Despite the spring equinox, the season never really arrives in the U.S. until the familiar cry of “play ball!” rings out. In Washington the grand and ancient tradition is carried out as President Johnson arrives to throw out the first ball as a thousand shutters click…”
To celebrate the home opener, I’ve put together a youtube playlist of Opening Days in Washington over the years, starting with a silent movie featuring Herbert Hoover. There’s some more highlights of recent vintage as well:
For generations, the traditional start of the American League season begin in the District of Columbia, frequently with the President throwing out the first ball to the assembled Washington Senators. Presidents Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson included in black and white newsreels included on the playlist. Footage of Richard Nixon, a big Senators fan, couldn’t be found — newsreels were over by then and the Senators were by the end of Nixon’s first term. Presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush (the elder) and Clinton would throw out the first ball elsewhere, while oddly enough softball player Jimmy Carter never did, at least for Opening Day.
The Nats should always be home in season opener. And, the president should always throw out the first pitch. It's called history.
The tradition resumed, albeit sporadically and not always on true Opening Day, in 2005 when the Washington Nationals were reborn as a National League team. Now, it’s a first pitch, from the mound to a specific player rather than the first ball from the stands to a group. George W. Bush made two home opener appearances – 2005 at RFK Stadium and 2008 on Nationals Park Opening Night. Barack Obama, wearing a Chicago White Sox cap and Nats jacket threw an eephus pitch in 2009.
Hoping for a return to an annual Washington Presidential Opening Day is unfortunately a fool’s errand. Between other presidential duties and MLB stretching out Opening Day into Opening Week, the tradition is unlikely to return. At the very least, MLB could award Washington a regular Opening Day slot, but they tend to be more sympathetic to Baltimore on such matters.
There are a few other on-field highlights as well as a pregame hype video. Hopefully, more Opener video will find it’s way onto youtube.
That’s Oakland Raiders legend Ben Davidson, by the way, making his triumphant return to Washington. He played for the 1962-63 Redskins.
The road uniforms were similar to somejerseys (Dressed to the Nines) that the Senators wore over the year with WASHINGTON in block letters on the front. On the back, the name was in blue with the number in red, a look the Chicago Cubs have used (sportslogos.net).
The Americans logo, shown here is was on the sleeve.
Another voice from Washington’s broadcast past went silent on Sunday with the death of Ken Beatrice. From the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, Beatrice’s SportsCall was heard on WMAL-AM (then a real local radio station and not partisan ramblings) when it wasn’t pre-empted by Ron Weber calling the Washington Capitals or some other game. I listened to Beatrice many times coming back from football or basketball practice — I can see the old AM radio in my dad’s Chevy Nova with the orange line on the left side of the dial. I would also listen to Beatrice on my clock radio, despite that I’d wind up having Harden & Weaver wake me up the next morning.
Somebody uploaded a call to Beatrice about the Phoenix Cardinals on youtube:
Beatrice had guests on occasion, but as he frequently reminded us “SportsCall is your show!” with discussions with listeners being the primary content. He was patient with all callers, including children. I called in a few times and so did my brother. Most calls began with “YOUR NEXT!” and ended with “BYE NOW” in Beatrice’s thick Boston accent. He had other sayings that inspired much affectionate parody, (especially by Mike O’Meara of the Don & Mike Show):
“If it’s and buts were candy and nuts, oh what a party we’d have”
“God love you, you keep those phones lit up every night…”
“FOOOOOUUUUURRRR THREE-TWO, DOUBLE-U EM A EL – don’t forget to be a TWO OH TWO in front of it to keep the phone company happy”
“The people who are to hockey games for the fights are the same people who go to auto races for the crashes”
“I simply don’t have the resources to scout high school sports”
Some of Beatrice’s other sayings were tied to his testimonial advertising for local Arby’s franchiser Bernie Streeter (CityPaper) perhaps one of the more successful examples local advertising in DC radio history.
“I love Arby’s milkshakes but on account of a heart attack, I had to limit myself to one or two a month.”
“My favorite is Jamocha!”
and of course…
“curly fries, now I don’t eat the curly fries, but I’m told they are very good.”
SportsCall was decidedly unpretentious with simple production values and the only “music” I recall being the sound touch-tone telephone buttons forming notes that sounded like W M A L.
Not content with just having a 3 or 4 hour show, Beatrice reminded viewers that they could “CALL ME IN MY OFFICE” during the afternoon if they had a question, giving out his office number regularly.
Here are videos of him discussing his career in 2012 with Lee Shephard and Chuck Langdon:
Beatrice also did pre & post-game coverage of the Redskins when they were broadcast on WMAL. Once the team bolted for WTEM, WMAL began it’s decline from an important DC radio station to it’s current situation.
Once the DC media gets around to posting obits about Beatrice, I’ll add them here.
Steve Repsher wrote a tribute on DC Sports Bog
DC sports radio legend Ken Beatrice died this past weekend. Here's his interview with Andy and Czabe from 2011 https://t.co/ZQ2eFQdlaO