Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Tale Of Two Franks & Then Some

Fellow Section 320 Season Ticket Holder, SenatorNat, and contributing commenter, and Section 320 Visitor, Eddie Cunningham, made some really nice points on the Nats320 blog after Frank Robinson's final game in a Nationals' Uniform.

SenatorNat mentioned, that as a "Gesture of Appreciation" for all he did for the infant Washington Nationals--becoming to many--THE FACE OF THE FRANCHISE--Frank Robinson should be honored with the Retirement of his number--20, next season. Eddie then followed with a nice addition. Frank's Number 20 should be retired during next season's homestand against the Baltimore Orioles. It would only be fitting, and a nice gesture to allow the fans of the two most IMPORTANT TEAMS, this "Hall of Fame" player has worked for--to enjoy the moment alongside Frank.

I couldn't agree with them more.

Eddie--then went on to say, that, Frank Howard--the BIGGEST AND FINEST STAR on the Expansion Washington Senators--3 Times, the American League Home Run Champion, and, at one time, THE MOST FEARED HITTER IN THE GAME--all while playing at RFK Stadium--should also have his number retired.

Hondo only played one season for the Texas Rangers, when the Senators moved to Arlington, Texas--after the 1971 season. Howard is closely associated with The Expansion Senators. The Rangers would never honor him--but, for so many--including me--FRANK HOWARD WAS OUR IDOL!! For 7 seasons, Hondo patrolled leftfield and 1st base at the Stadium on East Capitol Street---Hitting 237 Home Runs in a Washington Uniform, and knocking in 670 Senators Runs.

As clearly as Frank Robinson was for our newborn Nats--Frank Howard was THE FACE OF THE WASHINGTON SENATORS. Hondo always loved the DC area, still lives in Fairfax County. I have run into him a couple of times over the past 2 seasons--riding the Metro to games at RFK Stadium. Never wanting to draw attention to himself, Hondo still decent enough to chat with me, willingly, but shyly, when approached.

Hondo telling me that his introduction as a retired member of The Washington Senators on Opening Night, April 15, 2005 during the Nationals Inaugural Home Game was a BIG MOMENT IN HIS BASEBALL LIFE--because he adores the area so much. Frank Howard proud to see Major League Baseball return to the site of his greatest accomplishments in the game. Can you imagine Hondo's feeling about his number being retired?? And, for so many Senators fans, still out there--a chance to finally put to rest, THE WASHINGTON SENATORS in a fitting, appropriate, style-- without looking back, sadly, at what was briefly ours--suddenly yanked away by Owner Bob Short, and move forward to THE REBORN WASHINGTON NATIONALS.

With RFK Stadium scheduled to close after the 2007 season, what could be more meaningful, than The Nationals retire the number of THE GREATEST PLAYER TO EVER CALL RFK HIS HOME!! It would be JUSTICE!

Hondo was that last straw that Baseball Fans, in the DC area, local fans, could grasp for so many years, about their true home team, until that fateful day when Major League Baseball returned with THE WASHINGTON NATIONALS--A most joyous day for, not only me, but countless thousands of other WASHINGTON BASEBALL FANS.

Linking the two franchises together by retiring Hondo's number would be a GRAND GESTURE. Of course, Howard wore Number 9 from 1965 until 1968--switching to 33 when Ted Williams came on to manage the Senators from 1969-1971. We can let Hondo choose the number--neither number, 9 or 33, important player numbers for The Nats, or in their previous incarnation--The Montreal Expos.

As Eddie so nicely notes, another Washington Slugger, Harmon Killebrew, began his career with the Original Nationals, but moved with the team to Minnesota in 1961. Killebrew is very closely associated with the GREAT TWINS teams of the 1960's--as such, "THE KILLER", jersey number 3, should remain retired as a Minnesota Twin only.

Although Eddie and I both realize that the great Washington Senators of the early part of the 1900's--Walter Johnson, Bucky Harris, Sam Rice, Joe Cronin--etc. did not have uniform numbers--In the New Nationals Stadium, as a homage to Washington Baseball--I would love to see Gigantic Baseball Circles with their names (Our Own Version of a Washington Baseball Hall of Fame)--showing that Washington, DC does have a BASEBALL HISTORY--a long, fabled and good one--despite our missing in action status for 34 lonely years.

And, it doesn't require retiring any more uniform numbers, as Our Washington Nationals build their own HERITAGE.


El Gran Color Naranja said...

I can get behind any of that (whatever makes the fans happy), except the retiring of Frank's number. Essentially we'd be retiring it because a great player took some time out to manage our team in his later years. He wasn't a great manager, maybe not even a good one, we just liked having him around because he is such an icon.

I also don't see how the Reds aren't more important than the Expos/Nats. Hell I'd argue Cleveland would be more important figuring they gave him the break to be the first African-American manager.

Screech's Best Friend said...

I believe the Reds have retired his number, but the Indians, for whatever reason, have chosen not to. I agree that Frank is a mediocre manager at best, but, I feel, Frank did stick it out for 5 years--under less than a decent situation, not many people would have, MLB Ownership of the Expos/Nationals was atrocious--I would give it too him for that--and it really smooths out--the club moving forward under new management--and as I mentioned in the post--The Nats building their own heritage. Thanks for the comments--I appreciate your thoughts.

Eddie Cunningham said...

For me, the real reason Frank's number should be retired is not that he was a popular Oriole great or that he was the Nats first manager in Washington. As much as Nats fans want to pretend the Montréal Expos didn't exist, you have to see what Frank meant to the team the last few years in Montréal when everything else was falling apart around them. He was a rock of stability---both for the team and the Expos fans who kept coming to the Big O. As difficult as the last few years have been, Robinson refused to yuk it up and pretend that this was all a joke. He told the Nats in their inaugural year in Washington to take PRIDE in their new uniform and their new city. That as much as anything may have accounted for their terrific start in 2005.

Frank Robinson means a great deal to the Reds, Orioles, and yes---the Expos/Nationals franchise and I believe he deserves to have his number retired in all three ballparks. For Cleveland, Frank Robinson was just a footnote and I don't think he needs to have his uniform retired there.

Speaking of manager's uniforms, I just thought of something. Bucky Harris never wore a number as a player, but he was manager of the Nats for many, MANY years and he surely wore a uniform number then. I think Harris' manager number should also be retired. (Walter Johnson wore a uniform number as the Nationals manager, but although he won a lot of games as skipper, it will be as a pitcher that he is most remembered so he should only have a "W" within a circle.)

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham said...

Say, SBF, were you watching the NLCS tonight? Mets fans were chanting the SAME "Norway" chant for José Reyes that you guys in 320 started for José Vidro! They owe you royalties!!!

Screech's Best Friend said...

Yes--MickNats and I have known about it all season. When I went to A Mets/Nats game in 2005, they were chanting the Jose Song, but not as many as now. MickNats noticed everyone doing it when he attended the Nats Opening Game at Shea in 2006. We claim they are copying us??!! Thanks