Saturday, June 26, 2010

Playing Like The 1970's Version Of My Washington Senators

When The Washington Senators of my youth played The Baltimore Orioles, The O's beat on The Nats like a drum. From 1969-1971, the Ted Williams years as manager for D.C., Baltimore was the best team in The American League. They had a great lineup and the best pitching. Three time A.L. Champions, 1970 World Series Champion. And every single time they seemingly played My Washington Senators--The Baltimore Orioles crushed them or came from behind to win--always leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.

With The New York Yankees haven fallen on hard times back in those days, The Orioles were the team to fear.

During the final three seasons of The Washington Senators existence before moving to Arlington, Texas and becoming The Rangers--The O's beat The Nats 42 times out of 54 total games played. So, let's just repeat that stat: Washington 12 Wins and 42 Losses against The Baltimore Orioles from 1969 through 1971.

All that stated because today at Camden Yards in Baltimore, The Orioles celebrated the 40th Anniversary of their 1970 World Series Championship Team. They honored their players and surviving family members in a touching pre-game ceremony. Then, toasted the reunion with Baltimore's 2010 Version suiting up in Vintage 1970's Throwback home uniforms and Our Washington Nationals donning 1970's Washington Senators gray away jerseys, pants and red socks. And just like old times, they played liked the 1970's version of My Washington Senators. The Retro Orioles came back to beat up on The Retro Nats.

It didn't matter that Our Washington Nationals staked themselves to a five run lead. A huge advantage for the second consecutive night. It didn't matter that Livan Hernandez was given a comfortable margin to work with. It didn't matter that Baltimore Starter, Brad Bergeson, lasted just four innings.

What mattered was that The O's Corey Patterson played like Don Buford (leading off and being a pest). Miguel Tejada like Paul Blair (making the plays in the field, getting on base and driving key runs home), Matt Wieters--Elrod Hendricks (clutch RBI man) and Adam Jones providing the fire power always on display when Frank Robinson stepped to the plate. Of course, Adam Jones homered to left center to get Baltimore's comeback started in the bottom of the 4th. The Orioles providing the pressure that never allows the defense to rest. The type of play The O's were known for 40 years ago--today.

Yes, a vintage display of baseball at Oriole Park this Saturday. The Baltimore Orioles acting like a great team from their past while Our Washington Nationals performed the duty of the second division team--take the lead early, try to hold on valiantly, but eventually lose to the opposing side--thanks to a letdown.

When Baltimore's Luke Scott scored the eventual game winning run in the bottom of the 7th inning on a Drew Storen wild pitch, it might as well have been Boog Powell lumbering home after a Joe Grzenda, Horacio Pina or even Darold Knowles uncorked wild one. That's how My Washington Senators used to lose ball games in 1970. And that's how Our Washington Nationals lost another close game they should have won today. Livan Hernandez losing his composure in the bottom of the 5th by allowing four Baltimore singles and one double--resulting in four runs--to tie up this game. And Drew Storen losing his piece of mind when he set sail a curve ball that bounced on the plate with the go ahead run on third base. A rookie mistake always rudely taught in this results and execution game known as Major League Baseball.

You've got to play to win, but you also always have to play well--consistently--to be successful.

The 1970 Baltimore Orioles celebrated today at Oriole Park were exactly that type of team. A franchise My Washington Senators could never emulate. A team Our Washington Nationals hope to become--but just not today.

Final Score from Camden Yards where the retro look was pretty darn cool: The Baltimore Orioles 6 and Our Washington Nationals 5. Loss number 42 of 2010 was not as awful or devastating as last night's wicked defeat, but it was just as stressful for a D.C. Team that hasn't found their footing these past six weeks. Stephen Strasburg has certainly arrived, but as has been quickly determined--he's not the savior--only the harbinger of possible things to come. If you haven't realized it by now--it takes a team to win. A complete roster of 25 guys--not just one fellow pitching every 5th day. The 1970 Baltimore Orioles could do it all--with pitching, hitting and defense. That's why they became World Champions. One day, Our Washington Nationals will reach that pinnacle in the sport, but before those halcyon days commence, they are going to need to play better all around baseball--a full nine innings worth--day after day after night after night.

You can't be losing five and six run leads every night. And you can't be losing consecutive games to the team with worst record in Major League Baseball--even if the games are played on their home turf. The 2010 Baltimore Orioles are not The 1970 Baltimore Orioles. But The 2010 Version of Our Washington Nationals this late Saturday afternoon, turned to evening contest, gave the impression The O's were such world beaters of 40 years past--by playing like The 1970 Version of My Washington Senators.

That can't happen if you are going to be successful.

By the way--no one mentioned this today at the ballpark--as far as we know. But exactly 40 years ago today--June 26th, 1970--Frank Robinson hit two grand slams in consecutive at-bats against The Washington Senators at RFK Stadium. Joe Coleman gave up the first homer. Joe Grzenda the second. I know and I remember--because I was there. One of 13,194 in attendance on a Friday summer evening when I was 10 years old--having just graduated from the 5th grade. To this day, Frank Robby always jokes that he was pissed at his teammate Paul Blair who made the final out for Baltimore in the top of the 9th that night--with the bases loaded again. Frank Robinson wanted the opportunity to hit three grand slams in one game. A feat that has never occurred in the sport. Ironically, those two grand slams hit by Robinson were the only two he EVER HIT IN HIS CAREER!! The man socked out 586 career home runs but his only two grand slams in the big leagues occurred on June 26th, 1970.

And I was there. Proud of it too.

Game Notes & Highlights

Livan Hernandez let it all slip away today. Given a five run lead, he couldn't hold it. When Matt Wieters tied this game up at five on a two out single to right scoring Tejada and Nick Markakis in the bottom of the 5th--you could not only see Livo's shoulder's slump, but just about every single player wearing a Senators Jersey today on the field. Almost, the here we go again feeling that Washington never recovered from. Ole Number 61 didn't receive the loss, that went to Sean Burnett in the 7th, but Hernandez saw his ERA rise above three for the first time all season: 3.10. He didn't walk anyone, but Livan allowed 11 hits, not enough scattered. And that cost him his advantage.

He's up and down, up and down--and today was a down day for Sean Burnett. Our Number 17 allowing a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 7th to Nick Markakis. The set up for the game winning run after Markakis was forced out on a Luke Scott grounder. Scott eventually scoring when Matt Wieters singled to center and Drew Storen relieved Burnett and tossed his wild pitch to Ty Wigginton that decided this game. Burnett now 0-4 for the season, but carrying a 2.81 ERA.

Washington got on the board with 4 runs in the top of the 3rd when Adam Dunn ripped a double down the right field line off Bergeson scoring Ian Desmond and Cristian Guzman. Ryan Zimmerman moved to 3rd. Pudge Rodriguez followed with a ground out to plate Zimmy. And Roger Bernadina got Dunn home with an rbi single to left. Washington's fifth and final run scoring on a sacrifice fly by "The Guz" sending Ian Desmond home. Dunn looking a little like My Favorite Player Of All Time!! Frank Howard in that retro uni.

Only seven total hits today by Washington. Three walks taken, but only one hit and one walk over the five final innings played. Our Washington Nationals are struggling to finish teams off when they have the lead--even a comfortable lead.

The throwback uniforms worn today by both teams were fabulous. The Orioles vintage look with the orange, black and white striped socks--classic. That uniform stands the test of time. And as a life long Washington Senators Fan, it warmed the heart to see "Senators" in script being worn again in a Major League Baseball Game. That's the uniform of My Washington Senators for their final three years of existence. And that's a uniform I've never forgotten. Although, the "Senators" script on these retro uniforms was a little larger today than back in the day.

Drew Storen was rocking the red socks today. He wore his stirrups exactly in sync with what I wore in my playing days. As The African Queen can attest, I couldn't stop talking about Drew Storen and his red socks this afternoon. That was just so cool to see. He wore them PERFECTLY!! Just the right amount of half moon red showing down from his pant lengths.

As we always do when visiting ballparks, Sohna and I explore all the facilities. Yesterday, our tickets were behind the 3rd Base Dugout in the field box seats. Today was our Club Level ticket day at Camden Yards. We've watched games there before, but the renovations inside the club have made the place even better than previously seen. A Grand Entrance off the elevator lobby. The World Series Championship Trophies, Cy Young Award Winner & MVP Plaques--all on display. Vintage photos of every single team in Baltimore History. Just great stuff--and that's just the memorabilia. The club space is extremely well laid out. Plenty of walking room, dining and lounge seating areas. We can't say enough about how much we liked it.

The outside seating area for ticket holders in The Stars & Stripes Club at Nationals Park is far superior than The Club Level at Camden Yards--no comparison in fact for leg room and seating comfort when watching any game. But the inside amenities at Oriole Park's Club Level far more attractive than it's counterpart on South Capitol Street. And that's said understanding that Camden Yards does not have a Presidents Club or Diamond Club. There are no premium seats in Baltimore--so their Club Level is what their franchise has spent top dollar on. It also doesn't hurt that The Orioles have 57 years of history to adorn their walls with collectibles. Our Washington Nationals just over six. Big Difference.

And finally, it was quite funny to see Nationals Season Ticket Holder Fran and his wife, Jill, with tickets alongside Sohna and I. Each of us had purchased our seats on Stubhub!! recently. And by chance ended up sitting right next to each other.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


Edward J. Cunningham said...

I'm wondering if Stephen Strasburg or one of the other pitchers in our staff could play outfield on their off-days. I don't expect them to be Babe Ruth, but there are other pitchers in the National League with higher batting averages than "The Mets must hate" Willie Harris right now...

SuzyQ said...

Hey Jeff! Nice blog. My dad was tickled that you all ended up sitting next to each other at Camden Yards. Great pictures. Even though it was hot, and even though the Nats didn't fare so well against the Orioles, it seems you still managed to have a good time. :-)

Screech's Best Friend said...

SuzyQ: Thanks for chiming in. And it was great seeing your Dad. And we always have a good time. That's what it's all about--after all. See you around the park.