The last place and banged up Washington Senators managed to eke out a 5-4 win over the defending AL champion Philadelphia Athletics at the Senators home field, American League Park.
The Athletics, with Connie Mack in his third of 50 years on the job as manager of the team he owned, started Chief Bender on the mound. The Senators, managed by Tom Loftus, started Highball Wilson. Whether Wilson got this name because of his style of pitching or for a fondness for alcohol isn't known. Well, maybe it's known, I just didn't bother to find out. His real name was Howard. Bender, who was part Chippewa, was actually named Charles.
With regular first baseman Boileryard Clarke out with an injury, Loftus had to start pitcher Al Orth in his place. Orth batted third in this game. Orth was not a bad hitter, finishing with a .273 batting average in 14 seasons.
Wilson served up a steady of diet of offspeed pitches to Philadelphia and Wilson ran into a 3-0 deficit after four innings. Right fielder Socks Seybold had a big triple to score a couple of runs. Philadelphia got another run a throwing error where the ball ended up in the seats, although a spectator tried to throw it back on the field in the hopes that the umpire wouldn't notice. The umpire noticed.
Washington scored its first run in the fifth. Left fielder Kip Selbach singled and went to second on an error by Seybold. Center fielder Jimmy Ryan singled in Selbach.
In the sixth, Washington third baseman Bill Coughlin led off with a lineout to first, but second baseman Barry McCormick doubled. Catcher Malachi Kittridge walked. Wilson struck out, one of eight strikeouts for Bender on the game. Selbach followed with a triple after Seybold slipped while chasing his deep drive. Ryan then got a single when his line drive hit the umpire, James Hassett. There was only one umpire in this game and with a runner on base, Hassett was calling the action from the center of the field.
Washington tallied another run in the eighth. McCormick singled to get things started. Kittredge tried to sacrifice the runner over, but Philadelphia first baseman Harry Davis threw the ball into the outfield to put runners on second and third. McCormick scored one batter later on a fielder's choice when Davis threw late to the plate in an attempt to retire McCormick.
Philadelphia had a chance in the ninth. Seybold led off with a single. Left fielder Danny Hoffman lined a ball to McCormick at second that he couldn't handle, but he deflected it over to shortstop Rabbit Robinson for a force out. One out later, shortstop Monte Cross reached on an infield single. Catcher Ossee Schreckengost singled and Hoffman scored. That brought up Bender and Mack opted to let him hit and he grounded out to end the game.
On the same day of this game, AL president Ban Johnson and Cincinnati owner Gerry Herrmann were meeting behind closed doors, presumably to hammer out more of the details of the "peace accord" between the two leagues. The two leagues had agreed in January of 1903 to respect each other's contracts (and the reserve clause). One rule change the AL agreed to in 1903 was the foul strike rule. The NL made the first two foul balls strikes in 1901, but the AL didn't adopt the rule until 1903. The league batting average dropped from .275 to .255.
Philadelphia would not repeat its AL championship and finished in second place, 14 1/2 games behind Boston. Washington would finish in last place with a 43-94 record, 47 1/2 games out of first.
In 1904, the schedule would lengthen to 154 games. This would not be good news for the Senators. They turned in a 38-113 record in 1904 which included a 15-61 road record.
Sources: Washington Post, Baseball-reference.com, Retrosheet