Sunday, September 23, 2007
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.