Before a sellout crowd of 45,113, including President Richard Nixon, at RFK Stadium, the New York Yankees defeated the Washington Senators 4-1 as Yankee starter Mel Stottlemyre spun a six-hitter while driving in three runs with a sixth inning double. The loss spoiled the debut of Ted Williams, the Splendid Splinter, as Washington’s manager.
Stottlemyre’s double chased Senator starter Camilo Pascual who had matched Stottlemyre over of the initial five frames. But with two outs in the inning, Pascual lost command of his pitches, and issued three consecutive free passes to load the bases. With the opposing pitcher stepping up to the plate, Williams believed the 35 year old veteran would regain his composure. However, Pascual left too much of the plate on a fastball with the count full, and Stottlemyre sliced the pitch into the gap in right center field. Bob Humphreys relieved Pascual, and Horace Clarke greeted him with a ringing single up the middle to plate Stottlemyre for the fourth Yankee run.
Williams’ troops managed minor threats in the bottom of the sixth and seventh. A pair of singles and a walk loaded the bases for Ken McMullen with two outs in the sixth. But Stottlemyre dispatched McMullen with a weak grounder to Bobby Murcer at third for a force out. In the seventh, Washington moved two runners in scoring position with two outs, but Del Unser was unable to cash in the opportunity. Unser grounded a 2-0 Stottlemyre fastball to Pepitone at first who beat Unser to the bag for the final out.
WIth a victory unlikely, the crowd, including Nixon, lingered to see Frank Howard’s final at-bat in the eighth inning. Howard found Stottlemyre’s second pitch to his liking, and hammered the pitch over the center field fence, 410 feet away. The crowd roared as Howard circled the bases. The President turned to one of the young boys sitting next to him and exclaimed, “Aren’t you glad we stayed?” Stottlemyre made quick work of the final Senator batters en route to the 4-1 victory. After the game, Stottlemyre was impressed with the Senators’ grit. Williams also liked his team’s persistence.
The President invited six Little Leaguers to be his guests and they alternated sitting between Pres. Nixon and his assistant, Bud Wilkinson. The President’s box bore the seal of the President, however the bright white letters encircling the seal read “Presidnt of the United States”. Tardy proofreaders noticed the error too late to correct it. Despite the loss, it was a bright day for Washington baseball as new owner Robert Short appropriated a few hundred of the Redskins’ temporary seats to push the attendance to a Washington opening day record. Williams received tremendous ovations when introduced, when he took the lineups to the plate and when he went out to protest a call. When pressed as to his reaction to his reception, Ted simply said, “It was nice of them.”