Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Moments of the Year At RFK (Part 2)


The May 25th, final game of a 4 game series against the Houston Astros provided one of the cruel funniest moments. With Brian Schneider out with an injury, Frank Robinson put in Matt LeCroy to catch for this afternoon affair. Only Matt has no arm and couldn't throw out any baserunners. It became like a Little League Game, where everytime a good team gets a runner on base, that runner stole the very next pitch on the bad team. Over the course of 6 plus innings, the Astros would steal 7 bases and LeCroy had two throwing errors. After the last throwing error, you just had to laugh. I vividly remember SenatorNat and I just out of control crying in laughter over it all. Finally, during MID AT-BAT, with Eric Bruntlett at the plate, Frank sends in Robert Fick to replace LeCroy. Amazingly, the Nats would win the thriller 8-5. And, Alfonso Soriano would make his Greatest Mistake Catch of the season.

In the 8th, with Brad Ausmus on first with one out, the dangerous hitting Morgan Ensberg at the plate, Ensberg DRILLS a line drive that is going DIRECTLY OVER SORIANO'S HEAD. He mis-reads the track and comes IN ON THE BALL. Its OVER HIS HEAD. He realizes it, at the last moment ,jumps back toward the ball AND AT THE VERY LAST SPLIT SECOND, LOOKING LIKE MICHAEL JORDAN SILHOUETTED IN HIS PRIME AS ONLY A GREAT ATHLETE CAN DO, SNARES THE BALL WITH A SNOWCONE CATCH!!!!!! Ausmus, believing, like everyone AT RFK that it was a clear double, had already passed 2nd and was going to 3rd. Soriano, fires the ball to Royce Clayton, who relays TO NICK JOHNSON AT FIRST TO DOUBLE HIM OFF BASE!! It was absolutely one of the most amazing sequences in baseball I have EVERY WITNESSED. Soriano coming of age that day in the outfield, from that point on, his defensive prowess would improve considerably.

July 26th against the Giants, the Nats losing 3-2 heading to the bottom of the 9th. But, amazingly, Giants Manager, Felipe Alou, brings on Armando Benitez. If there is one pitcher, in all of baseball, I would not trust with the game on the line, its Benitez. Ever since he ruined the Orioles Post Season run in 1997 against the Indians, I have never forgiven him. Robert Fick would lead off walk, but, with one out, Felipe Lopez would hit a game ending double play grounder, right at Ray Durham at second. Durham flat out muffed it. The ball rolling up and over his left arm. All runners safe. 1st and 2nd, one out. Benitez would implode. Zimmerman rapped a single into the hole at short to score Fick and tie the score, 3-3. Armando walking Nick Johnson to load the bases, bringing up Austin Kearns, who, to that point, had done little since the trade from Cincinnati. Kearns would launch a MOONSHOT, so high and far enough out to left field to score Lopez easily for the game winning 4-3 score. I was so happy. Happy for the Nats Win and, extremely happy to see Benitez fail once again.

Interestingly, after the conclusion of this series, the Nationals had won all 6 home games against the Cubs and Giants. When the Nats then left for a West Coast Road Trip, Felipe Lopez and Austin Kearns had never lost a game in 12 games played at RFK. The Reds having never lost at RFK in 2 seasons.

Not much great of anything happened during August at RFK, as the Nats pretty much were terrible. It was a GREAT MOMENT, though, when DAMIAN JACKSON was released on August 25. I am sure alot of Nats Fans were dancing in the Streets over that transaction. Loved Screech coming by to celebrate by Birthday, but the only terrific thing that occurred, at home, was Chipper Jones' 3 Homer Night on August 14. Just off the DL, Chipper would flat out unload against Nat pitching, the final homer unloaded on Ryan Wagner, just missing the Upper Deck in Section 462.

September 2 was a special day at RFK. The First DAY/NIGHT Doubleheader in team history at home against Arizona, forced by tropical storm rains the night before. As the game began, rain still coming down, only about 500 people were in the Stadium. It wasn't much of a game. Down 6-1, Ryan Church would hit a 3 run homer, all runners getting on base with 2 outs, to get the Nats close at 6-4. Then, in the 9th, the Diamondbacks would bring on the other ultimate losing closer--Jorge Julio. Freewheeling Fastball Pitcher, with no control. Bernie Castro would walk of 4 pitches. Soriano was next--The Finest Free Swinging Fastball Pitcher in the game. As I wrote then, it was THE PERFECT STORM. Both delivered, as advertised. Soriano BLASTING a shot over the left centerfield wall, his 44th Home Run of the Season, tying the game and sending the few in attendance to dance in the aisles. Nats winning 7-6 in 11 innings. It was sweet to see that HOME RUN!!! Charlie Slowes screaming on the radio "Soriano Swings, HE HAMMERS IT!! OOOOOH, HE CRUSHED IT!!"

Then, in the nightcap, Livan Hernandez would pitch against his former teammates, with a heavy heart, pitch well, but Zimmerman and Kearns would hit homers late, knocking Livo from the game, Hernandez leaving, teary eyed to a TREMENDOUS STANDING OVATION. Livan patting his heart, tipping his hat to the crowd. You had to feel for Number 61. It really was--Hard to Take, despite the 4-3 Nats Victory.

The Phillies and Nationals would play the 3 most INSANE Games of the year, all in last month of the season. The August 31, 12 inning affair that Marlon Anderson scored the game winning run on a WILD PITCH, the star of the game, Marlon, traded less than 30 minutes later to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then, a thrilling 14 inning, down to the last at bat 8-7 loss for Washington. A game that ended at 1:30AM, to be followed the very next night, in THE GAME OF THE YEAR, 4 1/2 hour rain delay, the game played before only 200 diehard, mostly Phillie Fans, ending at 2:06AM. I could go on and on about these 3 games. All three games, memorable. Its easier to link you to my writings from those nights. They were just so much fun to attend. At this link:

Finally, September 30, The Nationals publicly announce that Frank Robinson would not be back to manage in 2007. The Nats look terrible in a 13-0 whooping by the New York Mets. But, an ALL TIME GREAT MOMENT occurs, when, during the 8th and 9th inning, Hugh (Chicken Man) and I stood right behind the Nats 3rd Base Dugout, displaying Hugh's "DC LOVES FRANK" Sign, chanting "WE LOVE FRANK!!" over and over, followed by the Crowd. Then, we display Hugh's "Fearless Leader" Sign to "FRANK, FRANK, FRANK!!!" Robinson patting his heart, pointing to both of us, teary eyed. Frank's wife, Barbara, and daughter, Nichelle, sitting just to my right, crying their eyes out!!!! A Enduring Moment in my BASEBALL Life, sure to last a lifetime. A Special Moment, never to be forgotten.

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