By the time this is read, the baseball ritual known as the All-Star Game will be history. I have to admit that I have transferred my allegiance to the National League, thanks to the return of baseball to the Washington D.C. area.
I grew up in Winchester, Virginia, believing that the Washington Senators, and the American League were the real deal. And I remember how much I looked forward to an annual trip with my dad to Griffith Stadium at the intersection of Florida Avenue and Sixth Street in D.C. to see them play in person.
Unlike most public school systems, Winchester’s public high school, Handley, did not have a baseball team. Baseball season took a back seat to the widely renowned Apple Blossom Festival. Actually, baseball didn’t really have a seat-no high school baseball team for Handley High.
Track and field teams were tolerated, but not baseball.
Softball took baseball’s place as the city’s summer competitive sport. But once I had found major league baseball, and its radio personalities, Arch McDonald and Bob Wolfe, I was hooked. I listened to them night and day.
Wolfe was the straight man; McDonald was the wry comic.
When owner Clark Griffith found talent in Cuba, he brought several important players north. One short, chunky pitcher named Conrado Marrero became an immediate hit for his slow, tantalizing curve that baffled numerous American League batters. McDonald called him the fireplug that walked like a man. The fans loved him.
Griffith brought other South American athletes north with some success, but the Nats could never repeat their early (1920’s and 1930’s) success. American League players like Joe and Dom Dimaggio, Ted Williams, Whitey Ford, Bob Feller, Early Wynn and, finally African-American players like Jackie Robinson, Larry Doby, Hank Aaron, Roy Campanella and Luke Easter created a diverse fan base that fans would drive longer distances to see.
My favorite baseball memory, however, came from the 1956 All-Star game.
I managed to get a ticket and watched the most exciting players of the decade-Stan Musial, Joe Dimaggio, Ted Kluzewski, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Roy Campanella, Hank Aaron, Yogi, Berra, Al Kaline, and Duke Snider play an unforgettable game.
In 1961 Calvin Griffith, the son of Clark Griffith, took the team to Minnesota to become the Minnesota Twins. Then Bob Short bought the rights to the new team in D.C. and called them the Senators. Until the current team all “Senator” teams were American League teams.
Finally, fans like me get to see teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves play the home team more frequently. And with a .500 record at All-Star break, the new Nats offer more possibilities and excitement than ever before. Go Nats!
Delegate Scott represents the 53rd District in the Virginia House of Delegates. He may be emailed at [email protected]