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Kansas Memory Blog

The 1924 World Series

Posted by Megan Rohleder on Nov 9, 2020

By: Ethan Anderson, Government Records Archivist

With the Los Angeles Dodgers’ recent World Series victory bringing an end to Major League Baseball’s shortest season since 1878, we decided to highlight a memorable but often forgotten game in baseball history: Game 7 of the 1924 World Series.[1] Arguably the most dramatic Game 7, and still the longest ever played, the game featured the greatest Kansas-born pitcher of all time, the Washington Senators’ Walter Johnson, as well as one of the most underrated Kansas pitchers of all time, the New York Giants’ Virgil Barnes. 

Walter Perry Johnson grew up on a small farm near Humboldt, Kansas, before beginning his baseball career. By 1924, the 36-year-old “Big Train” was one of the game’s most dominant pitchers, combining exceptional control with blinding speed. Legendary Detroit Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb described Johnson as having “the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park...the [ball] just hissed with danger.”[2] Virgil Jennings Barnes, by comparison, hailed from the even smaller town of Circleville. A World War I veteran, “Zeke” had spent only a few years in the majors before winning a World Series with the Giants in 1922.[3] By the 1924 season, his great curveball had earned him a spot in the team’s starting rotation.


The New York Giants and Washington Senators were two evenly matched teams and the 1924 World Series fittingly began with both sides alternating wins through six contests. Though Johnson pitched well in Game 1, he and Barnes each remained winless in their three combined series starts. Barnes was the starter again for Game 7 and “furnished the most brilliant bit of pitching seen in the series,” reported one sportswriter. He retired 18 of the first 19 batters he faced and was only relieved in the 8th inning after a Washington ground ball took a wild bounce to tie the game 3-3. Much to the delight of the crowd, the Senators turned to Johnson in the 9th inning. He responded by pitching four straight scoreless innings. In the 12th, another fluke ground ball, eerily similar to the one in the 8th inning, decided the game. Legendary sports columnist Shirley Povich wrote, “Whatever [Senator’s outfielder Earl] McNeely’s ground ball hit, a pebble or a divot or a minefield, it took a freak high hop over [Giant’s third baseman Fred] Lindstrom’s head into the outfield for a single and Ruel flew home from second with the run that won everything for the Senators.” It was the organization’s, and Johnson’s, first World Series victory. Following the loss, Giants’ pitcher Jack Bentley consoled his teammates by saying, “Don’t feel too bad, fellows. The good Lord just couldn’t let Walter lose again.”[4] 


Johnson returned to the World Series the following year, but the Senators fell in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He retired in 1927 and became a manager of the Senators and later the Cleveland Indians. Over his phenomenal 21-year career, Johnson pitched 531 complete games (fourth all time), recorded 417 wins (second only to Cy Young), 12 20-win seasons, and finished with a career earned run average of 2.17. His record of 3,509 strikeouts lasted for 56 years, while his mark of 110 career shutouts still stands. In 1936, he was one of the original inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame, along with Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson.[5] 

Barnes retired in 1929. He returned to Kansas but struggled in post-baseball life. During the Great Depression, he worked for the Works Progress Administration, painting murals in Holton schools and in the Jackson County Courthouse. In 2012, a 3-mile section of Highway 79 was designated the Barnes Brothers Memorial Highway in honor of Virgil and his brother Jesse, who was also a major league pitcher. Both brothers have been inducted into the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, but Virgil has yet to be inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.[6]

[1] Ronald Blum, “MLB Plans 60-Game Slate, Shortest Since 1878, as Union Balks,” The Associated Press, June 22, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/2ecafcbdbc65ccea618f411afee22ad3 (accessed September 30, 2020).

[2] J. Conrad Guest, “Ty Cobb Talks about the Greatest Pitcher He Ever Faced,” Vintage Detroit, January 2, 2013, https://www.vintagedetroit.com/blog/2013/01/02/ty-cobb-talks-about-the-greatest-pitcher-he-ever-faced/ (accessed June 2, 2020).

[3] During WWI, Barnes served in the 137th Infantry Regiment, 35th Division as a bugler and a runner, the latter role of which was recently portrayed in the film 1917.  For more on Barnes’s service in WWI, see 226471 and 226473.

[4] In 1960, the Senators were relocated to Minneapolis and became the Minnesota Twins; Shirley Povich, “1924: When Senators Were Kings,” Washington Post, October 22, 1994, H1; Arthur Daley, “Walter Johnson Still in Class by Himself,” Iola Register, May 13, 1957, 6.

[5] “Walter Johnson,” National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/johnson-walter (accessed June 2, 2020); Charles Carey, “Walter Johnson,” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/0e5ca45c (accessed June 2, 2020).

[6] “One-Time Big League Star Devotes Time to Farming and Painting Now,” Hutchinson News, June 5, 1936, 2; Janice Johnson, “Virgil Barnes,” Society for American Baseball Research, https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/3492f328#_ednref25 (accessed June 8, 2020); Jan Biles, “Barnes Bros. To Be Honored,” Topeka Capital-Journal, May 12, 2013, 2A; Jesse Barnes was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame in 1941. Virgil wasn’t inducted into the latter until 2010, 69 years after his brother. “Jesse Barnes,” Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, https://www.kshof.org/inductees/inductees-a-z/2-kansas-sports-hall-of-fame/inductees/76-barnes-jesse.html (accessed June 8, 2020); “Inductees Bios,” Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame, http://www.wichitahof.com/kansas-baseball-hof-bios.html (accessed June 11, 2010).


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