The Washington Senators were a charter member of the American League when the league was formed in 1901. Performing dismally their first decade of existence, their fortunes changed when they hired Clark Griffith as their manager in 1912. In each of his first four years at the helm, Griffith guided Washington to winning seasons.
Despite their winning ways, the team didn’t draw well in DC, finishing in the bottom half of the league in home attendance every single year. In fact, from 1901 through 1917, Washington was last in attendance in eight seasons and next to last another five other times.
With the sustainability of a team in Washington in question, rumors started swirling that the team would move to another city. In the collection is this telegram dated June 5, 1917 sent by Ed Barrow to Toronto Maple Leafs owner Lawrence “Lol” Soloman.
The Maple Leafs were part of the International League, an organization Barrow repeatedly tried to make into a third Major League. Barrow owned and managed the Maple Leafs in the early 1900s; Soloman later served as team president. When the telegram was sent, Soloman still had big league dreams. Those dreams would never come to fruition.
The telegram reads, “Absolutely nothing in Washington story. President (Ban) Johnson has made denial in afternoon papers here today. American League will keep club in Washington, the capitol of the United States for sentimental reasons.”
The correspondence is more than a century old and provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the early stages of the game.