Tag Archives: D.C. Sports History

washington_nationals_inagural_season_2005

Remembering the 2005 Washington Nationals

Nostalgia is a form of depression. The cliche has its roots in truth, but in this case, it’s a reminder of joy. The 2005 Washington Nationals were an exciting team that brought the national game back to the nation’s capital after an unconscionable 34 year absence. It didn’t seem real back then — when my then fiancee went to the first exhibition game in RFK Stadium or on Opening Day in Philadelphia a few days later when two friends and I went practically on a whim. When they started the season 50-31, it was so incredible that a 31-50 finish couldn’t dim the appreciation for a magical first season.

I blogged about the new Nats almost daily; something I would continue for several years. Now, it’s more sporadic. However, in celebration of a decade of D.C. baseball and that incredible 2005 season, I have been sharing those original blog posts in three places:

my twitter account:

this blog’s Facebook page

Washington, D.C. Baseball History Facebook page

I’ll be linking to blog posts ten years after the events described in them happened which means 10 years minus 1 day in most cases.

Since these blog posts are 10 years old, there is going to be a lot of dead links being pointed at and that cannot be helped. Also, some of the blog posts got lost through migrations over the years and have been rebuilt. The good news is these new blog posts and really, all of them, are cleaned up a little bit and tagged better.

Oh and that’s not your imagination, that’s really the voice of John Chancellor reading them back to you in your head, just like he did for Ken Burns’ Baseball.

It took several years for me to get past the “I can’t believe we finally have a team” and think of all of this as normal. I think being able to share the Nats with my oldest son helped make it seem real in some respects. I’m so glad he and his younger brother get to grow up having a baseball team just a Metro ride (or eventually a bike ride) away.

Let’s hope that 2015 is a wonderful season for the Nats. I hope you’ll join me in remembering the 2005 one that was so unexpected.

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R.I.P. Earl Lloyd

Earl Lloyd, an Alexandria native, integrated the NBA in 1950 with the Washington Capitols. I blogged about this on 60th anniversary. He didn’t last long before entering the Army while the Capitols folded in early 1951. Lloyd would play for the Syracuse Nationals, winning the 1955 NBA title. His final two years were with the Detroit Pistons where he would also become head coach, the second African-American to hold the top job after Bill Russell.

More on Earl Lloyd:

Wizards Magazine Extra: Remembering Earl LloydMonumental Network

Earl Lloyd, first black player in NBA, dead at 86NBA.com

Earl Lloyd, first African American player in the NBA, dies at 86The Post

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NLDS: Nats vs. SF Giants prediction

The afterglow of Jordan Zimmermann‘s no hitter last a few days and gave a brief respite for the anxiety of postseason baseball. Thanks J-Zimm. Another welcome distraction from all of this is the discovery of 1924 World Series footage – Watch rare footage of the Senators beating the Giants in the 1924 World Series (DC Sports Bog) | Film of the Washington Senators Winning the 1924 World Series Found! (Library of Congress)

That’s just outstanding stuff. Walter Johnson, the winning run in the only World Series title to date.

There has also been more wonderful Nats coverage than I can keep up with of late.

Today, at 3:07 p.m. on FOX Sport 1 or in my case, MLB Audio, the Washington Nationals host the San
Francisco Giants, who whipped the Pittsburgh Pirates in the play-in game on Wednesday night. The Nats have Stephen Strasburg starting his first playoff game while Jake Peavy starts for the Giants.

I was hoping for the Giants and told my friend David in San Francisco as much which might be hubris. I think it’s the best possible matchup in the playoffs for DC. David offered this in an email:

It is amazing what a big win will do to your attitude. I still believe that the Nationals and the Dodgers are the two best teams in the National League. But I also will note that the Giants played great last night and a 5 game series is short enough for randomness to trump averages. I suspect the Giants will use Bumgarner for Game 3, which means they will get him only once. Although you speak highly of Hudson, he has been lousy over the past month. At 38, end-of-season fatigue is a real thing. His pitches are elevating on him (typical sign of fatigue) and he’s been crushed for it. The best I’m hoping for from him is that he puts in 5 solid innings, gives up less than 2 runs and then Bochy goes to the bullpen. That will be taxing meaning that Peavy and the other likely starter (maybe Petit, maybe Vogelsong) will need to give a solid performance. But it means we get a travel day after going to the bullpen early.

In our favor, I like that Matt Williams has no post-season coaching experience and the Nationals’ last trip to the postseason ended in humiliating disaster. That is something that might creep into the minds of players that remember it. An ESPN analyst last night had a nice quip. He said the Pirates came into the game last night full of excitement and emotion and the Giants came in workmen-like fashion and the result showed. I thought in the 5th inning when McCutchen was stranded at second to end the inning his body language said he (the best player on their team) was a defeated player. I typically discount all the bluster of “playoff experience.” For instance, the most important players in the Giants 2010 championship, such as Posey, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Romo and Brian Wilson had zero playoff experience combined. Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria were the only players that had significant playoff experience and their contributions were mixed. Renteria was amazing and a vital component of their success, Uribe played well and Rowand was a total non-factor. But I really do like the fact that so many players on this team have experience winning elimination games–particularly multiple elimination game scenarios. They have the moxie to lose two games in Washington and come home and play their best ball and force a game 5. Some teams don’t have that–the A’s for instance.

Some other things to put in the doom category: Matt Williams (former San Francisco Giants star) quoted “we have miles to go before we sleep.” You know who else says that a lot? Ted Leonsis, who has never owned a team that advanced past the second round.

There is also the concern that the cowardly, subsidized Baltimore Orioles will exceed the Nats this and any season. And then we’ll have to hear about it from the fanboys in the DC media who uncritically cover a Baltimore team as if it were in DC. Even the ones who aren’t openly in the tank for Baltimore are apologists who ignore that the Orioles and their owner Peter Angelos are currently in default to the Nats. It’s a bad situation made worse.

Memories of the 2012 Nats collapse aren’t far away either. They had the Cardinals down 6-0 and lost 9-7, a bitter defeat as any in DC sports history. At least in my lifetime.

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning though. Back in 2004, I decided to ignore my cynicism and get emotionally attached to the idea that baseball would finally return to The District. Then it did.

Nats in 4.

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jordan-zimmermann-nohitter

Jordan Zimmermann throws first DC no-hitter since 1931 in Nats final regular season game

Monday is the 10th anniversary of the announcement that baseball was returning to D.C. What happened on Sunday morning might be one of top three highlights of that decade — Jordan Zimmermann pitching a no-hitter for the Washington Nationals:

103 pitches, 10 strikeouts, 1 walk, 1 runner advanced to first on a wild-pitch strike three and then got promptly picked off. Here is the final out, a diving catch by defensive replacement, LF Steven Souza, Jr., as told by four different broadcasters:

That’s a really good call by Bob Carpenter. It was thrilling to watch.

Zimmermann recorded just the third 9-inning no-hitter in D.C. history. Other no hitters (as seen on Washington D.C. Baseball History Facebook group):

Walter Johnson – July 1, 1920 / 9 innings
Walter Johnson – August 25, 1924 / 7 innings, game was called due to rain.
Bobby Burke – August 8, 1931 / 9 innings
Jordan Zimmermann – September 28, 2014 / 9 innings

Ian Desmond hit a second inning homer and that was all Zimmermann needed for run support.

A great game deserves a great gamer:

Thomas Boswell finally saw a no-hitter:

The only two moments that compare to this — Ryan Zimmerman’s Nationals Park Opening Night Walkoff in 2008 and Jayson Werth’s Game 4 walkoff in 2012.

So far.

This was an exclamation point to a 96-win season with home field advantage in the NL playoffs. Zimmermann’s performance gives Nats fans a roaring crescendo to the regular season. The tension of the playoffs can wait for several days as it will surely happen, particularly when the opponent is determined by the NL Wild Card play-in game.

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Nats Fans 10 by Cathy T used under Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons

Nats clinch third winning season in a row, best stretch in DC since 1930s

Last night, the Washington Nationals won their 82nd game of the season, defeating the Atlanta Braves 6-4. The win clinched a 4third consecutive winning season. They have won 80 or more every year since 2011. They also went 81-81 in 2005.

The last time that happened in D.C. – 1930-1933 when the original AL franchise

				G	W	L
1933	Washington Senators	153	99	53
1932	Washington Senators	154	93	61
1931	Washington Senators	156	92	62
1930	Washington Senators	154	94	60

The ’33 Nats, managed by future AL president Joe Cronin, were the last pennant winners in the Nation’s Capital, failing to the New York Giants in the World Series that year in five games.

Walter Johnson managed the 1929-1932 Nats.

The 1912-1915 teams also had 80+ wins and winning records, but never finished closer than 6½ games back.

The Nats have as many winning seasons this decade than the post-WWII did Senator.

The current Nats lead the NL East by 9 games. The magic number to clinch the division is 10 as seen above. We’ve come along way since the “Nats Fans 10” sign near the scoreboard walk. What, were you expecting Ronnie Belliard?

A win this afternoon (4:05 p.m. baseball for the late work day and ride home!) over the Braves and the magic number goes down to 8. They have the best winning percentage in the league and are tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most wins in the league and have two games in hand. The 2012 Nats also had the best record in the NL.

What I’m trying to say — right now is a really, really good time to be a D.C. baseball fan.

Let’s hope that it’s the BEST time.

And Ryan Zimmerman is staking BP too!Nats Enquirer

Photo “Nats Fans 10” by flickr user Cathy T used under Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons

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RIP Don Zimmer

Farewell to Don Zimmer, colorful baseball lifer. I first remember him from his days managing the Chicago Cubs (The Boys of Zimmer! (well, some of it) when I was a fan because they were on superstation WGN every afternoon. There was his long tenure as Joe Torre’s bench coach with the New York Yankees during their great run in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He even managed the team in 1999 when Torre was getting cancer treatments. He also managed the San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, being on the losing end of Bucky “Q@#%&-ing” Dent. Thankfully.

Zimmer finished his playing career with the Washington Senators after his second stop with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nats Enquirer’s post describes how Zimmer found out he was leaving L.A. for D.C. Zimmer had most of his on-field success with the Dodgers, being part of their first two championship teams in Brooklyn and L.A., respectively. He also played for the Cubs and the ’62 New York Mets. He was employed by the Tampa Bay Rays at the time of his death.

The two best obituaries I have seen thus far are from the NY Daily News: Don Zimmer dead at 83: Longtime Yankees bench coach, original Met and former Brooklyn Dodger was baseball lifer and Sports Illustrated Remembering the incredible baseball life of Don Zimmer.

It’s too bad the Nationals never had any sort of Old-Timer’s Day with a bunch of Senators — how would have been to have Zimmer there in a Senators uniform?

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RIP Connie Marrero

Connie Marrero, who would have been 103 years old this week, has died. He pitched for the Washington Senators for five seasons, beginning as a 39 year old rookie in 1950. His overall record was a respectable 39-40 (Baseball Reference) and he was an All Star in 1951. Marrero was celebrated as the oldest living baseball player in his native Cuba where he was a legend. Ted Williams said Marrero threw “everything but a ball” while Marrero liked to say he “threw everything but his cigar.”

Rick Maese of The Post wrote a long feature on Marrero earlier this year that’s a wonderful read — At 102, Connie Marrero, the oldest living former major leaguer, spends days in Cuba.

Marrero’s contributions to D.C. baseball did not end with his career. As a prominent figure in Cuban baseball, he continued to teach. Among his proteges is Livan Hernandez, tied for all-time modern Nats wins with Jordan Zimmerman. Marrero taught Hernandez how to throw the curve which is detailed in a DC Sports Bog post – Connie Marrero, oldest Major Leaguer and former Senators pitcher, dies at 102.

I am not aware of any tribute by the current Nats, but hopefully they can do that tonight. ¡LIVAN! is still in the organization, so they ought to work with him on celebrating the unique life of Marrero.

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Video: Babe Ruth vs. Walter Johnson and Lou Gerhig on the first day of his streak

Tuesday’s Uni-Watch linked to a great post about a fantastic find – old film Babe Ruth batting against Walter Johnson. It was more than that though, as it was June 1, 1925 which was the day that Ruth came back from the “Belly Ache Heard ’round the World.” It gets even better, not only was The Babe back and facing perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time, but in the dugout is a young player who would pinch hit later that day and then play another 2,129 consecutive games. Lou Gerhig‘s 2,130 game streak began the day of this film.

Before you watch the video, read how Tom Shieber concluded it was June 1, 1925 – Some Very Fortunate Footage (Baseball Researcher)

Great stuff, I’ll see if I can find a cleaner, Olberman-less video tonight.

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R.I.P. Dick Heller, long-time Wash. Times sports columnist

Dick Heller, longtime Washington Times sports columnist, dead at 76

A Northwest Washington native, Heller began working for newspapers when he was in high school, covering high school sports for The Washington Daily News. He also worked for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Alexandria Gazette before joining The Washington Star, where he covered University of Maryland athletics until the newspaper closed in 1981…

…Following a stint at The Miami Herald, Heller joined The Washington Times in 1986, and he became a columnist in the early 1990s. He remained with the newspaper until it folded its sports section in December 2009, then contributed bi-weekly columns for a time after the section returned in March 2011.

Heller covered the Washington Senators in the 1960s and was featured in a documentary or two about the D.C. baseball. My favorite columns of his were about the end of Griffith Stadium and his anti-Texas Rangers ones, though the alternative turned out to be a bit unpalatable as well.

I read and linked to many Heller columns over the years, some of which you can find here.

WHAT HIS COLLEAGUES ARE SAYING

WELP, NOBODY’S PERFECT

I will probably add to this post as more tributes and obituaries come in. There are some kind words for Heller on the Washington D.C. Baseball History Facebook group.

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Jerry Smith: A Football Life looks like another must see

I was a bit surprised to learn over the weekend that the NFL Network documentary show “A Footabll Life” was going to feature former Washington Redskins great, Jerry Smith. Pat of my surprise was that I had not heard of it sooner, but I was also surprised it was being done at all. DC Sports Bog mentioned it yesterday too.

Smith, whose career came before my time, was one of the best tight ends in the NFL during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I hadn’t heard of him until much later when it was revealed in The Post that he was dying of AIDS. Though his sexuality was specifically not mentioned, even at a young age, I caught the subtext.

There are a number of clips up on the NFL Films blog. Might as well start with the trailer. The upshot of the doc — many of his teammates suspected or knew that Smith was gay, but accepted him as a teammate and friend. Here’s the NFL Network description of the episode:

”A Football Life” – Jerry Smith – Almost 50 years ago, a young tight end named Jerry Smith joined the Washington Redskins. After 13 seasons on the team, Smith retired, but not before making two Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team, and playing in the Super Bowl. He set an NFL record with 60 receiving touchdowns, the most ever by a tight end (that record stood for 26 years). Smith was also gay, something that caused him to live a life in constant fear and tension.

I expect there to be more from The Post in the coming days. Long-time editor, George Solomon, was then a writer who broke Smith having AIDS.

Here it is, until it gets taken down again:

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