifty 2.04 ERA and end his season with a ridiculously harsh 2-14 record. I've never forgotten that. But The Baseball Gods more than made it up to him when Washington traded this solid lefty in 1971 to the rising Oakland Athletics--where over the next three and one-half seasons, Darold would be the mainstay of The Three Time Defending Champion A's Bullpen--World Series Winners in '72, '73 & '74. The great teams of Reggie, Rudi, Blue, Bando and an unknown who became FAMOUS for his World Series Theatrics--Gene Tenace.

Dave Baldwin shared the closer duties with Knowles in 1967. While Darold recorded 14 saves, Dave had 12. Casey Cox would parlay his rubber arm to starting duties and three seasons as a solid starter for the mostly second division Nats (yes, they were also called the Nats back then too).

Bob Humphreys won a World Series Ring with 1964 St.Louis Cardinals and was the only pitcher in this group above 30 years old that '67 season (31). Bob would continue to be the Washington middle man for three more seasons in DC. And when his decent, but unspectacular Major League Career concluded, Humphreys became the very fine Head Coach and Manager for Virginia Tech in Blacksburg from 1974 to 1978--where he coached Franklin Stubbs--The NCAA Home Record Holder at that time.

And finally, there is Dick Lines. This lefty would pitch two seasons in Washington. The only two Big League Seasons of his career. And looking back now--it's hard to believe that he would never pitch another game in The Majors after 1967. Lines, a late bloomer, threw strikes, didn't walk many hitters and was as dependable of a middle reliever as you would ever see today. Yet, he had no future back then. In 2009, Dick Lines would probably have a Major League job pitching for another 10 years. In 1968--he was out of baseball.

Unbelievable in retrospect.

These five relievers were all good and they all played on the same team in The Nation's Capital.

An American League Team that never won any pennant or division title.

The 1967 Washington Senators Bullpen--The Picture Of The Day.


Anonymous said...

Side comment, what happened to natsfanatics.com?

Screech's Best Friend said...

Sadly, it appears to be gone.

Anonymous said...

Dick Lines is my father and I appreciate your kind words. I was born in 1968 and have no memories of him as a player, so it's nice to see someone still remembers how good he was.

Thanks again,

Rick Lines
Naples, FL

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kinds word about my father.

Rick Lines

Screech's Best Friend said...

Rick: You are welcome. I always look back on my childhood with The Washington Senators and their players fondly. Thanks for letting me know.