Bush League No More: Baseball Returns To Washington
President George W. Bush and Nationals catcher Brian Schneider after the President threw out the first ball at Thursday's opening day in Washington
It has been nearly 24 hours since outfielder Ryan Church made the final out in last night's game. Yet, with all that history and hoopla, I couldn't think of a thing to write. I have had several of my works published. I can sit down the night before a 5,000 word essay is due and pound out an A+ paper in two hours. God didn't give me many gifts, but he did make me a wordsmith.
I couldn't think of a single word to write.
It's not that I couldn't focus on the raucous crowd or the VIP's that, for a night anyway, were just one of the 45,000 "average" Washingtonians in the stands. I could have written a book on Livan's efforts, even when including his 9th inning repast. I might have poked fun at all the bloggers who have bemoaned the signing of Vinny Castilla to play third base. No that wasn't the problem.
I couldn't write what I was thinking.
From the moment I heard "God Bless America" echo through the speakers of my XM satellite radio, my emotions began to run high. I couldn't see it, but I knew Frank Howard was standing in left field. I could "see" Eddie Brinkman at shortstop. Although Micky Vernon was before my time, he wasn't beyond my respect.
Double and two runs scored. Outstanding defensive plays. Vinny's homerun. Fireworks into the night's sky. Those things were just secondary.
I pictured the dads who took their young sons to the game. The dads, mostly my age, had stripped from them by an arrogant and selfish owner, the wholesome passions of their youth. Who knows what trouble my generation got into on those long summer nights when we no longer had The Senators to occupy us.
I pictured the sons taken to the ballpark by their fathers. Unlike their dads, they will have America's pastime to enjoy, to be a part of, to follow and fawn over. Who knows how many of these young boys will now stay out of trouble because they stayed home to "catch" the game.
I pictured the stadium in which the fathers sat with their sons, with the dads pointing out the white seats in the upper deck, gesturing to where the old scoreboard was, and reminding them that the Washington Post [still there] and People's Drugs Stores [long gone] were the main sponsors.
As pregame warmups began, I imagined the echoes of the past begin to fill the old but proud stadium. Jim French's hustle. Bernie Allen's smooth glove. Eddie Brinkman bottle bat that allowed him to finally become a major league hitter. Kenny McMullen guarding the hot corner. Lee Maye was the greatest addition to the team in 1969. Del Unser leading the league in defensive double plays and assists. Dick Bosman being simply great. And Frank Howard. There, on the soft green grass, remains the vestiges of the finest baseball player ever to don a Senator's uniform.
I pictured the heroes of my youth taking their positions, and then handing their gloves to their National's modernday counterpart in a symbolic "changing of the guard."
I remembered my last Senators game, Opening Game, 1971. The Bunting. The filled seats. The crisp white uniforms with red trim and a flowing, script "W" on the cap. Never in the deepest recesses of my imagination did I consider that, one day, we would again have our own "Beltway Boys" who would wear the Washington uniform with pride.
Among the heady throng in the stands, I could feel the grown men crying. Their sons likely glanced up at the tear-stained cheeks of their fathers and were both puzzled and bewildered. On this day, the tears flowed with no embarrassment. No pretense of a piece of a dirt in their eye. No. It was a day for honest emotions.
And I cried. Oh, how I cried.
Sievers...the Nats' first real slugger. AL home run king, 1957, when he hit 42.
Jim Lemon...another Old Senators power hitter. I shook hands with him about 15 years ago...huge hand. He saw my swirly-W hat, and said, "We'll get a team back one day. Mark my words." And he was right.
On Thursday, I was travelling to my son's wedding. We had a lay-over in Pittsburgh, where I looked through the airport Lids store for new Nats hats. The manager said "I can't keep them in stock. As soon as I get a shipment, they're gone."
The news reports that the new team has sold about 26,000 season tickets; total attendance might reavh 2.5 million this season. Their merchandise is among the top five in sales.
Bob Short = loser.
Washington fans = winners.
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