Sunday, September 23, 2007

Farewell RFK


The Booing had begun in earnest. The Festive crowd dismayed. Not a single person at RFK STADIUM had not been standing for The Must See Event of the Day. And, Baseball was not the subject of everyone's rapt attention. The 120th and LAST Running of The Presidents Race at The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street had finished. Not only had Our Lovable Loser not won in the most anticipated running of the event--EVER--since its inception--but Teddy Roosevelt was NOT EVEN IN THE BALLPARK!!

Teddy was shown on the Big Screen in right field--waving on everybody to come join him at New Nationals Park!! An outcome many in the announced attendance of 40,519 DID NOT LIKE. When George won The Three Man Race--the jeers moved to "We Want Teddy!!! We Want Teddy!!" And eventually, to "TED-DY!!, TED-DY!!"--as GW, Abe & Tom made their way to the 300 Level Concourse.

A Melancholy unexpected ending that typified the emotional highs and lows of The Final Major League Baseball Game in "The Greatest No Frills Park in Sport." Yes, there was A Heart Thumping Ending orchestrated by "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game". Really, could Chad Cordero have finished off The Philadelphia Phlllies any other way this GORGEOUS SUNDAY? No, not possible--Our Washington Nationals have teased their fans countless times, raising and lowering of their respective blood pressures through 242 previously scheduled and played ball games in DC. Living Dangerously--Just Hanging On--The Farewell Finale on East Capitol Street was a typical Washington Barn-burner.

The only satisfying way RFK Stadium should close out its Final Farewell to Major League Baseball.


Obviously--for me--September 23rd was A BIG DAY. Long Anticipated, yet never wishing to actually see. Yes, I am looking forward to Our Washington Nationals move to South Capitol Street. A New Era Begins. The Transformation from A Rebuilding Franchise to A Contending Franchise--dependent on New Nationals Park's Revenues. But, I could have sat in Section 320, Row 4, Seat 15 for the rest of my life. No seat at ANY SPORTING EVENT has given me so much joy. No Single Sports Team has ever held me in rapture more.


Knowing how lucky Sohna and I have been over the past three seasons of baseball at RFK Stadium--The African Queen knew--this would be a sad day for me this afternoon. Today, was the very last day that Section 320 would enjoy each others company in the Our Friendly Confines--Under The Overhang--behind Our Washington Nationals Third Base Dugout--Within Shouting Distance of each and every player. Its here--that so many individuals--folks that mostly did not know each other on April 14, 2005--bonded to form one of the most cohesive fun loving groups of baseball fans imaginable.



In Section 320--We are Family. And, even if only for a short winter's break--saying goodbye was difficult. The uncertainty of a New Ballpark and new seating--making this last day at RFK an uncomfortable one. Never is it easy to face the unknown.


That Unexpected turn that came this afternoon--when Sohna and I were treated to The Most Unexpected Gift of Thanks from Three Huge Fans of Our Washington Nationals. Gregg, Adam and Adam's Son--Brian, are big supporters of The Nats320 Blog. Before today--I had never really met them. Honestly--didn't really know their name. At times--they have shouted thanks to me and Sohna, in passing, for our efforts. Although, never did I realize how much MY passion affected them. At the conclusion of the bottom of the 3rd--these fine folks unfurled a Bed Sheet Banner with Pictures and paraded in front of Section 320. The Very Large Display read--"RFK--Senators--Redskins--Nationals--SBF + Screech = PRICELESS. A Baseball on the banner read "MY MAIN MAN!! Holding back the tears--not possible. The African Queen knowing right away--THIS WAS SPECIAL. And, it was. Good thing--I was wearing my sunglasses.

Greg and Adam and Brian telling me how much joy The Nats320 blog has added to their very own Washington Nationals Baseball Experience. Our passion, Our willingness to try, to be positive--all the while--having fun. As I have said before--Fun is what Our Washington Nationals are all about. If you can't enjoy THE GREAT GAME--why follow it?


Wow!! What a shocker!! Sohna and I couldn't thank them enough for their kindness. EVERYONE IN SECTION 320 STUNNED!! Barbara--sitting two seats in front of me saying: "That Impressive!!" For the remainder of the afternoon--never could I get their offering out of my mind. Greg, Adam and Brian presented us with their thoughtful Gift as appreciation for all that is The Nats320 Blog. "Those Three just made EVERYTHING WORTH ALL THE EFFORT!!," The African Queen, exclaimed--knowing how many hours its taken to keep things fresh. Many, long, long hours.


We were sincerely and emotionally touched. And, never before today, had we realized how much we stirred others through the writings in The Nats320 Blog. The Closing Of RFK Stadium was bringing me tears of sadness. Greg, Adam and Brian were giving me tears of joy. Honestly--I still can't believe it. Sohna and I WILL NEVER, EVER, FORGET THEM. It was very warming to realize that others cared and shared OUR PASSION.


From this point forward--the final game at RFK Stadium, for me, became a little fuzzy. Many more friends and colleagues stopped by to give thanks, drop notes--share email and phone numbers. "What is this The Post Office," said Troy--sitting to Sohna's right. My Best Friend!! Screech!!! stopped by to say his Season's Farewell to his Girlfriend--The African Queen and I. Racing President Abe Lincoln stopped by in the 7th to personally deliver "Pledge Your Allegiance" Tee Shirts to Sohna and I. Then, Teddy briefly appeared on the railing to the left of Section 320 for his VERY LAST "FEELING OF THE LOVE" at RFK. The "LET TEDDY WIN!!" Chant reaching fever pitch. Few were actually watching the play on the field--at this time. Teddy had won over everyone's heart. Boy, did THOUSANDS EVER WISH TO SEE HIM WIN!! Even The Players--For BOTH TEAMS were watching.


And, Sohna and I took the opportunity to thank Team President Stan Kasten for his kindness to us during this 2007 Season of Our Washington Nationals.

Except for The Racing Presidents in the 4th and Chad Cordero in the 9th--my mind became filled with many, many thoughts and memories. Such as, The DC & RFK Stadium Days, of my youth, watching My Washington Senators play on these very grounds. Personally, witnessing THE GLORY YEARS of The Washington Redskins--Were The Skins EVER A GREAT TEAM AT RFK!! Nearly UNBEATABLE. No Stadium in History of Sport shook like The Old Ballyard during an NFL GAME. No Ballpark in America provided the Home Field Advantage quite like RFK. Its why The Redskins have never been the same, since moving to Landover.

Of course--there was that Magical First Pitch by Livan Hernandez on April 14, 2005--after baseball went in The Nation's Capital after 1971.. The 10 Game Winning Streak. Our Washington Nationals in FIRST PLACE at the 2005 All Star Break. Having gone without Major League Baseball for over 33 years--THE PLAYOFFS were a possibility. Tell me about ANYONE in DC that was not STOKED about that!! Frank Robinson BERATING The Angels Manager Mike Sciocia in Anaheim--while Jose Guillen called Sciosia a "PIECE OF GARBAGE!!" (Arguably THE HIGH POINT of that Magical Inaugural Season.)

Alfonso Soriano busting out at RFK in 2006. Nick Johnson--the consummate team player and professional. The Rookie--Ryan Zimmerman having a FABULOUS FIRST SEASON. In a short period of time--Our Number 11 a TREASURE at 22 years old. Arguably, the finest fielding third baseman in the game. Ramon Ortiz's near No Hitter on Labor Day, 2006. When he hit that Home Run in the 8th--Ramon was so jacked--you just knew he had lost focus--and eventually--His No Hitter. Frank Robinson crying his eyes out when Hugh and I started the "We Love Frank!!" Chant--that reverberated around the stadium--on the penultimate night of Our Number 20 managing Our Washington Nationals--for the last time.

Dmitri Young & Jesus Flores having enjoyable seasons in 2007. Jason Bergmann's near no hitter against Atlanta. "The Most Thrilling Closer in The Game" raising the level of a save to a near ART FORM. Chad Cordero is never boring. And, neither were Our 2007 So-Called "Worst Team Of All Time" Washington Nationals. A piece meal team that far exceeded expectations. All the while--The Owners began the necessary rebuilding of a long ago ruined Farm System. On and On--the reciting could go--but you get the point.

RFK has provided a magical venue with some of the finest sightlines in sport. Soon after New Nationals Park opens--I would bet--some will say--Baseball on East Capitol Street was more PURE--than the game now being played on South Capitol Street. The Intimacy--can't be beat. And, when RFK Rocked--it shook. Never again will that wonderful site of a packed house on the third base side be seen bouncing up and down on those portable seats. An RFK Stadium Exclusive--that thousands loved watching and being a part of .

May "The Greatest No Frills Park In Sport" live long in my memories. May My Flame of Passion for Our Washington Nationals never be extinguished. May New Nationals Park provide half the Thrills & Chills that RFK Stadium has done for me over the past 41 years of my life. Yes, today was a sad day for me--but joyful in the realized fact--that so many actually enjoy the efforts put forth of The Nats320 Blog--with the uncompromising support of The African Queen.

So many helped make this Farewell To RFK Stadium Special for me. Greg, Adam & Brian made it UNFORGETTABLE!!!

Curly "W" Number 69 was significant--not just for another victory in the win column--or for its importance to keep The Florida Marlins in the National League East Cellar. Important because--Our Washington Nationals are taking The Next Big Step. No longer a lost Franchise. No Longer a Team without a City. No Longer a Franchise in disrepair.

Our Washington Nationals are Moving Up, and Moving On. And, so must I.

Farewell RFK Stadium--The Ballpark of My Youth. Thank You--so very much--for providing me excessive Joy over the first 48 years of my life. Only through The Acts of The Baseball Gods, did you receive the Deserved Respect--to Retire With Honors--as a Baseball Venue. As the Sun Sets this Sunday Evening and you become Dark, tomorrow--we both shall rise, content in our hearts--knowing we can now both Rest In Peace. Goodbye, My Friend.

Game Notes & Highlights:

Now--about the game itself. Leading 5-2 entering the top of the ninth. Facing the heart of The Phillies Lineup, "The Chief Cardiologist" made it VERY INTERESTING. The worry was on--a Philadelphia rally seemed certain. Yeah, never can Our Washington Nationals seem to get any win--easily. Lead off ground rule double by Chase Utley to left. A one out walk to the always Dangerous Ryan Howard. Then, a two strike looped liner to left by Aaron Rowand--scoring Utley with the third run of the game for Philadelphia.


Our Number 32 was now--OFFICIALLY-- in trouble. No one wanted to witness this Farewell Game end so tragically. After Pitching Coach Randy St.Claire visited the mound--Chad Cordero must have got the message. He went right after Pinch Hitter Wes Helms. Firing away--Helms would strike out on just four pitches. Then, with EVERY NATS FANS on their feet in GREAT ANTICIPATION--"The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" responded with a passion of his own--and struck out Jayson Worth SWINGING!! to end--not only this game--but The Final Game EVER at RFK STADIUM. The Roar was LOUD!!! The Celebration Began.

The Bang!! Zoom!! of The Fireworks signifying THE END OF AN ERA. The Welcoming of Major League Baseball back to DC--offically over. RFK Stadium as a Baseball Facility--officially over. And Fans, of Our Washington Nationals having to put up with any more Phillie Fans--Officially, and Thankfully, Over With--as well. As least for 2007--in The Nation's Capital.

D'angelo Jimenez continued his torrid pace to end his season on a high note. After providing nearly ZERO help throughout most of 2007--Our Number 6 today with two more hits--including a laced double down the right field line--while scoring two runs. D'angelo now at .242 for the season. Yeah, not much--but far better than the .161 of just three weeks ago.


"Bluegrass" looking to find some respect at the plate to get himself over a poor hitting season. Still, limited power numbers--But Austin Kearns had three hits, resulting in two keys RBI and scored a run. And, Brian Schneider--in the game after Jesus Flores got plunked on his elbow hitting--set a nice Sacrifice Fly Ball to right for an RBI Single in the 8th. Still, Our Washington Nationals continue to leave runner after runner on base. In clutch--not a trademark of many Washington Hitters.


With everyone standing for the much anticipated running of The Presidents Race in the middle of The 4th--GW, Abe and Tom were held back from running by The Bullpen Members of Our Washington Nationals. The Entire Contingent blocked the path out of the tunnel down the right field line. A Barricade that many believed would set the tone for Teddy Getting his First Curly "W". Unfortunately--as we all learned--Today, once again--was not to be Teddy's Day.

Come 2005--its my understanding that a FIFTH Racing President will be added to mix. Although that is not confirmed and no word yet on which Former President will be running. Interesting though.



As The African Queen and I entered GATE A this morning for the final time--My Main Man!! was standing right in front of us. Obviously--he knows us. A Correspondent covering the team was watching as players for Our Washington Nationals were handing out commemorative T-Shirts to Fans entering the stadium. "You picked the right entrance," the reporter said smiling. Yeah, we had. "How YOU GUYS DOING!!"--called out Ryan Church. We all laughed--chatted briefly. Sohna and then headed off to see what other players might be handing out the shirts.


Austin Kearns, Ryan Langerhans and Ronnie Belliard at the south side of The Main Gate. Dmitri Young, Ross Detweiler and Justin Maxwell at the north side. Big Jon Rauch, Matt Chico and Jason Bergmann at Gate F. As it turned out--the players were working in groups--that switched out every 10 Minutes or so.


Because of this--we found Chad Cordero later at The Main Gate. As you can imagine--EVERYONE wanted a picture with "The Chief". As the throng got ever worse--Security was pushing and protecting Our Number 32--in an attempt to get him safely to the lower bowels of RFK. While moving through--Chad Cordero spotted The African Queen. Willingly, wantingly--he stopped and took a picture with her.

Sohna was thrilled with his kindness.

The Pregame Ceremony included the introductions of eight former Washington Senators. But, no one got a larger, and more deserved Standing Ovation than Frank Howard. My Favorite Player of All TIme!! was escorted out onto the playing field by Ryan Zimmerman. There, they stood at third base--were "Hondo" began an animated discussion with Our Franchise Player. Our Number 11 listening intently to each and every word. No doubt--"The Capital Punisher" was giving Ryan his "A" Game--in baseball story telling. Nothing like Frank Howard.

"Hondo" was led directly past Section 320 to get to this Ceremony. As he walked past--I stepped down to the walkway to say hello. Frank Howard greeted me warmly and we shook hands. "Nice to see you again," said Big Frank. Yes, it was--like its always been for me.

Longtime Washington Senators Teammate--Dick Bosman threw out The Ceremonial First Pitch.



The Farewell Festivities concluded with the awarding of the Player's "Shirts Off Their Backs" to those lucky fans who paid $10 per ticket to get into the lottery. Our Good Friend, Janet--won Ryan Langerhans Number 4 Jersey--personally autographed. Then, Home Plate was dug up after Screech Zip Lined down from the roof above right field. The RFK Stadium Home Plate will be relocated to New Nationals Park.

Finally--twice during this afternoon's game--a fitting reminder of what use to be The Home of My Washington Senators. On that fateful night of September 30, 1971--angry fans unfurled two long bedsheet banners in left field that stated "Short Stinks". A commentary to the horrible owner of The Washington Senators at that time--Bob Short. Fans this afternoon unfurled "Short Still Stinks!!" Banners in virtually the exact same spot. For any long lost fan of The Washington Senators--you had to appreciate the humor. After 36 years--RFK Stadium had received a proper sendoff--an Ending that resulted in NO ONE LOSING THEIR TEAM.

14 comments:

Dave said...

In more celebrity sightings: I saw Sonha walking in as I was gawking at Young, Albaladejo, Detwiler, and Maxwell handing out T-shirts.

It was almost like running into one of the players!

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Hmmm. I wonder who the fifth President would be? JFK or Reagan might seem natural, but those men have both powerful friends---and enemies---in this town.

Perhaps a certain overweight President who was once a lawyer? You know, the one whom friends nicknamed Bill. I could see possibilities with him, especially since he had a falling-out with Teddy.

You think I mean Bill Clinton? Nope. William Howard Taft! (After all, he IS the first President to throw out the first ball.)

mike edgar said...

SBF,

You and Sohna have obiously made many very good friends in section 320. I'm curious about whether all of you guys are trying to be in the same section at the new park? Given that the relocation process doesn't allow us to request a specific section, I'm not sure how you'd do it, but I'm wondering whether you all have tried in some way to coordinate your new seat requests to at least increase the probability of being in the same section.

P.S. My guess on the new president is FDR.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Although I can't quite afford season tickets in 320, it has been a real pleasure to read this blog over the past year and to meet SBF in person several times this season, including yesterday. SBF's optimism and enthusiasm for the game are inspirations to us all. I look forward to meeting him again next year at Nationals Park---hopefully on Opening Day!

Teddy Roosevelt said...

I was extremely sad about not being able to make the game yesterday. I knew it would be special. Your blow-by-blow of the day makes me wish even more that I were there, but in a way also helps me feel like I was there. Thanks so much for your passion. Here's to many more great memories at Nationals Park!

Anonymous said...

I saw in a previous post that some though Ryan Zimmerman's batting song was a mistake when Toby Keith's "I'm Just Talkin' About Tonight" came on. Zim has been using the song since August and as we saw this week, he made it a regular for the final week at RFK.

The Land of Ambiguity said...

And here's a photo of the "SHORT STILL STINKS" banners that were unfurled after the game. The wind had picked up, so this was the best one I took.

I'm a Phillies fan, but I just read your fantastic post "The Night My Washington Senators Died" here and am glad, at least, that you got to see a win on RFK Stadium's last day. Here's hoping that you sweep the Mets!

Screech's Best Friend said...

dave--you should have stopped Sohna to say hello. Or me--as I am sure I was very nearby--since her pix with Dmitri was taken by me.

mike edgar: the logistics for moving so many people from Section 320 together has been quite project. Really, we don't know how the relocation will play out. Seat location and price point has been ongoing issues. Hopefully, everything will work out.

Since I finished off this farewell post at 3AM--IN NEW YORK CITY and got up two hours later to work at The United Nations--I was quite surprised the game story turned out as well as it did. Was I ever groggy in sleep. And, the hotel wireless internet was not the best--so many other good photos were not added. Later this week, I will have an additional post on the final day at RFK--totally in pictures. Its the least I can do--considering all the photos I took.

phil dunn said...

Yes, Short still stinks, and I am glad the Nats won their last game at RFK. That said, I say again that Chad Cordero is looking more and more like the second coming of Jorge Julio. Bowden should dump him over the winter if he has any trade value left, and then make Rauch the closer.

SenatorNat said...

Footnote: As Nats CFO Ed Cohen went by today, I screamed out: "Spend some money next year!!" To which, he actually came over, flashing a terrific, warm smile, and responded" "How Much?" I was so dumbfounded, I said: "Naw, you're doing a great job!" - a response which made no sense, but in the warmth of the day and the moment, he liked it.

As one who attended Opening Day in April, 1962 in the JFK entourage, since my Dad worked at the Office of the President, I am happy to have been to both the Opener and the Closer - and, of course, the Nats won both games, 3-1; and 5-3!!

Next year should really be something, especially should the Nats have Johnson and Guzman back and two more real hitters to rely on. There is a small possibility that Justin Maxwell can make a run at a spot of the roster next Spring, for example. And Flores could blossom...All is New at the new Nationals Park.

The total attendance figures: 2.75 million in 2005; 2.15 million in 2006; and 1.95 million this year translate to an average of 2.28 million.

It is logical to presume that a respectable team in the new digs can average 2.5 million for the next five years, which should be enough to sustain a $65-75 million payroll. If so, then the team can win with the right moves and system, and that would in turn translate into 3 million as a contender generates increased press and fan affiliation.

In closing, I predicted 73 wins this year; now,I think that 72 is achievable, but 71 is likely...71 would certainly exceed rational expectations, but 72 would be sweeter for Manny for obvious reasons.

As to SBF and his contributions these past three seasons - I doubt that any single fan in the history of Washington baseball, other than Richard Nixon, followed the team more devoutly, and was appreciated more by everyone in the Nationals organization from top to bottom.

Of course, without the African Queen, he would have just been another Bozo on the Bus!

Trust in the African Queen. All Good. (And thanks for the memories..)

Anonymous said...

//My guess on the new president is FDR.//

I hope not-because it wouldn't make any sense. Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down from polio and spent his White House years in a wheelchair. If the Nationals did this they would be absolutely lambasted.

w4keb said...

For the last three years we had Seats 2,3,4, and 5 in Row 1 of Section 320.

I have to say that on any particular day, whether The Nats performance was awesome or just awful, the loud and constant commentary from the "Nats 320" crew behind us never failed to make the game an absolute blast!

I have no idea where our seats will be next year but I certainly hope that you guys are well within earshot!

Jim H said...

SBF...

Thanks again for all your efforts this season, and since day one. You did much to make these season so enjoyable. Well appreciated, it was, from row 9, seats 1-4. Here's hoping we'll see each other in the new location.

VCUKyle said...

SBF,
Thanks for all the great work on the blog this season. I cant wait to see your pics from the final game!

I was only a sophomore in college in 2005 but I was at the exhibition game and then the real opening night game in April 2005 and that was so much fun. Yesterday at the last game I was really sad because minus all the bad pub RFK gets in the paper I will miss that stadium, this stadium brought back a missing link in my life and that was BASEBALL.


I don't know if you guys got any good pics but I was in section 412 yesterday and I got two or three great pics of Screech coming off the roof!!!


On the final note of the new president, I think we should start a vote on Nats 320 for the top 5 finalist and then vote for who we think should be the new president!!!!
my top five our John Adams, Andrew Jackson, Ulyssess Grant (in his general uniform), William Taft, and Dwight Eisenhower (in his WW2 uniform).