Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

In the absence of Major League Baseball, we’re left to re-runs and memories.

“Wanted: Senators Batboy.” That poster at James Madison Elementary School in the early ‘60s spawned envy among my peers, the idea you could quit school and be tutored while mingling daily with heroes like Eddie Brinkman and Chuck Hinton.

Bill Jett got to live that dream, both for the original Senators starting in 1958, and for the expansion team that arrived in ’61. The 1961 graduate of Washington-Lee (now Liberty) High began ushering at Senators games in the old Griffith Stadium, he told me. He was recruited by fellow W-L grad Ralph Schleeper. From his view from the left-field foul line, “there wasn’t much of crowd” toward the end of that downtown venue’s life, “so they let us go home early,” said Jett, who played baseball, basketball and track at Thomas Jefferson Junior High and W-L.

But he did see “a lot of great players, and I saw Harmon Killebrew hit a deep home run” off of Herb Score of the Cleveland Indians in May 1959. He was particularly friendly with outfielder Bob Allison, whose fan club Jett joined. One time Allison struck out three times, and the star was so angry in the dugout he wrenched a water faucet out from the wall.

Jett continued on staff during college after the Senators moved to the new D.C. Stadium (renamed RFK in 1969), also pinch-hitting as a batboy. He already “knew all the ushers, and the captains knew me.” Being older and already trained, he didn’t need tutoring, and was available for day and night games—due to flexibility from bosses at his new job at the FBI.

A few times he served as batboy for the visiting team, recalling sitting in the dugout near Detroit Tigers batting star Al Kaline (who died this month). But more often his job included running the line-up card from the Senators manager Gil Hodges to the press box to Washington Post sportswriter Bob Addie. He got to know slugger Frank “Hondo” Howard and later Senators manager Ted Williams. Both were “real nice,” Jett says.

He even had a Secret Service clearance that allowed him to be one of the few ushers with access to the president’s box, which hosted VIPs (he remembers Ike’s grandson David Eisenhower, for one). Jett got to know the photographers, who gave him signed photos, which he still has, and he picked up gossip on players’ futures from team physician George Resta.

Senators second-baseman John Schaive gave the teenage Jett his game hat and shirt when the player left the old Senators.

Now retired in Gainesville, Virginia, after a career in commercial and mortgage banking, Jett, 78, mingles his love of the game with memories of his youth in Arlington, where he also ran maintenance operations at Greenbrier field for the county recreation department.

The most memorable Senators game Jett witnessed, he said, was the June 12,1967, historic milestone that went into a record 22 innings (six hours, 38 minutes). Finally, at 2:30 a.m. Nats catcher Paul Casanova hit a single to win the game against the White Sox. Jett reports: “I got about three hours of sleep that night before I had to get to my day job.”

Joyful citizen action erupted in my East Falls Church neighborhood last weekend. A familiar figure named Jack Poutasse was given a special happening to celebrate his 21st birthday.

Since birth, Jack has lived with a disability from tuberous sclerosis. For two decades, neighbors between North Quintana and Rockingham sts. have witnessed Jack being taken on daily walks by caretaker Lilian.

So his parents John Poutasse and Mara Flynn were thrilled when residents of all ages from more than 40 houses, by one count, put out home-made yard signs, car posters and sidewalk chalk messages to wish Jack a HAPPY BIRTHDAY. The new adult was visibly excited, signing, “You’ve made me joyous.” He and his dad took multiple laps to enjoy the sights.