Tuesday, June 17, 2008
"They should have been our team," My Dad always said. "They should have been ours." The Minnesota Twins of my youth were The Washington Senators of my father's. He nearly never got over it. For nine years after His Washington Senators moved to Bloomington, Minnesota--my Dad rarely attended a baseball game at DC & then renamed RFK Stadium on East Capitol Street. My Brother Michael and I were allowed to go with any neighboring parent willing to take us. Our Father would mostly pass.
When Calvin Griffith moved "His Nats" after the 1960 Season--Washington was on the verge of being a contender. For the first time in decades--The Senators were re-emerging as a quality franchise. Years of poor play and even worse players had come to an end.
The Era of "Damn Yankees" was nearly over.
Harmon Killebrew was just beginning his Hall of Fame Career. This Original AL Franchise had some youngs studs on their Major League Roster--Finally. Power Hitting and Fan Favorite Bobby Allison. Future American League MVP Shortstop Zoilo Versalles. A quality catcher in Earl Battey, as well as, two of finest young arms in baseball during that time--Camilo Pascual and Jim Kaat.
Over the next few seasons--The Twins would add even more to their arsenal of talent. One of the greatest pure hitters to ever play the game--Tony Oliva--swung a baseball bat like few others. Oliva could wake up in the dead of winter--during a snow storm--and sock the baseball all over the park. Tony Oliva was that good of a hitter. His career destroyed by continual knee problems. And in 1967 Hall of Famer Rod Carew--a wizard with the bat joined the club. Small in statue--Carew had forearms twice the size of the average male. That man had some quick wrists. Rod Carew could hit, field and run. A SUPERSTAR he became.
Within a few short years--The Minnesota Twins won the American League Championship and advanced to The World Series in 1965. Although beaten in that fall classic by The Great Sandy Koufax of The Los Angeles Dodgers--These Former Senators were back in the game--for first time since the mid-1930's.
My Dad was not happy. He missed His Team. He thought Washington Deserved The Honor.
My Father loved Harmon Killebrew and Jim Kaat--along with Roy Sievers and Jim Lemon beforehand. He always felt Calvin Griffith stole away the love of his team. Then, out of nowhere, on Sunday, August 17th, 1969--in celebration of my 10th birthday coming the very next day--Monday the 18th--My Dad surprised both Michael and I when we hopped into his Old Studebaker (StupidBaker for those in the know)--and headed off to see My Washington Senators play His Former Washington Senators. The Minnesota Twins were in town. Dad was breaking down to see Harmon Killebrew.
Sitting in Section 420, fifth row, right behind home plate--We enjoyed a beautiful Sunday Afternoon at the ballpark. Father with Sons. My brother and I couldn't believe it. Dad was watching Minnesota Play!! How fitting that Killebrew hit a home run that beautiful day. A clubbed blast into The Upper Deck in Left Field. A homer we always believed--WAS HIT JUST FOR HIM. A top of the 11th two run shot that put The Twins in the lead--but not the winning runs when My Washington Senators rallied in the bottom 11th to tie, before losing in 13 long innings 4-3. (As you know--as a child--there is nothing like extra innings. The More Baseball The Better. Like getting candy and ice cream for free.)
As it turned out, the final score did not matter this Sunday in 1969. The very fact that MY DAD had attended a Baseball Game between My Washington Senators and His Former Washington Senators meant a whole more. All his pent up anger over his team moving, he let go. He realized we had OUR TEAM NOW--his and mine--to love and cherish. From that day forward, my father slowly let his hard feelings on The Twins slip away. In fact, he would cheer for them during both the 1969 & 1970 American League Division Championships. The very first years of PLAYOFFS in Major League Baseball. Even Dad understood way back then--we couldn't cheer for their opponent--The Baltimore Orioles.
It's funny how Baseball can be the great equalizer.
The Minnesota Twins were NEVER MY TEAM. They left The Nation's Capital when I was just one year old. As a youth, their players didn't mean much to me. But, little did I realize, at that time, how badly My Father had felt. Just two short years later--his remorse of nearly a decade became mine. My Washington Senators left town after the 1971 Season--moving to of all places--Arlington, Texas. A Death felt on my part. Hardship never truly recovered until The Night of The Inaugural Opener for Our Washington Nationals--April 14, 2005.
The Minnesota Twins should have been My Father's Team.
The Texas Rangers should have been My Team.
Together--we lost both. And although My Father is no longer with us this day--I know he would be very proud over the very fact the Nation's Capital has a new team to call it's own: Our Washington Nationals.
PS--Another cherished moment from this game. In the top of the 4th inning, Killebrew would foul a ball directly into Section 420 off The Senators Joe Coleman. The ball coming to rest right next to My Father's Feet. HE DIDN'T PICK IT UP!!?? As Michael & I cried in shame over another child retrieving the treasure--Dad said: "Why do you need a baseball!! We have hundreds!!" As upsetting as that was--nearly 40 Years Later, I can only laugh today. That was Our Dad--collecting "THINGS" meant little to him. But, I will NEVER forget his forlorn look in his seat that afternoon over us crying about him not picking up the ball. Michael & I must have reminded him about that mistake for a good 10 years. That story is funny today and part of those many childhood memories you NEVER FORGET. The reason why life is FUN!!
PSS--Looking forward to the upcoming three game in Minneapolis against My Dad's Former Washington Senators. Happy Minnesota has a team to call their own.