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John Townsend

Class of 1902

John was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997. His citation is below:

In 1897 on the way to a perfect 11-0 baseball season, Washington College laid its unbeaten record on the line before a country nine from Millington. Alvah B. Burris’s team of B. F. Deaknye, T. Alan Goldsborough, J.G.C. Stidham, Leon Davis, A. T. McDorman and Walter L. Wheatley had beaten Delaware, Maryland and Mount Saint Mary’s and powerful Baltimore semi-pro nines – the Browns, Cliftons and LaFayettes. How were a nine of farmers from Crumpton, Smyrna and Millington to stand a chance against seasoned collegians?

The answer came in a youth just turned 18, one “Happy” Townsend from Townsend, Delaware. With a blazing fastball and a sharp breaking curve, Townsend happily engaged the college boys, out-pitching Burris and Davis. Washington College squeezed out a run on errors to win 7-6, but Townsend had made an impression.

In 1898 he was wearing the Maroon and Black. It was a good team that included Hall of Famer outfielder Homer Smoot, who starred for the St. Louis Cardinals. Washington took on Harvard that year and lost 20-4, but late in the campaign the season came down to the traditional game with St. John’s College. Happy drew the pitching assignment and did he hurl! The Enterprise reported: “Townsend had St. John’s at his mercy from the start, striking out 20 while allowing three hits.” Washington won, 15-0.

He won eight games in 1899, striking out 123 batters. Washington College won 12 of 14 games, losing only to Maryland Agricultural College. Townsend again shut out St. John’s College, this time 11-0. Baseball scouts had their eyes on the six foot, 190 pound righthander and he lingered at Washington College only two seasons.

In 1901 he signed a major league contract and broke in with Billy Shettsline’s second place Philadelphians in the National League, winning nine games in 15 decisions with two shutouts.

The following year he was part of a celebrated trade to Washington that included the famed Ed Delahanty, a career .300 hitter. The Senators were beginning to earn the famous joke, “First in peace, first in war and last in the American League.” Townsend toiled 220 innings, winning nine for a sixth place club. The next year Washington fell to eighth and remained in the cellar the following season. The team won only 38, while losing 113 under Patsy Donovan and Mal Kittredge. “Happy” Townsend was the workhorse, starting 34 games, completing 31, pitching 291 innings. It was a season (1904) that landed him in the record books. He lost 27 games, while winning five. The next year he was 7-16 in 263 innings.

A trade in 1906 sent him to Cleveland to play for the legendary Napoleon Lajoie. He won three games with one shutout at 27, his final year in major league baseball. His pitching career shows 34 victories with five shutouts. At the plate he had 71 hits and one home run. After his playing days were over he lived and worked in Philadelphia. He died on December 21, 1963 in Wilmington, Delaware, at 84.

It is with a great deal of pride that Washington College inducts this former Major Leaguer into its Hall of Fame this 4th day of October, 1997.