You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball…

You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball…
ArticlesBlog


>>David Ferriero: Good afternoon. I’m David
Ferriero, the archivist for the National Archives and Records Administration. We would like
to welcome those of you joining us on YouTube. With the National League Division Series coming
to Washington, it is only appropriate to have discussions about baseball and its presence
in the nation’s capital. We welcome a guest who has written extensively
about Washington over the years including the years when we had no team. When we did
have a team, things were grim saying “First in war, first in peace, last in the American
League.” This has been replaced. Before I turn it over, next Wednesday we will
present a program entitled “Courtroom Drama, Covering the Supreme Court” and the speaker
and journalists who have covered the Supreme Court from various perspectives and who have
all written books about the high court. On Friday, October 10th at noon, we are offering
a program entitled “Kennesaw, One Last Mountain. Sherman Continued his March.” A film, “Kennesaw,
One Last Mountain,” brings dramatic Civil War stories. To learn more about these and
all of our programs, there are copies on the calendar of events. There is a signup sheet
so you can receive it by regular mail or email. We will have brochures as to other National
Archives programs and exhibits. Another way to get involved with the National Archives,
there are applications. Also, a little secret I keep sharing with everyone, no one has ever
been turned down. Now, let’s get this game underway. A few books
about baseball would not be without the results of some research in the National Archives.
We have records on baseball, congressional hearings on baseball. President Roosevelt’s
giving the blessing to continue baseball during World War II and patents for gloves. We have
pictures of famous players providing service. Frederic Frommer talks about efforts about
the city to get a new team in the 1972 season. Frederic Frommer’s latest book is “You Gotta
Have Heart, the History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to 2012 National League East Champions.”
George Will says no fan’s library should be without this book. The “Wall Street Journal”
called it an absolute dream as it will be for anyone who just happens to like a good
baseball story. At the Associated Press, Frommer covered politics and
before joining the AP, Mr. Frommer worked
at CNN and the “Washington Post.” And he freelanced for several publications, including “The New
York Times.” Introduced by many media outlets, ABC news, ESPN, radio, SiriusXM radio.
He will be joined today by Phil Hochberg. You might not recognize his face but you probably
have heard his voice. Mr. Hochberg does public announcement addresses. He was the last baseball
stadium announcer. In 38 years with the Washington Redskins, he was the first person who was
not a player, owner to be honored by the team. Previously he announced for the Washington
senators, the Baltimore Orioles, the University of Maryland. He also announced seven presidential
inaugural parades. Last year he was inducted into the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame.
Please welcome Frederic Frommer and Phil Hochberg. (Applause).
>>Frederic Frommer: Thank you all for coming. And a special thanks, David. You could all
be here instead of at a game. You probably heard about this film that was
discovered of the 7th game of the 1924 World Series. We will start off the program showing
you that. I wanted to set it up a little bit. Obviously the teams, the Giants, the Nationals,
also known as the Senators, split the first game. In the 7th game, Walter Johnson came
out in the bullpen and tied the game. Johnson lost his first two starts, games 1 through
games 5. It looked like he was going to be a twotime loser because he had no more scheduled
starts. He was the most tragic figure in baseball. I will let the film take it from here. If
you can roll film, please. (Music).
(Playing video). (Applause).
>>Phil Hochberg: Although this year we’ll probably match it or exceed it.
(Applause). Senator fans, Fred cautioned me not to go
too far but there were a number of errors in that film. I guess the most specific one
was in the shop where they showed the Senators tied the score, you will notice it was the
end of the inning and the batter was out at first and the run doesn’t count. The fact
that was the following inning. The National excuse me, the Senators had tied the game
in the 8th and that was they had been on first and third on the 9th with one out and the
batter hit into a double play. They ended up going 12 innings.
Fred, you agree that was a pretty spectacular day?
>>Frederic Frommer: Amazing. I have seen that film before many times but never like
this. And the city went really crazy. You saw the fans rush the field. The police had
to come in and rescue the players and the mobs of fans crowding around them. It was
an amazing time.>>Phil Hochberg: Of course, the great hero
was Walter Johnson. And Walter Johnson was nowhere to be found after the game. Well,
he ended up going to the Occidental Restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue, 14th and Pennsylvania
where he had dinner with his wife. If you go to the Occidental which has pictures of
celebrities all over the restaurant, if you walk in, just to the right as you walk in,
is a picture of Walter Johnson, Washington’s hero.
For those of you who may not be from the Washington area, Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda
named after the pitcher and with a big statue of Walter Johnson in front of him. You know,
we’re talking about 90 years ago, almost to the day, right?
>>Frederic Frommer: Tomorrow was the 90th anniversary.
>>Phil Hochberg: How did you get the idea for the book?
>>Frederic Frommer: Well, I had written a couple books before. Actually my publisher
approached me and asked me about writing a book. I said, yeah, it sounds like a great
idea. The more I got into it, the more I saw the stories.
>>Phil Hochberg: This is the second edition.>>Frederic Frommer: First edition came out.
>>Phil Hochberg: What’s the title?>>Frederic Frommer: Well, you know, despite
what you saw today about this very happy time in Washington history, it was an outlier.
For the most part Washington was not a very good time. In fact, there was an expression
about Washington baseball, first in war, first in peace, first in the American League.
>>Phil Hochberg: How about the title?>>Frederic Frommer: The title, there was
a Washingtonian who was so frustrated that the team was always coming in last place.
He writes a novel about a middleaged men, sells his soul to the devil and becomes transformed
into this young strapping center fielder and beats the Yanks. That’s turned into a play
called “Damn Yankees.” And there is a song that’s called “You Gotta Have Heart.”
It pushed me. That play opened on Broadway in 1955. In real life, in Washington baseball,
the Senator were 42 games behind.>>Phil Hochberg: Before we abandon the ’24World
Series, I went back this morning and did a little research. The New York Giants fielded
a starting lineup with seven future Hall of Famers. Seven out of their nine starters are
now in the hall of fame. The Washington Senators started three future Hall of Famers and then
when Walter Johnson came in in the 9th inning, that made a fourth.
Fred, which Hall of Famers are going to be playing today?
>>Frederic Frommer: I knew you were going to ask me this question. I think that Josh
and Bryce are possibilities.>>Phil Hochberg: That could be Buster Posey.
Could be Wilson.>>Frederic Frommer: No way.
Let’s hope he has a good series.>>Phil Hochberg: I don’t think that’s the
buffalo is going to be in the hall of fame. Looking at the manager, unusual? Looking manager
in the World Series.>>Frederic Frommer: Bucky Harris, that’s
the guy you saw hitting a home run. An interesting side note, he had two home runs. In the regular
series had only hit one partly because they add the bleachers. It was the 27yearold player
manager. Before that, the Senators weren’t on the radar. They had sub .500 years. And
Griffith thought, I like this guy. He’s feisty. He has personality and let’s give this guy
a chance. The sports writers thought it was such a bad idea they called it Griffith folly.
Obviously at the end of the season, he gets into the pennant.
>>Phil Hochberg: He was known thereafter not as the Griffith folly but the boy wonder
as the 27yearold manager. First time that Griff tried that.
>>Frederic Frommer: It was the first time. He tried it again 9 years later. He actually
turned to Walter Johnson for a few years as a manager. He was pretty good. Had a lot of
second place finishes but they couldn’t get them over the top. Couldn’t get them into
the World Series. Cronin has the same makeup. Very fiery personality.
That came out with a better record. I believe it is the best record in Washington baseball
history, the winning percentage. They lose the World Series to the Pirates the Giants
rather. Next year they
were seventh place. Cronin was Griffith’s own soninlaw. I don’t
know how you want to psychoanalyze that. (laughter).
>>Phil Hochberg: I started following baseball in 1948 and I was from ’48 to ’71 when the
expansion Senators left, just to give you an idea of what a wasteland Washington baseball
was, they finished above .500 twice, twice, from 1948 to 1971. In ’60, they left in ’60,
they left to go to Minneapolis, became the Minnesota Twins.
And in ’71, after the expansion team was granted to Washington, Bob Short took them to Texas.
And I think in fact, it might have been you, Fred, is there any sort of devilish delight
that Washington fans are taking in the fact that the Twins and the Texas Rangers finished
last this year. There might be some devilish delight, if you will.
In terms of the book, were any particular seasons outstanding in your mind?
>>Frederic Frommer: Well, through the years, Ted Williams, for example, was another rookie
manager actually several years after he retired as a player. Bob Short hired him to shake
things up. That was the second version of the Senators. They hadn’t had anyone up until
them. He took them to a winning record. Pretty good season. Fourth place. So that was an
exciting time. Ted was very good at getting players almost like a money wallet, early
money wallet in baseball. Encouraged Frank Howard, maybe you heard of, famous Boston
slugger, to take more pitches, get more walks. And Howard wound up having a great year. He
walked over a hundred times and he didn’t lose any of his power. Funny story about that.
RFK Stadium, upper deck, they painted the seats white for a home run. Frank Howard told
me this story. One day Ted Williams was talking to a friend of his pointing out those seats
and said, all those white seats, he said, you see those other 5,000 seats up there,
those are all the times you struck out on me. (laughter).
>>Phil Hochberg: The expansion Senators, the club that I worked for as a PA announcer,
stadium announcer, really was a terrible team. But, you know, while baseball in Washington
was a wasteland until 1971, it was a desert for the following 34 years.
In your research, what did you see? What was unusual about how bringing a baseball team
back to Washington?>>Frederic Frommer: Baseball had written
off lots. It had lost two teams. And there was some good crowds in the heyday but when
the Senators lost both franchises, it was looked at very poorly. The average was only
8,000 fans a game. They also had a very big crowd, 14,000 for the last game.
So people just didn’t think it was a good market. Part of that was because they lost
two teams. Part of it is sort of stuck in the past mentality. Washington is a much smaller
city. Much bigger, much bigger market now. So they finally came around and there was
no other viable market. And I think those factors led them.
>>Phil Hochberg: In your research, did you find any fan reaction to losing the two clubs?
>>Frederic Frommer: Yeah. People were I throw it back to you. Tell me how you felt about
it. You had a great line about what it was back working with the Senators.
>>Phil Hochberg: The first Senators’ team moved to Minneapolis, and I think that there
was a an attitude here in Washington toward Calvin Griffith who succeeded in the ownership
of the club after his uncle Clark died. Okay. We got another club.
The 1960 Senators weren’t that good, although by 1965, they won the pennant and they did
have some great players, Killebrew and Bob Allison and Jim Cott and Bursalis; but at
least we had a team. In ’71, I can remember my reaction, my own
personal reaction. It was as if somebody had died in my family. I mean, a feeling of this
was an important part of my life and I suspect an important part of a lot of people’s lives,
but it was a feeling of total powerlessness that here something important had happened
to me and I couldn’t do anything about it. And it just I mean, you go in to you go into
a funk over it. But, Fred, let me pose this question to you. People say, well, yeah, the
this is the Nationals second pennant in three years.
>>Frederic Frommer: Second postseason.>>Phil Hochberg: Yeah. Well, they won the
National League East in both.>>Frederic Frommer: Yeah.
>>Phil Hochberg: And people say, well, the Montreal Expos were a pretty good team for
a number of years and the strike shortened the season. They had the best record in the
National League and no World Series was played that year.
And people say, well, you know, we got to look At the Expos heros. I for one abandoned
that thought. For me, the Washington Nationals’ started in 2005 and I could care less about
the heros in Montreal.>>Frederic Frommer: Once many a while you’ll
see a fan when there is a no hitter, there are some guys that have that opinion. I think
most Washington fans feel this team was kind of a continuation of the old Senators, the
lineage from 1901 to today. But some people really like it.
>>Phil Hochberg: When the Senators left, Bob Short was reviled in Washington. He was
hated. There’s an interesting footnote about when Bob Short ran for the United States Senate
a few years later.>>Frederic Frommer: So Short a couple years
later sells the team. And so goes back to his home state of Minnesota. There’s that
state again, by the way. He runs for the Senate. Some fans in Washington are following this
with interest. They decide to take an ad out in a Minneapolis newspaper. Half page ad.
Almost like a baseball ad talking about all the broken promises that Bob Short made to
Washington. (laughter).
And he says Minnesota has great people like Humphrey. It turns out that his Republican
opponent took out copies of ads with permission and handed them out at Minnesota Vikings games
that year. And short lost the race.>>Phil Hochberg: I can remember, I was a
partner in a MinneapolisWashington law firm at that time and one of my partners from Minneapolis
called me and just chewed me out for those ads, although I had nothing I supported the
ad, thank you. I had nothing to do with it. Griffith Stadium,
an interesting history. Were the Senators the only club there?
>>Frederic Frommer: No, in fact. Griffith got a lot of revenue from the homestead state.
He played almost all the games here in Washington.>>Phil Hochberg: In the Negro National League.
>>Frederic Frommer: Griffith was getting frustrated. This was before Jackie Robinson
broke the color barrier. I think Griffith wasn’t really very serious as a player.
>>Phil Hochberg: Why?>>Frederic Frommer: He got a lot of revenue
from the Homestead Grays and Griffith was not a racist but he was not a bold person
either. It would have taken a bold move to break the color barrier anywhere. They had
a low key attitude. I think Griffith wasn’t really very seriously entertaining the idea
of starting these players.>>Phil Hochberg: Why?
>>Frederic Frommer: Two reasons. They played here in Griffith Stadium so he got a lot of
the revenue from that Homestead Grays. Griffith was not a racist by all accounts but he was
not a bold person either. It would have taken a bold move to break the color barrier anywhere
and it was in 1947 in Brooklyn but especially slow in Washington. Washington was not the
city it was today. It was a very conservative city. It was considered part of the south
back then. It would have been shaken things up if he would have don it. It would have
been a great thing but he didn’t really have the gumption to do it.
>>Phil Hochberg: Of course, the other tenet was the Washington Redskins who played from
1937 through 1960 at Griffith Stadium. That, too. Clark Griffith was not a man was means
as opposed to so many of the other major league owners. He, Griffith, was a former pitcher
in the Major Leagues who then became manager. Managed the senators, eventually put together
enough money to buy the club. He bought a minority interest and he bought the controlling
interest. But the Washington Senators and Griffith Stadium
were his sole source of revenue. And so, I mean, he was he was thought of as being very
conservative when it came to money, and I think he valued valued the playing in Griffith
Stadium of the Homestead Grays and the Washington Redskins.
Does the book address the presidential openers?>>Frederic Frommer: Yes. In some detail,
actually. It goes back over a hundred years, the tradition
of Presidents who started with Taft who was added to the President’s race recently. And
the tradition through most of the 20th century was very different from what you’ve seen today.
You know, we’re used to seeing the President stand on the pitcher’s mound and pray to God
he doesn’t bounce the ball and sometimes he does. But in the old days, it was an easier
task. The President would sit in his seat, first row behind first base dugout usually.
Players from both teams would be along the first baseline and they would be basically
waiting to catch the ball, like brides trying to catch a bouquet.
The President would throw it up for grabs. Who would ever catch it would bring the ball
over and have him sign it?>>Phil Hochberg: Why did they change it?
>>Frederic Frommer: I don’t know.>>Phil Hochberg: Occasionally a player in
the scramble to get the ball would get injured. (laughter).
Harry Truman set a record because he he was ambidextrous. He threw out the first pitch
both lefthanded and righthanded. And it was the presidential opener which some of us maintain
still the first game of the season still should be played here in Washington.
>>Frederic Frommer: Definitely. (applause).
>>Phil Hochberg: It was easier with the old Senators because the first game traditionally
was played in Cincinnati for the National League and played in Washington for the American
League. But Cincinnati and Washington both being in the National League, they couldn’t
do that anymore. But it’s a tradition that we used to delight
in. And it used to be the only game that the Senators would sell out the entire year. (laughter).
What about RFK Stadium which actually was D.C. Stadium and then renamed for Robert F.
Kennedy after his death? What do you know about that?
>>Frederic Frommer: Well, it was a very ruckus place. Many of you probably remember games
there when Nationals first started. It had a certain vibe to it. It didn’t have that
much it had character but not in the way that some of the more modern or throwback stadiums
look like. It just was kind of typical cookiecutter stadium, symmetrical dimensions.
Dan Snyder talked about trying to recreate that vibe at a new stadium in Washington to
bring a team back to Washington.>>Phil Hochberg: The stadium was the first
of the cookie cutter stadiums in the 1960s. And in 1961, it hosted the the first game
of the two allstar games that year. And in 1969, only eight years later, it hosted the
allstar game again. And there is an interesting story about that.
In ’69, for the centennial of baseball, the game was supposed to be played in Cincinnati.
However, the new ballpark in Cincinnati was not ready. And so they had to shift the game
here to Washington. It was scheduled for a night game, and we had a horrendous storm
that night. The dugouts were flooded. And they had to postpone the game. They had to
play it the next game. Frank Howard hit a home run for the American
League team. I can’t recall who won the game, but I know that Howard’s blast was greeted
by the hometown fans. Let’s talk about the reincarnation of baseball
here in Washington. The first years were not particularly happy years, maybe at the box
office but not down on the field, except for the first half of the first season.
>>Frederic Frommer: Right. The first half of the first season, the Nationals were in
first place. Nobody saw that coming. The expos were not a very good team coming in. And the
Nationals had this incredible record in onerun games. I think they were 20 games over or
something like that, 15 over. The second half they had the exact opposite record and the
exact opposite record in onerun games so they finished at .500 given the kind of team they
were. Then they tanked after that and were terrible for several years.
They paid some dividends because they had the worst record in baseball two years in
a row. And they so they got the first draft choice. They got Stephen Strasburg and other
good players. They had a lot of really good draft choices. I think that this team, you
know, was built on the foundation in some part on the losing team of the early in the
mid 2000s.>>Phil Hochberg: And what about this years’
team? Do you have any great players on this year’s team?
>>Frederic Frommer: I think you do. I think Harper and Strasburg are among them. No one
had a MVP season. But that’s why this team is special. Their lineup is good to go from
1 to 8. Their starting rotation is very deep. I think the depth is really the key thing
that’s made them so accomplished. Interesting, they have almost they had almost
identical record to the 1924 team. Both teams finished 30 games over .500. As we managed
earlier, both had rookie managers. One big difference, the Nationals had 152 home runs,
they have a lot of sluggers. The Senators in 1924 had 22 home runs as a team.
Now, people were hitting it is true there wasn’t as much power back then. Babe Ruth
of the Yankees that year had 46 home runs, more than double of all of Washington’s.
>>Phil Hochberg: Baseball has changed a little bit, huh?
>>Frederic Frommer: Yeah.>>Phil Hochberg: The what can you tell us
about their opponent today, the Giants?>>Frederic Frommer: They’re a tough team.
They looked really great the other night. There were some trash talking going on. You
may have heard about Tim Hudson suggesting that the Nationals might not have let’s just
call it inner fortitude that the Giants have. We’ll see how that plays out, though.
>>Phil Hochberg: Let’s get a reaction from the audience. We won’t be able to see it.
But how many here are diehard Senator fans excuse me, Nationals fans, old habits die
hard. How many of you are Washington baseball fans and have tickets to today’s game? Indicate
it by applause. (Applause).
Fred and I were a little concerned earlier in the week because the pirates and the Giants
were playing. And if the Pirates had won, y’all would be at the ballpark right now and
we would be probably talking to an empty house.>>Frederic Frommer: We would have the game
on with a big screen behind us, right? (laughter).>>Phil Hochberg: We were at least for one
day rooting for the Giants. Fred, what about in the American League? Do
you think we might have a beltway World Series or a parkway World Series?
>>Frederic Frommer: You know, there is a possibility. It is always hard to predict
in the playoffs. The Orioles are a very good team. They have an interesting connection
to the old Senators. They were the old St. Louis Browns. They were both terrible teams.
But if misery loves company, at least Washington had some company with the Browns. When the
Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954, they became good very quickly and then Washington had
last place all to itself for most of the 1950s.>>Phil Hochberg: Not exactly what you want,
but at least they were unique in that sense.>>Frederic Frommer: Right.
>>Phil Hochberg: Of course, now there is a current controversy going on between the
Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles. When the Expos moved here in 2005, part of the
deal of the Expos moving here, Peter Angelos, gave up certain territorial rights.As a footnote,
when the Browns moved to Baltimore, Clark Griffith gave up certain territorial rights.
>>Frederic Frommer: Without opposing anything, right?
>>Phil Hochberg: Right. And the Orioles agreed Jerry Hoffberger agreed to a substantial package
for 1954. When the Expos moved here, the Major League
Baseball acceded to the wish of Peter Angelos and the Midatlantic Network was created with
ownership in perpetuity. They carry both the Orioles and the Nationals. And at some point
in the future, the ownership will be 2/3 Orioles, 1/3 Nationals. And there is a controversy
going on right now involving whether MASN owes the Nationals more money than the contract
than the Orioles and MASN are willing to pay the Nationals. It could get a little sticky.
On that note, maybe we ought to open it up to questions. We remind you that there are
microphones in each of the major aisles and if you if you want, please offer some questions.
>>Could you talk about where, if any place, black fans could go in Griffith Stadium and
how that worked? I’m talking about for games of the Senators. Not for games of the Grays
obviously.>>Phil Hochberg: Yeah. When the Senators
were playing here and the Homestead Grays played, the most of the blacks gathered in
the right field stands. I don’t know whether, in fact, they were permitted to go into other
parts of the ballpark, but they all sat in the right field stands.
>>Frederic Frommer: In fact, there was a really famous photo of a knocked out Babe
Ruth. He crashed into the right field wall and he is on his back. And you see lots of
black fans watching with a lot of interest and that’s because that’s where all the fans
were seated.>>Phil Hochberg: That’s where they were seated.
Yes, sir?>>A couple of historical notes and then a
question. One, that marvelous news reel which I just saw for the first time last night,
I was glad they captured the serieswinning hit but had missed a moment that I learned
about as a kid. I grew up here, native Washingtonian. I was always told that became a hit because
it took a bad hop as it skipped so the fielder could not capture that. I noticed that lore
of Senator history was not captured. The second version of the Senator left town,
my brother was there at that final game. And I’m sure he would want me to tell you, it
wasn’t just that the fans stormed the field in the bottom of the 9th. They rioted, tore
the place apart. I wanted to make that point clear.
Question, “You Gotta Have Heart,” from the movie and the play “Damn Yankees,” the nickname
Joe Hardy became Shoeless Joe. Why in the world would they want to invoke that ghost?
>>Phil Hochberg: Maybe well, maybe that’s song writing for you? (laughter).
I can’t answer that. But Shoeless Joe from Hannibal Mo was a delightful part of that
movie. Let me pick up on a come that you made about
Earl McNeely’s hit which hit the pebble and bounced over Lindstrom’s head. It is a shame
you couldn’t see that in the field but coincidentally or ironically the same thing happened when
Bucky Harris in the 8th inning got a double to drive in the tying runs. He hit a ball
down the third baseline. It hit a pebble and bounced over Lindstrom’s head as well. That
pebble ought to be in the Washington sports hall of fame.
>>Frederic Frommer: There is a sports writer Fred Leib who was describing that last play,
maybe millions of fans Washington was America’s favorite that year. Maybe the millions of
fans used were able to kind of use their>>Phil Hochberg: Psychic power.
>>Frederic Frommer: To get the ball to make a bad bounce. Interestingly enough, Jack Bentley,
the losing pitcher of the Giants said the good Lord couldn’t see a fine fellow like
Walter Johnson lose again. Could you imagine that happening today? That was pretty cool.
>>Phil Hochberg: Let’s go.>>I’m wondering about these tapes that Mr.
Ferriero mentioned in his introduction of conversations between about the possibility
of President Nixon and Mayor Washington baseball returning. What’s on those? What were they
like?>>Frederic Frommer: Well, he Nixon talked
about the Cleveland Indians moving here. They have an awful lake front stadium. They had
the second worst attendance in the league, of course, Washington was worse. They figured
maybe go for the low hanging fruit. The White Sox were another time. Nixon didn’t think
Chicago could support two teams. He also was very optimistic about Washington
getting other teams very soon. He thought with the bicentennial coming up in 1976 that
Major League Baseball would use that as an opportunity to come back. Not only did they
not bring a team to Washington, they went outside the country. They had the Toronto
blue Jays and then, of course, the Seattle Mariners. They started playing in ’77. It
was many years before we got a team back here.>>The socalled creator of baseball has his
eternal resting place right across the river here in Arlington national cemetery. People
still leave baseballs there. I’m talking about Doubleday. The title of
your book references 1859. I’m curious about your thoughts about the origins of baseball.
>>Frederic Frommer: Well, I think the Doubleday story has been mostly discredited. I will
take that question as an opportunity to talk about the early days of Washington baseball.
It is hard to believe that there was baseball being played here before the Civil War. But
there were a couple of teams basically government clerks that would play baseball and they really,
aside from the chewing tobacco, they tried to make it kind of like a gentlemanly sport
and you would get fined ten cents or 25 cents for spitting, for contesting an umpire’s call,
those kinds of things. It was a very different mentality. The sport got a lot more brutish
in the 1880s. And became what we think of as baseball today.
>>Phil Hochberg: Yes, sir.>>My question is, you know the story about
Pudge Fisk coaxing the ball to be inbounds, the home run in Fenway Park. I read the TV
camera at that time, the TV camera rules were follow the ball. And I read that a rat ran
in front of the cameraman which distracted him from the ball, ergo he picked up the batter.
Do you know if that story is true? (laughter).
>>Phil Hochberg: It is a great story.>>Frederic Frommer: I read that same story.
I think “The New York Times” had the same story about that.
>>It was on Wikipedia.>>Frederic Frommer: Oh, trust Wikipedia.
(laughter).>>The other question I have is why did they
move from the bases being sacks to these plastic or metal or whatever they are now and an example
of Bryce Harper hurting his hand sliding do second base. Why do they decide to have these
fancy bases instead of a sack of dirt?>>Phil Hochberg: I can’t answer that. It
is certainly to have it anchored with a spike in the ground, to make certain that the base
won’t be moved when somebody slides into it. Certainly sliding feet first. But maybe the
fact that there isn’t much give in it was responsible for Ryan Zimmerman’s hand and
Bryce Harper’s hand this year. I don’t know. But I don’t think we’re going to convince
baseball to change that. Good point, though. Yes, sir?
>>According to some old baseball cards I used to have for the 1950s, the Washington
team was named the Nationals for a few years. Do you know the background of that?
>>Frederic Frommer: Yeah. The official name of the team through most of the 20th century
was the Washington Nationals. But fans mostly called them the Senators. If you look at the
newspapers from those days, in Washington and elsewhere, you saw them used interchangeable.
Sometime they were called the Griffmen. Sometimes they were called the Bucks when Bucky Harris
was the manager. They had more colorful names back then.
It wasn’t until the mid’50s so you raise a good point that they officially changed their
names to the Senators. The second franchise that was awarded in 1961, they were known
as the Senators throughout from 1961 to ’71. The earlier franchise had these different
names they would go through.>>Phil Hochberg: Of course, for the newspaper
headline writers, they wanted to use Nats. And even when the club was known as the Senators,
everybody in town knew that they were nicknamed the Nats and nicknamed the Nationals, although
they weren’t quite certain of the history. There was a question, when the club when the
Expos moved here, the name Washington Nationals had been trademarked by somebody not associated
with the team. And there was a legal fight going on as to what rights the Major League
Baseball which owned the team at that time, what rights Major League Baseball had to call
the team the Washington Nationals. The ownership of that name being owned by somebody else
through a trademark. It was eventually settled. But I know I got
I got a call from Major League Baseball asking me if I knew the history of Nationals versus
Senators. And it was the same as you’ve stated. Yes, sir?
>>You mentioned that Clark Griffith’s family relied on the team and the rentals to the
stadium for family income. I just wanted to know, isn’t it the case that when Calvin Griffith
finally sold the Twins that they, in fact, were the last family that actually relied
on the sports revenue for their living expenses all the way up until they sold the team, Clark
Griffith’s nephew, that’s one reason why they were as you indicated so cheap, although they
did win the World Series in the mid ’60s. That was the last team
>>Phil Hochberg: I don’t think they did win the World Series.
>>Frederic Frommer: They lost to the Dodgers.>>They went to the World Series, anyway.
>>Phil Hochberg: Not only did the Griffith family rely on the ball club and the ballpark
for their income, but they relied on it for their employment. You had Calvin who was the
president of the club, Clark young Clark who was a vice president of the club, the Robertson
brothers who were members of the family, they were both employed by the club. So it truly
was a family affair. Yes, sir?
>>I was wondering, as owners go, as owners of clubs, they particularly seem to be doing
very well. And there is a lot of comparison to other owners in sports teams in the area.
>>Phil Hochberg: You want to be more specific? (laughter).
>>What would you say I mean, do you agree that they’re doing very well? And as compared
to other owners of our Senators and so on? And maybe just in general what are the attributes
of a good owner and what makes a good club?>>Frederic Frommer: I think they’re obviously
doing something right. They are in the postseason for the second time in three years. They’ve
been willing to pay when they feel like they need to, like Jason Worth was signed and they
pay number to the number one draft choices. The Learners said they are maxed out, right
before the season started. So it will be interesting to see how many of these players they can
hold on to, especially as the great young players hit arbitration and then free agency.
So I think they have done a good job. I think the main thing they have done is kind of got
out of the way and let really good Rizzo run the team. I’m a Knicks fan unfortunately in
another sport and I can tell you that an owner that mettles incessantly is the worse.
>>Phil Hochberg: From a personal standpoint, I love the Learners. Baseball in Washington
here over the last few years has been absolutely wonderful. Even, even 2012 where they lost
the fifth game, the season was magical. Now, maybe that comes from somebody who’s been
following Washington baseball since 1948. But, boy, a winning record, that’s great!
I love the Learners. Yes, ma’am?
>>Hi. Can you tell us a little bit about I don’t remember his name, but his nickname
was Dummy and the influences on the hand signals we use in baseball today?
>>Frederic Frommer: Guy name Dummy Hoy. He was a deaf mute and it was turned into a show
many years later. To your question about the hand signals, there is sort of a legend. I’m
not sure if it is true. That’s the origin because he had to use hand signals and that’s
how players started to use them. I don’t know if that has ever been confirmed.
>>Do you know which team he played for? They have a picture of him hanging out.
>>Frederic Frommer: The old Senators or the Nationals, depending what they were called.
In the 1880s.>>Like many baseball fans, my interest leans
towards the stadiums themselves over the years. And I have never been able to figure out one
way or another whether in the old Griffith Stadium there was a house out there. Do you
know the story of why that house was out there, that somebody had said that it wasn’t sold.
The guy wouldn’t sell. I have never been able to really track down whether it was apocryphal
story or not.>>Phil Hochberg: I hope you are not suggesting
there was a house inside of the stadium.>>No.
>>Phil Hochberg: But if you look at pictures of Griffith Stadium, you will see in dead
center field, there is a there’s a nook. And I think it’s because the owner of the house
didn’t want to sell and they had to build the stadium around the house.
>>Frederic Frommer: It was before eminent domain was used to build stadiums. An interesting
side note, in the ’24 World Series, you got a sense from this news real how many people
were in the stadium. There were actually people on top of houses, wooden houses outside the
ballpark that paid 50 cents a ticket to watch the game, like you see with Wrigley Field.
It was an amazing time where not just people in the stadium but people outside and people
who couldn’t make it to the ballpark would stand outside the “Washington Post” or the
old Washington evening star where they would post the scores half inning by half inning
and that was as good as it got.>>Phil Hochberg: Yes, sir?
>>If I can squeeze in two quick ones. After the Nationals win the World Series this year,
do you think that will be enough to turn D.C. from a football town into a baseball town?
>>Frederic Frommer: Why don’t you answer that. You have done the Redskins and the Senators.
>>Phil Hochberg: I don’t know. I’ll defer on that question. The Nationals are drawing
well. The question by this other gentleman over here about stadiums, you have probably
noticed that the size of major league stadiums is shrinking, that they’re no longer building
the 60,000seat stadiums. They are building stadiums that seat 36, 37,000 people. Maybe
you can cram in 40 which, of course, enhances the demand for tickets. On a big game, you
better make sure that you get in line early for a ticket. Otherwise, you are going to
be shut out. Will the success of the Nationals this year
turn the town into a baseball town? Let’s say it will turn the town into a big sports
town.>>Second one, if I can. Going back to some
of the comments about the African American history and Negro League history, the one
thing you notice at Nationals games, there are not a lot of African Americans there.
I haven’t seen a study but it is noticeable. Redskins games, very mixed crowd. Do you think
there is anything about the history of baseball with the fact there was segregation in baseball,
you mentioned in Griffith Stadium they tended to sit all in one area, do you think that’s
in some way perhaps influencing, you know, the fan base today in any way, positively
or negatively? Or do you think there is what I’m really getting at, it would be nice to
see baseball one reason maybe we’re not a baseball town is that we don’t have the African
American fan base for baseball that you do for football. It would be nice to see baseball
overcome that problem and overcome the history. And so rambling question, but any thoughts
about it?>>Frederic Frommer: I don’t think that there
is anything about the history of baseball segregating because football segregated, too.
And, you know, the owners of the Washington Redskins, he was actually for I’m sorry, to
integrate his team by the Kennedy administration because they wanted to play at RFK which is
a federally funded park. So I think it is really more football is more popular among
black players as well as fans. Kids play it more. And so you will see that reflected on
the field. There aren’t many black players. I think it is under 10% now where in football
it is a much higher percentage. That’s probably what is drawing more fans to football.
>>”Washington Post” front page today has a story addressing that issue.
>>That’s ironic.>>Phil Hochberg: It is a concern of Major
League Baseball. They want to generate more interest in the black communities across the
nation. I haven’t read the “Post” piece, but I suppose that point is made there.
>>Frederic Frommer: We got to wrap it up.>>Phil Hochberg: Ladies and gentlemen, on
behalf of Fred and myself, thank you very much for being here. Go Nats!
(Applause).

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