The musical “Damn Yankees” I saw three times during the 1950s, when several nights a week saw me trudging faithfully to Griffith Stadium. I thought that was only way I would see Washington bring home the world championship away from New York.
At least the baseball tickets were free; I knew the current owner, Cal Griffith, and his charming Tar Heel wife, Natalie. And my co-producer in those early years of television was Joe Judge, the namesake and son of the all-star first baseman who actually played the only time Washington brought home the Major League pennant, in 1924. I always thought Mr. Judge was the model for the musical’s hero, Joe Hardy, who also lived in the District’s Chevy Chase.
Then Cal took the Senators off to Minnesota where they were rechristened the Twins. Another American League team appeared with the name of the old one that continued the same dismal record, as I wrote on May 25 on TheTentacle.com (“Who’d Have ‘Thunk’ It?”).
But a week before Labor Day weekend, these Washington Nationals sit atop the American and National Leagues. They were forced to give up “Senators” in a peeing contest with Peter Angelos, the Baltimore attorney whose financial interests are invested in the Orioles that were permitted to move to the nearby city by the Griffith family. The Maryland club currently languishes behind the Yankees, in imitation of the old Senators.
Much was written this past summer in praise of the Nats’ pitchers, especially Stephen Strasburg. But batting and fielding made a major dent in winning most of the above-60 percent games. Manager Davey Johnson has assembled a remarkable group. Chief owner Ted Lerner is now throwing money Mr. Johnson’s way.
The Nationals went bust when they were the Montreal Expos; they left the Toronto Blue Jays alone north of the Canadian border as the sole Major League Baseball’s representative. Slugger Frank Robinson was the first manager when they transferred south. A smart move! Local baseball aficionados recalled him for being elected 14 times to the All-Star team. But after his 152-172 seasons, he went on his way. By the way, I was present in Griffith’s when Harmon Killebrew hit his first four-bagger, as I’ve written before in TheTentacle.com columns.
The mother of my children enthusiastically rooted for any and all baseball, maybe because of her Midwest roots; her second son and daughter inherited her passion. As I said, in May, sleeping in the former Pelicans Stadium seemed just to me; in the several games I watched during my New Orleans’ boyhood, I was turned off. Football retains enthusiastic support from the man who went to the very first Sugar Bowl, in old Tulane Stadium.
Still all my natural-born competitiveness brings stirrings when I peek at News-Post Sport’s second page; I do that every morning. For some, bizarre reason the editor favors the Baltimore Orioles; there are days, when the night games’ scores appear but there is no story dealing with the Washington Nationals. I rush down to my library’s computer to get the details.
There’s been a lot of that going on this summer, which effectively ends next weekend. After Labor Day, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and adorn with a rabbit’s foot dear Pushkin; the English pointer certainly can be a Dalmatian for all girls and boys under ten.
Go, damn Nats!!