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Film of the Washington Senators Winning the 1924 World Series Found!

Like any right-minded individual, I rejoiced in the return of baseball to the Nation’s Capital in 2005 and have certainly reveled in the Washington Nationals’ fabulous 2014 season. Exciting as it has been (the post All-Star Game surge, Jordan Zimmermann’s no-hitter on the last day of the season, the eager anticipation of post-season glory), I never imagined that a perfectly timed film find–the only footage yet discovered of the Washington Senators’ 1924 World Series victory–would be the icing on an already delicious cake.

It started with Lynanne Schweighofer, a Moving Image Preservation Specialist at the Packard Campus. Lynanne’s mother had been named executor of the estate left by an elderly neighbor who passed away last year in a suburb of Worcester, Massachusetts. While preparing the neighbor’s house for sale, Lynanne’s father found eight cans of film in the rafters of the detached and not climate-controlled garage, a space we archivists would not normally recommend for long term storage of motion picture film…especially since these reels were labeled as nitrate film stock.

Can containing nitrate film. Courtesy of Lynanne Schweighofer.

Now, nitrate film is flammable, creates its own oxygen when it burns, and we have 124 individual vaults at the Packard Campus, each at 39° F / 30% RH, to store the nearly 140 million feet of nitrate we have in our collection. Once it starts to deteriorate, the degradation proceeds rather rapidly and given the temperature fluctuations to which these reels had been subjected for years, we weren’t optimistic about their condition.

So, we contacted Liz Coffey at the Harvard Film Archive, who retrieved the reels on our behalf. She confirmed the film as nitrate and arranged with a certified hazmat shipper at the HFA to send the batch to Culpeper. They were in astonishingly good shape; only a couple evidenced any sign of slight mold or mildew. Many of the reels were printed on Bay State nitrate stock. Bay State was a Kodak competitor back in the day and its nitrate film has proven notoriously unstable, but miraculously not in this instance. The oldest film was from 1919 and the newest from 1926. The house had been sold a couple of times over the years; we expect the first owners placed the film in the garage, although we have no idea why. It seems very likely no one knew they existed until their discovery a few months ago.

Lynanne performed an initial bench inspection and immediately noted that one was a “Kinograms” newsreel featuring a prominent story on Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, won by the Washington Senators in a thrilling extra innings victory over the New York Giants. We baseball geeks (or, rather, historians) know the game for the heroic efforts of Senators ace Walter “Big Train” Johnson, who pitched the last four innings on short rest. It’s the only time a DC baseball team has won the World Series…at least until this year, we hope. I’ve seen pictures of the game but never any film footage, and to watch Muddy Ruel lumbering home with the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning was, well, almost like being there. Ninety years on, you can feel the electric joy of the crowd surging on to the Griffith Stadium field.

That’s baseball.

We hustled the reel up to the film lab where it was prepped and cleaned for Datacine Operator Pat Kennedy to make the digital transfer; we’re photochemically preserving it on safety film stock as well. After the Senators story was excerpted and speed-corrected, I sent it to pianist/Nats fan Andrew Simpson for musical scoring. Perhaps more footage will eventually turn up, but for now we’re thrilled to present the 1924 World Series champion Washington Senators in hopes that what’s past truly is prologue.

LET’S GO NATS!

[Kinograms: Senators Win World Series] (Educational Pictures, 1924)

If you want to download this video, right-click here and Save As.

37 Comments

  1. Sharon M.
    October 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Well, I hope the Orioles win the Battle of the Beltways World Series coming up soon, but what a glorious find for baseball fans everywhere!! Great footage, and wonderful music!

  2. Woody Smith
    October 2, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    What a glorious and truly weirdly timely find! Let’s hope that 90 years proves to be as long as we in D.C. need to wait to see such an event in color.

    Really, for this lifelong Nats fan now in his rather alarmingly advanced years, who has been deeply steeped all his life in Nats lore, this is a real treat.

  3. Adriel
    October 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    The Giants will be looking to avenge this loss.

  4. John Boteler
    October 2, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for all your efforts. This is quite a find.

  5. J. B. Hogan
    October 2, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    This is absolutely wonderful. Thank you LoC for this baseball treasure. I don’t remember ever seeing Walter Johnson actually pitching in a real game before. Also, the one player slides head first into first base – I thought that was a contemporary technique. Also saw a great hook slide into third base. Great stuff. Thank you.

  6. Michelle Rago
    October 2, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    The batboy running after Harris (1:33 – 1:39) to congratulate him is the best! That is some Natitude! Thanks for the post.

  7. Alyson Judge Frederick
    October 2, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Wonderful! My Grandfather, Joe Judge, played First Base for the 1924 Senators. He is the first, left handed batter up for the Senators on the film. We have still photos of that hit and run. Such a treat to be able to watch it on film. Thank you, LoC! GO, NATS!

  8. Dave
    October 2, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Wow! I was expecting (and would have been excited to see) a few scratchy, overexposed frames (maybe out-of-focus), and instead I’m treated to miraculously sharp, beautifully photographed professional footage. And over 4 minutes in length, to boot! My Giants won last night and are heading to Washington. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. An extraordinary find. Thanks for letting everyone have access to it.

  9. Koichi Narabayashi
    October 3, 2014 at 3:18 am

    This news is showing the analog media’s long-term information keeping capability.

  10. Steven Haff
    October 3, 2014 at 8:06 am

    Wow! Wonderful footage to see. I wasn’t expecting the images to have such a fine quality. It’s so apropos to the upcoming battle of the Nationals and Giants. I wanted to compliment the original piano score also, though wondered if the styling of his composition was created with some background information about these kind of musical accompaniments or was it entirely his own approach.

  11. Steven Haff
    October 3, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Wouldn’t Ken Burns have loved to have access to this great footage for his memorable documentary “Baseball”.

  12. Mike Mashon
    October 3, 2014 at 8:45 am

    Thanks, Alyson! We’re especially happy when people spot their relatives in films we’ve preserved.

  13. Russ Suniewick, President Colorlab Corp.
    October 3, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Mike, Liz, Lynanne, Andrew, and Pat…GOOD ON YOUS!
    Coming upon the photograph of the can of nitrate while reading this blog, the incredible life giving aroma of nitrous oxide wafted up from my iPad. Having experienced similar discoveries many times, I can say other than childbirth, there is nothing quite so exciting. Thank god in 1924 there were no cameras called green(sp) and no drives called hard!
    Let’s all think really hard about this…why are we even considering preserving moving images on anything other than film?

  14. gene99
    October 3, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Mike –

    That was fantastic!

    What struck me the most is how similar the game looked 90 years ago.

    A real treat.

    Thanks again.

  15. Pat Carson
    October 3, 2014 at 9:49 am

    I can’t believe this – what a great piece of Washington baseball history to view on another great day for the game in D. C. Let’s hope there are more lucky finds in attics! Thanks to all at the LOC who made this possible.

  16. Saintez
    October 3, 2014 at 11:29 am

    How fantastic was the footage and music?!? This reminded me of my grandfather who pitched in that era. I LOVED the headfirst dive into first! Some whipersnapers don’t change, regardless when they play the game! Thanks for sharing!!

  17. Gerry
    October 3, 2014 at 11:48 am

    First, thanks, that was great. Did anybody else notice that on the play where Washington supposedly tie the score, there was an out recorded at first? The pitcher and the first baseman started walking off the field. That suggests that the out recorded was the third out of the inning and so the run wouldn’t count. I assume it was just film of another play and the caption is misleading.

  18. Edward Carney
    October 3, 2014 at 11:53 am

    In the segment where the score gets tied at 3, the batter is out at first. The Giants begin to leave the field as if after a third out. The current rule says that the run is not scored, because of the third out, whether that out occurs on the batter alone or as the result of a force-out double play (say 6-4-3). I find the film difficult to interpret. Any ideas?

    Thanks,
    E

  19. Kevin
    October 3, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Gerry, Edward — I think the caption is misleading. That’s the last out of the Senators’ 9th inning, where there were runners at 1st and 3rd and Ralph Miller grounded into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the frame. The score had been tied at 3 in the 8th.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/WS1/WS1192410100.shtml

  20. michael
    October 3, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    no helmets

  21. Milan Hughston
    October 3, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Mike: as the grandson of longtime Washington Senator Clyde Milan I watched this with great emotion; my grandfather had a long career with the Senators, was player/manager in 1922 [alas no World Series that year…] then coached in their farm teams before returning to coach for the Senators…and died in his uniform at spring training in 1953.

    My grandmother introduced Walter to his wife Hazel, and they remained lifelong friends….I have a vague recollection that my grandfather was there that day [likely since the New Haven season had ended by then], so gave me chills to think he saw that great moment….am looking at that great photo of Clyde and Walter which hangs in my office at MoMA now…

  22. Charles M.
    October 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Thank you LOC for publishing this. Excellent timing.

  23. John in Missouri
    October 3, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    90 years later and these idiots are STILL diving headfirst into 1st Base. Whatever happened to good coaching?

  24. JPG
    October 3, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I don’t care how ya vote — this is great stuff! Thanks to all who had a hand in saving this. Nats, Baby!

  25. Dwight Thoren
    October 4, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Wow, wow and WOW! Been hoping for such film for 3 decades. My grandfather “By” (Byron) Speece pitched along side of the Big Train, getting some relief outs in game 4 in this series. What a glorious moment for so many on that day.

  26. Dwight Thoren
    October 4, 2014 at 10:30 am

    A couple of notes to add: The clip following the announcement that Mogridge was pitching for the Nats, is followed by what appears to be the Giants starting pitcher again, in my view, based on color of uniform and his motion. And if more film is available to view, I’d truly be grateful to see facial closeups of the players on that day..such as the awesome clip of President Coolidge and those seated around him. Fabulous images that make me wish I were there.

  27. Stephen Maiman
    October 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

    Really great footage of a different world. I thoroughly enjoyed!!!

  28. Paul smith
    October 4, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    Only men wearing dark suits attended the game.

  29. Bill
    October 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Pitchers mound much lower the way it should be again! Great find

  30. Clark
    October 4, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    There were quite a few Hall-of-Famers on the field that day. I’m reasonably certain Goose Goslin is the Senator knocking an extra-base hit at about 45 seconds into the reel. And without a doubt, Frankie Frisch smashes the triple for the Giants. When you see him run the bases, little wonder he was nicknamed the “Fordham Flash.”

  31. Sheila
    October 5, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Thank you very much!

  32. Don Shook Jr.
    October 5, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I have no indication that my father, born in Washington, D.C. in 1906, was at the 1924 World Series game at Griffith Stadium. However, as a youngster, my Dad’s newspaper route included Walter Johnson’s house. Among my Dad’s fondest memories was that of him ‘collecting’ for the paper (remember those days?) and Walter Johnson himself would answer the door. My Dad remembers “this huge hand’ coming down with the money to give to Dad. In the 1950s, my Dad took me to a game at Griffith Stadium, where he continued his love of baseball and the Senators. Thanks LOC!

  33. CF
    October 5, 2014 at 10:11 am

    a different day for certain – male fans all wearing coats and ties and top hats . Photographers on the field , no numbers or names on the jerseys . ALSO – no batting helmets for any of the players , I believe this was not even mandatory until sometime in the 1940s . Very interesting history !

  34. tsw
    October 5, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Here’s hoping this remains Washington’s only World Series victory for as long as Bryce Harper is playing.

  35. Brian
    October 10, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Cool, love the old baseball games. Ban Johnson pitching, wow.

  36. Alan G
    November 19, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    So cool to find this film!! DC baseball fans
    have had such disappointment by having losing
    teams and owners that jilted the town twice, that
    Footage like this makes us all Proud of this great
    DC baseball moment; that shows there indeed have been great baseball history in DC!!

  37. Zita Carno
    December 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    I believe Walter Johnson was using the crossfire. If you look very closely at his windup and delivery you will notice that he was not pitching directly to the plate but was taking a stepthird base and whipping around to fire into the plate from that angle. That move, which has been around for at least two decades before Ewell Blackwell popularized it, is called a crossfire, and is a beautiful and lethal move that works only with the sidearm delivery. Since then a lot of sidearm pitchers have picked up on it—I was one; in my playing days, total 24 years, I was an exasperating sidearmer who used the crossfire move extensively and gave the batters no end of conniption fits (like the guy who popped up to end the game). Yep, the Big Train was more than just extremely fast, he was also extremely clever, to come up with this move.

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