Posts Tagged ‘Shirley Povich’

A Capital Forfeit

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Washington, D.C. is a city often laced with discord, evidence by the combative nature of politics.  Baseball, too, is combative, but rarely on the level witnessed on September 30, 1971.

In the last game of the second incarnation of the Washington Senators, a melee erupted when the fan base, despite seeing the Senators leading the New York Yankees 7-5, manifested its displeasure at the team’s imminent transition to the Lone Star State and a new moniker—Texas Rangers.

It happened with one out remaining.  “The last out never came because the more frustrated spectators among the farewell crowd of 14,460, their emotions at a high pitch at the though of losing their team to Texas, swarmed onto the field,” wrote George Minot Jr. of the Washington Post.  “The souvenir hunters among them ripped up the bases and tore a few numbers from the scoreboard but, generally, the fans were well-behaved.”

Although the umpires declared a Senators forfeit, thereby awarding the Yankees a victory, the game’s records counted—excepting the affirmation of a winning and a losing pitcher because the Yankees trailed the Senators when forfeiture became official.  Thomas Rogers of the New York Times explained, “The umpires waited about three minutes while the mob tore out the bases and attacked the right-field scoreboard for souvenirs [sic].  Most of the light bulbs in the board were removed.

“As a crowd of several thousand stood shouting on the pitcher’s mound, the public address system announced said: ‘This game has been forfeited to New York.'”

Noting the intangible impact, or lack thereof, Minot cited Senators skipper Ted Williams, who expressed, “One more loss won’t affect our overall performance this year.”  Indeed, the Senators finished the ’71 season with a 63-96 record.  Washingtonians showcased decency toward the players, reserving their outrage for owner Robert Short, who spearheaded the move to Texas.  Legendary sports writer Shirley Povich of the Post wrote, “Those who were savoring this last, fond look at the Senators let it be known by their cheers that they absolved the athletes of all blame in the messy machinations that rooked the city of its major-league status.  Even the .190 hitters heard the hearty farewells, and in the case of big Frank Howard it was thunderous when he came to the plate.”

Moving a major league team was neither a new idea nor a shocking one by the time Short decided to uproot from the nation’s capital.  Boston, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee had lost teams; New York City lost two when the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants left for California after the 1957 season.

Washington completed its unfinished business in 2006, when the Yankees played their first game in the District of Columbia since the forfeit.  President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch with the same ball that the disturbance prevented Senators pitcher Joe Grzenda from using to pitch to Horace Clarke.  Richard Sandomir of the Times noted that the ball had been “preserved in an envelope inside a drawer in Grzenda’s house.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on January 15, 2016.

Ted Williams Hits His Final Home Run

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

When a lanky native of San Diego hit a home run on September 28, 1960, it was not, perhaps, the most significant happening in his career—and certainly not the most significant happening in world affairs during the ninth month of the 60th year of the 20th century.

Ted Williams won two MVP Awards, the Triple Crown, and The Sporting News Major League Player of the Year Award seven times.  His career statistics include 521 home runs, .344 batting average, and .634 slugging percentage.  On that late September day, for the last time, Williams donned his Red Sox uniform, heard the cheers from the Fenway Park denizens, and went yard in his last at bat in the major leagues.

Legendary sportswriter Shirley Povich of the Washington Post noted that the excellence of the Red Sox slugger negated any revelatory aspects of the milestone.  “It shouldn’t have been surprising.  Williams has been making a commonplace of the dramatic homer ever since he came into the majors,” wrote Povich.

Still, an emotional charge laced the moment as Williams placed a period at the end of a 22-year career, all in a Red Sox uniform.  Nicknamed “The Splendid Splinter” for his batting prowess, Williams understood the impact of the home run.  “The first thing he did after the game was to send the home run bat to Tom Yawkey upstairs by bat boy Bobby Sullivan.  Then he hung around and soaked up praise and adulation, the admiring glances of those who would not approach, the warmth of a winning clubhouse—as he never would again,” wrote Harold Kaese in the Boston Globe.

Nonetheless, Williams did not tip his hat to the crowd.

About three weeks after Williams’s last game, The New Yorker published John Updike’s account in its October 22, 1960 issue; “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu” stands as a model of baseball writing.  It is an honest appraisal of the dynamic fostered in the Red Sox legend’s adopted city.  Updike wrote, “The affair between Boston and Ted Williams has been no mere summer romance; it has been a marriage, composed of spats, mutual disappointments, and, toward the end, a mellowing of shared memories.”

Additionally, an unparalleled work ethic, according to Updike, set Williams apart from his peers.  “No other player visible to my generation has concentrated within himself so much of the sport’s poignance, has so assiduously refined his natural skills, has so constantly brought to the plate that intensity of competence that crowds the throat with joy,” opined Updike.

Invoking the theory of ceteris paribus—all things being equal—Williams’s home run might have been in the 600s rather than the 500s had he not served his country during World War II.  A hero for his service as a pilot, Williams did not play professional baseball from 1943 to 1945, losing three years in his prime.  When Williams returned in 1946, he showed no signs of slowing down—MVP Award, .342 batting average, and 123 RBI.  Additionally, he led the major leagues in walks (156), slugging percentage (.667), on-base percentage (.497), and runs scored (142).

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on December 16, 2015.

“The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!”

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

On October 3, 1951, in the 75th year of the National League, the cross-town Giants-Dodgers rivalry provided a finish that belonged on a storyboard in the office of a Hollywood producer debating whether he should take his wife to Ciro’s and his latest casting couch conquest to the Trocadero.  Or vice versa.

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