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Rainy Day Memories

[January 11th] --I've just finished an economics class and I'm waiting to go to the dreaded "Math in Modern Society" class. I just glanced out the window and beheld one of those dark, dreary, rainy days that usually comes in early spring. It reminded me of a day back in 1969, a very special day because not only were the Senators only a few games into their season, but also because they were playing a "new team."

Looking out the window on the bus ride home from Glasgow Intermediate School in Falls Church, the weather was cloudy, dark and rainy. "Man, I'm lucky the Senators are playing on the road" I thought to myself. It was May 10th, but it felt more like March. I got home, turned on Channel 5 and watched back-to-back episodes of Speed Racer. The Senators' game was in Seattle that night, and wouldn't start until 10:30 our time because of the coast-to-coast time difference. The rainstorm turned into a downpour, and then into a monsoon. All I could do was wait for the game to start later that night; my friends Rolando, Iggie and Phil didn't want to play baseball in the rain. Jerks. Problem: My bedtime was at 10:00 p.m. No sweat. I kissed my dad good-night and jumped eagerly into bed, with my pre-positioned bright red Sony transistor radio already under my pillow. The pillow acted as a marvelous sound conduit, and I could easily hear the booming power of WTOP radio through the down feathers.

The pregame show began fifteen minutes prior to the game, brought to me by my "friends" at Lustine Chevrolet. The voice at broadcast house then said, "Let's take you out to Seattle Washington as the Senators take on the expansion Seattle Pilots!" Man, how exciting! I'll never forget Shelby Whitfield's introductory words: "Good evening and welcome to Sicks' Stadium as we're about to begin tonight's game between the Senators and the Seattle Pilots. I can tell you that the song that begins "The bluest skies you've ever seen are in Seattle" is absolutely true, at least for tonight. Over the left field fence, I can see Mt. Ranier. What a beautiful setting for baseball!"

And so it was. Whitfield described Sicks' stadium as an "old, charming" minor league park that was enlarged and readied for major league baseball in just a few short months. "Soon," said Whitfield, Seattle would have the second domed stadium in major league baseball. He also mentioned the Pilots' new uniforms, different from anything he'd ever seen. He described the simple "S" on the blue cap with the scrambled eggs on the hat's brim, evocative of the city's maritime tradition. In the background, I could here over the public address system the Pilot's theme song, "Go go you Pilots, you proud northwestern team." Soon, however, the game began and Shelby's descriptive prose shifted to the field.

By the third inning, I was getting very sleepy, but I was very happy too. Frank Howard and Bernie Allen had both gone deep off of Marty Pattin, and by the 5th inning, it was 10-3 Washington. It was a quarter to twelve in Washington, however, and try as I might, I just couldn't stay awake. I awoke the next morning excited at the prospect of another Senators win. This was in the days, however, of no "instant" news. The Washington Post had only a "partial" boxscore which showed what I already knew, the Senators were leading 10-3 after five innings. I tried to catch the news on WTOP, but my battery had died, and my father listened to WMAL's Harden and Weaver in the morning, and they didn't often give sports scores unless it was Monday during the football season. There was no SportsCenter or any 24 hour sports outles. So I was out the door certain the Nats had won.

That ended when I got to the bus stop just a block or two away from Seven-Corners. My friend Brooks Ryno was also a big Senators fan, and he looked pretty bummed, which surprised me. The Senators, after all, had won.

No They Didn't.

The Pilots scored 13 runs in the last three innings and beat the Senators 16-13. I was devastated. I mean, Ray Oyler was a key member of their team. How could they beat the Senators??

Of course, the Pilots ended up winning only 64 games that season and moved to Milwaukee in 1970. The Senators won 86 games under the leadership and tutelage of Ted Williams.

I would never want to go back and relive my childhood.

That said, there are many parts of it that provided this graying man a warm and soft place to rest. One of those pieces was baseball and the Washington Senators. Win or lose, Frank Howard, Del Unser and Dick Bosman were my friends. When my father yelled at me or whacked on me, I could run and hide in my room, and read my baseball magazines. When Bob Short stole the team, he stole part of me as well.

But oh those memories. He couldn't take those.

Great story! I have a friend of mine who scoured the local antique stores in the area to get a 1950's-era radio just so he could listen to Nats games "the way Dad used to."

*Sigh*, I suppose I'll someday be telling my kids about how I used to actually have to "WATCH A TV(!!)" to see the games.
How I'd *love* to be able to say that I'd actually been able to watch Nats games on TV! More than than tiny handful actually broadcast, anyway.

It is a good story, though.
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