Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our Team

"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.

Our Team.

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.


WFY said...

It was only in '78 that it was revealed Calvin Griffith moved to Minnesota because he was a racist.

He was a horrible man, I'm glad he didn't own the Twins when they finally won it all.

Eric said...

As a Nats fan now living in the Twin Cities (and now a converted Twins fan too!), I'll be particularly loving this series! Even if it is in the stupid dome....

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Although I resent HOW Minnesota got their team, I cannot resent their fans. I remember (was it last year?) when the Nats last visited the Twins Cities and over 40,000 fans came out to the ballpark. I think the Twins may have been defending AL Central champions, but they weren't in first place. Now maybe they had a bobblehead giveaway promotion, but to me it seemed a lot of Twins fans wanted to see THEIR team, even if they weren't playing the Yankees and even if it was a domed stadium.

That impressed me.

Through no fault of their own, the Twins play in a small midwestern market and they can't compete for free agents the Yankees want. But they DO have baseball fans. I can't say they don't deserve a team. But their team should have been the expansion team in '61 while Killebrew, Kaat, and the rest of the Nats were laying the groundwork for the Washington's first pennant in 32 years...

Edward J. Cunningham said...

One more thing. I read that a young Edward Bennett Williams was rejected as potential owner for the Senators in favor of Bob Short, who had moved the Lakers from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. I'm convinced if EBW had gotten the Nats, they would have stayed in the District and he would have gotten Marion Barry to build a new baseball stadium in the late 80's.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Eddie: Actually, it was Bob Hope (Actor & Comedian) that was outbid by Bob Short. A very leverage buyout that turned out to be the beginning of the end of the expansion senators. Hope would have had the resources to maintain the team. Short did not. He was in too deep.

WFY said...

I noticed in one of your earlier posts you mentioned Short saying on his deathbed moving the Senators was a bad idea. What is the whole story?

Screech's Best Friend said...

WFY--When Bob Short was dying of Lung Cancer in 1982 in Minneapolis, It was reported he apologized about moving The Senators from Washington. I recall the quote being "the worst decision I ever made in my lifetime"--something similar to that. I am sure of it.

I even recall Jim Kaat (now a Yankees Broadcaster) speaking of it when The Yankees visited RFK two seasons ago. Thanks for the question.

Anonymous said...

SBF - That's a great story about you're dad. I'm glad you got your foul ball this year, was it your first?

SenatorNat said...

I was coming in from the woods with my dachshund Docky for dinner; my Gramps was standing at the back door saying: "Tommy - get ready for some bad news - the Senators are moving to Minnesota!" I could only hope that he was kidding, but he wasn't.

We can thank Kennedy for ensuring that we got an expansion team the very next year, so there would be no break. But, of course, they could not quickly become the team the 1960 Senators had shown was going to be in Minnesota - young powerful hitters and great young pitching, as said.

I kept a scrapbook for years of the Washington Post; Star; and News accounts of that doubleheader licking the expansion Senators put on the twins in 1961 at Griffith Stadium - the best part was the expressed shock by the Old Senators at how vehemently the fans booed them upon their return. We were really booing Clark Griffith's adopted son, of course. And, yes, like his counterpart Redskins owner, he was an avowed racist...

Trust in the ever-suffering Nats fandom. All Good.