Tag Archives: D.C. Sports History

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.

Four clips are now on youtube:

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Vintage video: 1946 Redskins vs. Giants in color

A great find on youtube, a film (in color!) of the Oct. 13 1946 game between the Washington Redskins and New York Football Giants from Griffith Stadium in D.C. Sammy Baugh led Washington a 24-14 win over New York (Pro Football Reference boxscore).

The half-time show and other festivities get more attention than the first game. A second game, featuring a trip to Philadelphia’s Shibe Park for an Eagles game, is also featured. Even weirder is a 1947 game against the Green Bay Packers in Baltimore.

The narration is by Harry Wiese, long-time Skins radio play-by-play man and future owner of the AFL’s New York Titans.

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1950s prototype Washington Nationals jersey discovered

gilmourNationals 016.jpg
Wednesday’s Uni Watch, showed several photos of a prototype 1950 Washington Nationals road jersey from the collection of Tony Cocchi. Apparently, after many years of wearing a block W, there was talk of putting the official team name on the jersey. Back then, Senators and Nationals were used interchangeably, but the former name had more currency than the latter. The original American League team became the Nationals in 1905 because Senators was a “hoodoo nickname.” You may recall the silly “ESTABLISHED 1905″ patch on the 2005 Nats. The 1905 and 1906 Nats jerseys also became the first to have the team name on them before adopting a W or “WASHINGTON” on their jerseys.

In 2004, Charlie Brotman explained to me that he found there was not a consensus on the name and he decided on Senators once and for all when he took over team PR in the mid-1950s. A few years later, in 1959, the jerseys were the first to have a team name in over 50 years — they said “Senators.” That continued the next year too, but then Calvin Griffith moved the team because he was a racist. The expansion Senators continued to use the Senators name on their home (and later road) jerseys until Bob Short moved them to, as Shirley Povich put it, “some jerk town with the single boast it is equidistant from Dallas and Fort Worth.”

I do not know why the “Nationals” jersey did not get used in 1950 — they stuck with a W on both the home and road jerseys, a fairly common look over the years of DC baseball. I wonder if there was a home prototype that looked similar.

When baseball returned to D.C., so did the Nationals nickname — these days, “Senators” might be too offensive. The current Nats pay homage to that on their home and alternate jerseys, but with a curly W over the left breast instead of a block one. For a few years, the current Nats also used a very similar script as the 1950 prototype in their “NatsTown” branding, but the “script curly N” has been replaced with a not-at-all curly N.

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Vintage Video: Super Bowl XXII Redskins vs. Broncos

I fully expect the Denver Broncos to drop about 55 points on the Washington Redskins on Sunday at Mile High. No matter in the scheme of things though, because when it counted most, the D.C. burgundy and gold scored the ultimate victory over the Rocky Mountain orange and orange – Super Bowl XXII.

Do I need to go into much detail? Probably not, we all know that was the year Doug Williams was a starter in the playoffs and had the greatest quarter any quarterback (4 TD passes amid 5 DC TDs overall) amidst a lot of symbolism. John Elway was his opposite number and after a great start, had a miserable day in his second of three Super Bowl losses. The Broncos at least looked like the Broncos back then with the glorious Orange Crush jerseys.

Here is the whole game from the ABC telecast (including 1987 commercials):

Though if you just want to watch “The Quarter” go ahead.

Williams only started about a season’s worth of games here, but he’ll always be a legend.

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Nats clinch second consecutive winning season; Span’s hitting streak ends at 29

The Washington Nationals 3-2 win over the Miami Marlins was their 82nd of the 2013 season, clinching their second consecutive winning season.

Last D.C. consecutive winning seasons: 1930-1933 (won the AL pennant in 1933 under Joe Cronin)

Last D.C. manager before Davey Johnson to have consecutive winning seasons: Walter Johnson (1930-1932)

Last D.C. consecutive non-losing seasons: 1952-1953 (78-76 and 76-76) under Bucky Harris

On a down night, Denard Span’s hitting streak ended at 29 games, one short of Ryan Zimmerman’s modern record.

20 year old Bryce Harper hit his 20th home run of the season too:

That was all the scoring the Nats needed and all they got.

The Nats are 5 back of the play-in game.

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30 years ago: Huge Redskins-Cowboys Monday Night Opener

One of the great Monday Night Football games happened thirty years ago tonight at RFK Stadium. The Washington Redskins were beginning their title defense after winning Super Bowl XVII. Their opponent was the hated Dallas Cowboys, looking to avenge their NFC Championship humiliation from the previous January. It was one of the first games I can remember. The whole game is on youtube, so I thought I’d watch it again.

A lot happened that night, both in the game and on the telecast.

WEATHER
90° on the field, 70% humidity in the air

NATIONAL ANTHEM
“Princess Pale Moon, an authentic Indian princess will render the anthem”

HOWARD COSELL, JAKE GIBBS AND THAT LITTLE MONKEY
1983 was the final year Howard Cosell was on Monday Night Football.

Cosell talks up the Cowboys more than the Redskins who were merely the defending champs

There was some sort of international crisis (Lebanon bombing I think, Cossell doesn’t say)

“Jake Gibbs” several times before being corrected.

Around 30:30 Completion to Alvin Garrett on first down…

Cosell: “Jake Gibbs really wanted to get this kid and that little monkey gets loose.”

Don Meredith: It’s actually JOE GIBBS, Jake was the other kid who was a great quarterback.

At 1:25:25 Cosell: starts defending the “little monkey” remark. ”

“A couple of AP reporters apparently going to our truck…I’ll pick up in moment. ”

(play by play continues)

“Let me pick up, according to the reporters, they were told I called Alvin Garrett a little monkey. Nothing of the sort and you fellas know it. No man respects Alvin Garrett more than I do, I talked about that man’s ability to be so elusive despite the smallness of size.”

Cosell would say “Jake Gibbs” again later in the telecast.


Camera shows Dave Butz

“He’s 800 lbs and 17 feet tall”

“Our new anchor, Peter Jennings”

Fascinating – All-time Dolphins backup QB Don Strock apparently held out, Dan Marino’s rookie year.

FRANK GIFFORD
Gifford doing the play-by-play and doing it well, though he kept saying “Rich Walker” instead of Rick Walker.

“Joe Theismann, who will have a word with you…”

“a little quieter in the teepee at the moment” – after White’s second bomb to Tony Hill to make it 23-17, Washington 1:38:14

DON MEREDITH
“Don’t worry Good Time Tommy” – as camera shows Tom Landry after John Riggins scores touchdown on fourth down in the late first quarter.

“Dallas goes into their infamous Flex defense”

After Danny White’s 76 yard touchdown pass to Tony Hill to open the second half: “I’d about decided that since Tom wouldn’t let them dance in the end zone, they wouldn’t go there any more”

SPONSORED BY
Wang! Eastern Airlines!

INTRODUCING DARRELL GREEN
At about 20:40 they talk about “little Darrell Green” getting roughed up by the Miami Dolphins in preseason. At 39:00, Tony Dorsett busts through the line, but you can watch it here:

Dorsett had to ice his knee afterward and the Cowboys settled for a field goal.

HALFTIME
Right before half-time, after Skins go up 23-3.

Cosell: when have you seen the Dallas Cowboys appear in such disarray?

Meredith: Last time they were here

22+ minutes of possession for the Skins in the first half

2ND HALF – DANNY WHITE’S REVENGE
The Dallas quarterback, who was famously knocked out in the previous NFC Championship game started off the first quarter with -10 passing yards in the first half.

3 touchdown passes, 1 touchdown run in the second. His United Way commercial got edited out of this video though.

At 1:59:05 (9:25 left in the game) Mark Mosely, who went 20 of 21 in 1982, missed a 31 yard field goal after a Don Warren catch and first down was called back for offensive pass interference.

At 2:05:38 White converts on 4th and inches on a QB sneak with about 4:55 left in the game. He then fumbled the next snap, but recovered.

Shortly there after, at 2:06:45, a shot of Riggins with a towel on his face – “think Big John Riggins just dozing off there a little?” – Gifford. Meredith and Cosell disagree.

At 2:08:33, White runs a keeper on the right side to put the Cowboys up for the first time all night. 24-23, Dallas. 2:25 on the game clock.

At 2:11:35, Theismann gets picked off by Fellows who takes it back to the 4.

At 2:14:08: Meredith: “It’s just been a good night, you want to get it off, start it off on a good positive note.

Cosell: Boy have you changed, you were enjoying their demise before.

Meredith: You were incorrect. Once again.

At 2:14:55 White throws another touchdown, this time to Doug Cosbie. Meredith: “That may have tied a long-standing record of Eddie LeBaron, he threw a 12 inch touchdown pass here in Washington.” Dallas 31 WASHINGTON 23.

At 2:15:18 a great “WELCOME HOME, JOE – VIENNA LOVES ITS REDSKINS – HIGH FIVE FUN BUNCH” banner in the end zone. Vienna did, Vienna does.

At 2:16:22 Mike Nelms with a great return, only to the 26, but he really fought to get an extra five yards. He was simply an outstanding kick returner.

At 2:17:21 reminds us that this rebroadcast “without the express written consent of the National Football League is a no-no.” Sorry, Don.

At 2:18:20 – cheerleaders with bad 1980s hairstyles.

At 2:18:30 – Cowboys fans holding a banner. Commentators note they waited to pull it out.

At 2:18:50 – DEXTER MANLEY MOHAWK!

Meredith sings “turn out the lights, the party’s over” at 2:22:25. Gifford talks over him. Gifford “you make Willie Nelson sound like Perry Como.”

Don Warren touchdown catch, despite Everson Walls interferance at 2:24:24. Ten seconds left in the game, no two-point conversion available. PAT is good. Dallas 31, WASHINGTON 30.

Dallas recovers the onside kick at 2:27:28. Dennis Thurman, burned earlier in the game, recovered the onside kick. Game over.

SARTORIAL SPLENDOR
The Redskins were in their traditional white over burgundy of the Gibbs eras. Joe Washington looking great with black shoes. They really need to start wearing burgundy pants with the white jerseys again.

The Cowboys were in their bad luck blues over true silver pants with the numbers on them. The captain’s “C” that Danny White, Drew Person, Bob Breuning and Ron Fellows wore was mentioned around 1:35:20. Meredith noted, “It’s amazing what the get tough rules mean down there – democracy is moving in.”

GINA CARANO’S DADDY
If you are like me, I’m sure you saw Glenn Carano holding for placekicks and thought that someday his daughter would be something called a mixed martial arts fighter.

Carano got leveled by a diving Darrell Green trying to block the kick. Green was injured and penalized.

SELLOUT STREAK
123

THE GOOD OLD DAYS BEFORE RESTRICTED AIRSPACE
A Goodyear blimp, Enterprise, was overhead for the game. Back then, blimps used Dulles Airport as their base of operations when they were in the D.C. area. Flying out to Dulles took it right over our house in Vienna. After the game, I remember hearing it and it was SO LOUD for about 10 minutes. My father got up, walked out the front door and looked up. “All I saw was blimp” he said. I wished I had at least gotten out of bed and looked out my window. He wished he had taken a photograph and send a letter to Goodyear, hoping to leverage a ride out of it. Oops.

EPILOGUE
On Channel 9, Mike Buchanan covered the loss like it was death.

The Cowboys rolled to a 7-0 start on the way to 12-2. The Redskins lost another one-point Monday Night game, 48-47 at the Green Bay Packers, the highest scoring Monday Night game ever. In week 15, they met in Texas Stadium as the Redskins dominated the Cowboys 31-10 in what is remember as the “no, Danny, no!” game. The Cowboys then lost their next two games, including a home Wild Card game to the Los Angeles Rams. A week later, the Rams went into RFK and got dominated by the Skins 51-7, setting up an NFC Championship game between the Redskins and San Francisco 49ers. The Skins overcame 4 missed Mark Mosely field goals and a furious 49er rally to advance to their second consecutive Super Bowl. The less said about that game the better.

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