100 Things Nationals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

100 Things Nationals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781629371917
Publisher: Triumph Books
Publication date: 04/15/2016
Series: 100 Things...Fans Should Know Series
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 579,881
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jake Russell began a decade-long stint with the Washington Redskins website TheHogs.net in 2003. He has worked at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis and is currently a sports news aide at The Washington Post. In 2014 he created his own website, JakeRussellSports.com. A three-time National League Manager of the Year, Dusty Baker was named Washington Nationals manager after the 2015 season. He resides in Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt

100 Things Nationals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die

By Jake Russell

Triumph Books LLC

Copyright © 2016 Jake Russell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63319-486-1


The Announcement — September 29, 2004

One day shy of the 33rd anniversary of the final Washington Senators game, the baseball-starved fans of the nation's capital received the news for which they had been waiting more than a generation. An agonizing span of 12,045 days of emptiness was now over. Standing in front of a podium at the City Museum's Great Hall and donning a red Senators cap, D.C. mayor Anthony A. Williams proudly proclaimed: "After 30 years of waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting and lots of hard work and more than a few prayers, there will be baseball in Washington in 2005!"

Charlie Brotman, the Senators' public address announcer from 1956 — 1971, was a part of the ceremony to welcome baseball back to the District. "Shout it from the rooftops — let's play ball!" yelled Brotman, who led the jubilant crowd in a chorus of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."

Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig made it official earlier in the day during a call to an eager group consisting of Williams, council members, and city sports officials at city hall. "Congratulations," Selig told them. "It's been a long time coming."

Selig's statement read: "Washington, D.C., as our nation's capital, is one of the world's most important cities, and Major League Baseball is gratified at the skill and perseverance shown by Mayor Williams throughout this process."

The mood at City Museum and throughout the District of Columbia was light and filled with a certain joy that hadn't been experienced in decades. The banner above the dais read: "A HOME RUN FOR DC." John Fogerty's "Centerfield" blasted over the loudspeakers as the media, former Senators players, and excited fans in attendance took in the environment. Youth baseball players who had known of no professional baseball team in the city at any point in their lifetime stood behind officials during the press conference.

Washington, D.C., would finally have a Major League Baseball team to call its own, inheriting the National League East's Montreal Expos. Washington, D.C., beat out Las Vegas; Portland, Oregon; Norfolk, Virginia; Monterrey, Mexico; and a site in Loudoun County, Virginia, that proposed a new stadium and building a city around it.

Even Vice President Dick Cheney chimed in, saying during a campaign stop in Minnesota that he was looking forward to seeing D.C. become a "ball town again." "This will be a great boon to the community," Cheney added. "It will force a lot of us to reorient our loyalties. We've all picked up, acquired, become fans of other teams."

The Expos had been owned by Major League Baseball since 2002 and were not a top priority to the league. They even split home games between Canada and San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2003 and 2004. None of that mattered now. They were D.C.'s team. "The sun is setting in Montreal, but it's rising in Washington," Expos president Tony Tavares said during a news conference at Olympic Stadium.

D.C. baseball fans fully understood what fans in Montreal were experiencing, having lost the Senators twice in an 11-year span. Local fans also understood that their new team would be a reclamation project.

The Expos had dropped to 65–94 the night of the announcement after a 9–1 loss to the Florida Marlins in their last game at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. They finished the season 67–95. The Expos hadn't won more than 83 games since the 1996 season. Long gone from that franchise were the likes of stars such as Vladimir Guerrero, Cliff Floyd, Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, Moises Alou, and Marquis Grissom. A strike-shortened 1994 season ended what was primed to be a dominant postseason run for the Expos, who sat atop baseball at 74–40. The current crop moving to Washington boasted the likes of Livan Hernandez, Brad Wilkerson, Chad Cordero, Jose Vidro, Nick Johnson, Jamey Carroll, and Brian Schneider — all managed by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.

The team, whose new name and identity were yet to be determined, was set to play at RFK Stadium for three seasons and then move to a new home nestled along the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C. in 2008. A new era had begun. There was baseball in Washington, D.C.


A New Beginning

It was the moment millions of Washingtonians had all been waiting for. After 12,250 days — almost 34 years — of anticipation since the Washington Senators last stepped foot on RFK Stadium grounds, the Washington Nationals filled the void experienced by those longing for the national pastime in their city.

On April 14, 2005, a crowd of 45,596 was on hand to witness the Nationals take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in their first home game. President George W. Bush, protected by Secret Service members disguised as Nationals coaches, set the tone for a raucous night. After a few minutes of small talk, the commander in chief told Nationals catcher Brian Schneider just before taking the field, "Here we go. Just catch it." It was the ball lent to President Bush by former Senators pitcher Joe Grzenda and was the final ball used in Washington Senators history. It was the one Grzenda held on while standing on the mound as fans at RFK rushed the field with one out to go on September 30, 1971.

Sporting a red Nationals jacket, the president headed onto the grass, took his place on the mound, and tossed the ceremonial first pitch to Schneider at 6:52 pm. Former Senators such as Frank Howard, Mickey Vernon, Roy Sievers, Eddie Brinkman, and Chuck Hinton stood at their old positions to hand out the gloves to the current crop of Nationals as they took their places on the field for the first pitch. At 7:06 pm on that chilly Thursday night, with cameras and flashbulbs readying around the park, Nationals ace Livan Hernandez threw the first pitch, a fastball past Diamondbacks second baseman Craig Counsell, for a strike. Schneider tossed the ball to the dugout for the beginning of its journey to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Hernandez pitched a gem — at least until the ninth inning. The workhorse tossed a one-hitter and had a 5–0 lead going into the final inning until surrendering a one-out, three-run home run to Chad Tracy.

It had been more than three decades since baseball was a daily occurrence at RFK, but fans were well aware of what third baseman Vinny Castilla was on the verge of accomplishing in his fourth at-bat. He had already doubled in the second inning, tripled in the fourth inning, and hit the first Nationals home run at RFK in the sixth inning.

Castilla batted second in the eighth inning against Arizona reliever Lance Cormier. The 15-year veteran was just a single away from the cycle. Cormier plunked Castilla on the first pitch. The capacity crowd realized that — with a 5–0 lead and four plate appearances already behind him — getting hit by a pitch ended any chance of a cycle. Boos rained down on Cormier from the RFK faithful.

But when Castilla tripled in the fourth inning to score second baseman Jose Vidro and right fielder Jose Guillen to give the Nats a 2–0 lead, RFK Stadium erupted. It rocked and shook like it had whenever the Redskins scored a touchdown or sacked opposing quarterbacks.

That kind of home-field advantage was new for Major League Baseball, and those in attendance who had never felt a stadium move before. "Holy shit," Nationals president Tony Tavares said.

The Montreal Expos, the franchise that gave way to the Washington Nationals, totaled just 748,550 fans in 2004, averaging just 9,356 per game, the lowest in the majors by almost 7,000 per game. Left fielder Brad Wilkerson, who spent his first four seasons with the Expos, said after the game that he was impressed with the D.C. crowd. "It was amazing to see," he said. "Honestly, it was more than I expected. They lived and died with every pitch. You know it's going to be a great place to play."

Outfielder Terrmel Sledge, who hit the first home run and RBI in Nats history in the season opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on April 4, echoed Wilkerson's sentiments following the game. "I just looked at the fans and thought, We finally have a home-field advantage," Sledge said.

Chad Cordero, the 23-year-old closer nicknamed "the Chief," ended the game, recording the final two outs — the last one being a fly out from Tony Clark to right fielder Ryan Church.

Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" played throughout the stadium, ushering in not just another win in the record books but a new feeling in the city. "The win put the icing on the day, especially with the team playing its first game in Washington, where it had no baseball for 34 years," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said after the game. "To go out here and win with this atmosphere — the president out here, other dignitaries in the stands, and real baseball fans out there cheering — it was a special situation where you wanted to win the game. It's nice when you go out there and do it. It keeps the enthusiasm as high, and the expectations even higher."


Bryce Harper's MVP Season

Before the 2015 season began, ESPN The Magazine anonymously polled 117 major leaguers. Of that group 41 percent voted Bryce Harper as the most overrated player in baseball. It was the second straight season that distinction was bestowed upon the young phenom who has carried the burden of lofty expectations since high school. Though said in jest, Harper's spring training declaration of "Where's my ring?" in response to the Washington Nationals adding Max Scherzer to the starting rotation didn't help matters.

However, the 22-year-old silenced his doubters early on. In the fourth inning of Opening Day, Harper walked to the plate with Frank Sinatra's "The Best is Yet to Come" blaring loud and clear through the Nationals Park loudspeakers. It was foreshadowing at its finest. On the second pitch, Harper hit his first home run of the season.

The Nats labored through April, but May was a different story. Washington went 18–9 in the month of May, and Harper was a catalyst. He earned National League Player of the Month after batting .360 with 13 homers (a Nats single-month record) and 28 RBIs while scoring 24 runs and drawing 22 walks. He also reached base at least twice in 12 straight games. He became the third player in the last 100 years to hit 15 home runs in his first 40 games at age 22 or younger. The last to do it before him was Harmon Killebrew with the 1959 Washington Senators.

In June, Harper faced the Yankees in New York for the first time in his career. Early in his pro career, he was vocal about his lifelong affinity of the Bronx Bombers. Yankees die-hards were well aware and made it clear they'd welcome him in pinstripes. Referencing Harper's Nationals contract ending after the 2018 season, fans in the Yankee Stadium bleachers chanted "Fu-ture Yankee!" and "20-19!" During that series in New York, Harper managed to face a pitcher younger than he for the first time in his professional career. In Harper's 2,303rd plate appearance and his 554th game between the minors and majors, he faced Yankees prospect Jacob Lindgren, who is 147 days younger, and flew out to left field on the second pitch of the at-bat.

Despite his youth Harper was voted to his third All-Star Game in four seasons. By the All-Star break, he had already hit 26 home runs with a .339 average, 61 RBIs, and 63 walks.

Heading into the final game of the season, Harper was locked in a dead heat for the NL batting title with Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon. Both men boasted .331 averages going into their respective finales. Harper went 1-for-4 against the New York Mets while Gordon went 3-for-4 against the Philadelphia Phillies, dropping Harper's average to .330 and raising Gordon's to .333.

Over the course of the 2015 season, millions witnessed Bryce Harper's transformation from very good to great. His development into a more well-rounded player translated to a .330 batting average, 42 home runs, 99 RBIs, and a staggering .460 on-base percentage. He became just the ninth player in baseball history to hit 42 home runs with a .330 batting average and .460 on-base percentage. Only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Todd Helton, Jason Giambi, and Barry Bonds had previously accomplished those numbers.

Health played a lead role in Harper's 2015 production. Harper never landed on the disabled list after missing 62 games in 2014. His maturation at the plate became apparent in the 2014 National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants. As his teammates' bats disappeared, his came to life. He led the team with three home runs, four RBIs, and four runs. His five hits were second only to Anthony Rendon's seven. Harper also walked twice. With Harper the Nationals offense went 26 for 159 (.164). Without Harper the rest of the offense went 21 for 142 (.148).

Harper's patience at the plate was on display throughout the 2015 season. He broke the Nationals/Expos franchise single-season record with 124 walks. He walked in 88 of the 153 games he played in and walked at least twice in 26 games. Harper was also intentionally walked a career-high 15 times in 2015. He had been intentionally walked just eight times in his three previous seasons combined.

Bryce Harper's Fantastic Four

In a 2015 season filled with many firsts for Bryce Harper, he continued to amaze even without swinging a bat. During a 15–1 rout of the Atlanta Braves on September 3, Bryce took 20 pitches without swinging his bat.

Harper walked on all four of his plate appearances and scored four times, becoming the fourth player in MLB history to go 0-for-0 and score at least four runs and record four walks, joining Larry Doby (1951), Joe Morgan (1973), and Rickey Henderson (1989).


Excerpted from 100 Things Nationals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die by Jake Russell. Copyright © 2016 Jake Russell. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Dusty Baker xi

Introduction xiii

1 The Announcement-September 29, 2004 1

2 A New Beginning 3

3 Bryce Harper's MVP Season 6

4 Strasmas 9

5 Jayson Werth's Game 4 Walk-Off Homer 12

6 Strasburg's Shutdown 15

7 Nationals Park Opens with Dramatic Flair 17

8 Walter Johnson's Feats 20

9 Jordan Zimmermann's No-Hitter 22

10 Cheer on the Racing Presidents 25

11 Rivalry with the Orioles 28

12 America's Team-The 1924 Senators 31

13 The Riot 34

14 Max Scherzer Throws Two No-Hitters in 2015 37

15 The 2012 NL East Champions 40

16 Presidential First Pitches 42

17 The Longest Game in Playoff History 48

18 The Curious Case of Smiley Gonzalez 51

19 Ted Williams' Reign as Manager 53

20 Frank Howard's 10 Home Runs in Six Games 56

21 The Last Expo 58

22 The 2014 NL East Champions 61

22 Walter Johnson's Three Shutouts in Four Days 64

24 Mr. Walk-Off 65

25 That's a Clown Question, Bro 68

26 Matt Williams 71

27 The Derivation of Natitude 74

28 The Kid Managers 77

29 Mike Rizzo 80

30 The Kiss 82

31 Take a Nationals Road Trip 84

32 The Washington…Padres? 87

33 Jim Riggleman Quits 90

34 The 2015 Letdown 93

35 Davey Johnson 97

36 Gio Gonzalez 99

37 How to Get Autographs 102

38 Livo 106

39 National Guardsman/Senators Shortstop 107

40 Alfonso Soriano Founds 40-40-40 Club 109

41 The Cardiac Nats' Wild 10-Game Winning Streak 112

42 When Owen Wilson Played for the Nationals 116

43 Mickey Vernon 117

44 The Homestead Grays 119

45 Get Ready for the 2018 All-Star Game 123

46 Senators No-Hitters 125

47 The Chief 128

48 The Mysterious Demise of D.C.'s First Batting Champion 130

49 World Series or Bust 133

50 Brad Wilkerson and the Nats' Cycles 136

51 Bryce's Benching 138

52 The Senators' Spy 140

53 Scott Boras' Ties to the Nationals 142

54 An Owner Sells Off His Relatives 145

55 "Hammering" Grand Slams in Consecutive Innings 147

56 Visit Coopers town 150

57 The Big Donkey 152

58 The Origins of the Senators Name 154

59 Great Trades 156

60 The Amputee Pitcher 160

61 The Combustible Jose Guillen 163

62 D.C. Baseball Stadium History 166

63 Why Getting Swept by the Padres Was a Good Thing 169

64 The Six Aces 173

65 Visit RFK Stadium 176

66 A Pan's Quest to Torment a Former Senators Owner 178

67 The Kidnapped Catcher 181

68 The Bryce Harper Timeline 183

69 The Only Player to Play in Both of the Senators' Last Games 188

70 Watch the Nats' Minor League Teams 190

71 The Deaf Center Fielder 193

72 Nats Superfans 196

73 Meet the Lerners 198

74 The Future 201

75 The Natinals 205

76 Is Killebrew MLB's Logo? 207

77 Tony Plush 210

78 Sit in the Lexus Presidents Seats 212

79 Frank Robinson's Showdown with Mike Scioscia 214

80 The Midseason Parade for "The Wondrous Nats" 216

81 Uniforms and Logos 217

82 Nationals All-Stars 220

83 Sam Rice's Secrets 226

84 Interesting Draft Picks and Minor Leaguers 228

85 2005's 10-Game Winning Streak 233

86 The Fan Who Died from a Wild Throw 236

87 Michael Morse's Phantom Grand Slam 237

88 Did the Senators Nearly Sign Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard? 241

89 Inviting Phillies Fans to Nationals Park 243

90 Learn the Names on the Ring of Honor 244

91 Hang Out with Screech 251

92 Call Me Maybe 252

93 D.C. Baseball's Clowns 254

94 The Origins of the Curly W 256

95 Go to Nationals Park on Opening Day and Fourth of July 258

96 Jayson Werth Goes to Jail 259

97 Watch a Concert at Nationals Park 262

98 Villains 264

99 Hiring Dusty Baker 267

100 The Presidential Statistician 269

Acknowledgments 271

Sources 273

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