Somewhere Douglass Wallop is smiling. Bet you anything that Shirley Povich had a prime seat in the Great Press Box in the Sky for this one. Thirty five years ago the Yankees presided over the end of professional baseball in Washington, DC. Saturday afternoon DC's newest baseballers exacted a small measure of revenge.
I know the players don't see it that way. Frank Robinson, a fair student of baseball history and lore, would probably ascribe no special significance to this win. As for me, I wasn't even around (geographically or metaphysically) when the onrushing fans forced the Senators to forfeit the final game in franchise history 9-0. But some games are milestones in spite of themselves. For the first time since September 28, 1971, a Washington baseball team beat the New York Yankees at RFK Stadium. On days like today I'm glad the Nationals didn't have a gleaming, antiseptic new stadium waiting for them on their arrival from Montreal. Washington still has baseball scores to settle, and old ghosts to quiet. Those ghosts belong to RFK.
The storybook ending would have been to have the Nats win the first game of the series, karmic justice for 1971. But a full-fledged bullpen implosion resulted in a 7-5 Yankee victory, which matched the 7-5 advantage the Senators had before forfeiting that last game. Spooky, no?
Instead of Cinderella, we got Damn Yankees. Playing the role of Joe Hardy? Well, that would be Daryle Ward, who certainly looks more like your average baseball fan than any other National not named Matt LeCroy. But damn, Daryle can lay into a baseball when he sets his mind to it. And if you've never seen Daryle Ward score from first, chugging around third like The Little Engine That Could Drop Dead Any Second Now, then I pity you, because that show might not come this way again. So was it a deal with the Devil that powered the Nats comeback from a 7-run deficit, resulting in a thrilling 11-9 win? If so, I hope it was Damian "I've Got a Plane to Catch" Jackson's soul on the auction block.
What are we to make of this? The end of a 5-game losing streak, a come-from-behind win against the best closer in the history of the game, and one more loose end tied up for baseball in Washington. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon's work. Now let's see about winning the series. For Doug and Shirley.