The next time you are watching the Washington Nationals, be sure to toast the late Bill Holdforth, Washington Senators fan and folk hero. “Baseball Bill” was an usher at RFK Stadium during the final years of the Senators and a bartender on Capitol Hill, the Hawk n’ Dove in particular. Most notably, he “took a very grand stand for the fans against the evil force that took the Washington Senators, and baseball, away.” (DAVE McKENNA: When Baseball Was King – CityPaper)
In 1972, Holdforth was photographed holding an effigy next to the former Senators owner (Senators fan took an effigy to Baltimore to irritate Rangers owner Bob Short in 1972 – The Post) the first time he was in Baltimore with Texas Rangers. The legend often includes him dumping beer on Short, but it was apparently a young woman. Baseball Bill wouldn’t waste beer. In ’71, he had been fired from his stadium job for a Short effigy.
Baseball Bill’s antipathy to Short continued in 1978. Short, by then a former owner of the Senators/Rangers franchise, ran for a Senate seat in Minnesota. From McKenna’s 2001 CityPaper column:
Short used money from his earlier sale of the Rangers to finance his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in his home state of Minnesota that had become vacant after the death of Hubert H. Humphrey. Baseball Bill held a fundraiser at his Capitol Hill home to finance an anti-Short advertisement.
“We just wanted to let people know what Bob Short said he would do for the Senators when he bought the team, and what Bob Short actually did afterwards, and what a liar he was,” Baseball Bill says. The $3,000 raised at his party paid for a full-page spot in a Minneapolis daily. Short lost to the more liberal Republican David Durenberger in the general election…
There was even heckling at a D.C. fundraiser for Short in ’78, according to Sports Illustrated (Scorecard, scroll a lot).
Baseball Bill’s colorful life was not limited to the Senators and I encourage you to read that CityPaper article about his other 1970s antics.
Let’s hope the Nationals celebrate the life of Baseball Bill at the next home game. A guy who got his ” when would Skylab fall” betting ring broken up by the vice squad deserves at least that much.
There are several articles about or featuring Baseball Bill over the years in several publications and books.
Dan Steinberg has a good Post column on the dearly departed today: Pour one out for Baseball Bill, ‘the heart and soul of Washington sports’
‘Baseball Bill’ still hasn’t forgiven Short – AP (via Google Newspapers)
WILLIAM GILDEA: WHY THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS HATE THE DALLAS COWBOYS – D Magazine
Still Smarting Over Senators, ‘Baseball Bill’ Looks Ahead – The Post
DAVE McKENNA: Baseball’s Future Meets Up With Its Historic Past – L.A. Times
FREDERIC FROMMER: Natitude: It’s Even Sweeter Than You Thought – Politico
Legendary Senators fan ‘Baseball Bill’ tells Andy Pollin about harassing owner Bob Short – The Post