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November 24, 2014

Posts in "This Sporting Life"

October 8, 2014

This Is What It’s Like to Be a Baseball Town

stadium001 032608 445x300 This Is What Its Like to Be a Baseball Town

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“You can take that off now,” the Architect of the Capitol worker yelled out, pointing to my Washington Nationals’ hat as I rode past the Russell Senate Office Building this morning.

Was it capital city commiseration of Tuesday night’s loss to the San Francisco Giants, ending the Nats’ playoff run? He kind of laughed. I pointed to the hat and replied, “Nah. The hat stays.”

This is what it is to be a baseball town. The euphoria of the inaugural season in 2005 wore off relatively quickly, giving way to the dry, monotonous pain of 100-loss seasons, the slow climb to respectability and finally to perennial success. The 2012 playoff run was a novelty, cruelly snatched away too quickly. This year was different. It’s the same kind of pain other teams and their cities experience when they don’t meet expectations. The Nationals are a good team, and we expect them to win now. But it’s also just a pleasure to have a team in D.C. The idea stuck. They’re here. They’re ours.

That doesn’t make it any easier to get the relentless stream of emails from StubHub reminding us that our plans for Thursday night’s theoretical Game 5 and the National League Championship Series have changed: “This event has been cancelled. This event has been cancelled. This event has been cancelled.”

The Nationals are now part of the fabric of the town. Wear Nats gear on a game day and strangers will kibbitz on the team’s chances, question Matt Williams’ decisions and ask if you were there for all 18 innings of Game 2. There’s a shorthand now. Game 2 is the longest playoff game in Major League Baseball history. Game 4 means Jayson Werth’s homer to beat the Cardinals in 2012. Game 5 means the gut-punch loss the next night. Tuesday night’s Game 4 doesn’t have a name yet, but it will. It will likely have something to do with wild pitches, walks and bunts. Eventually, we’ll settle on something.

In the meantime, the hat stays.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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By Jason Dick Posted at 12:17 p.m.
This Sporting Life

October 2, 2014

Take a Trip Down Baseball Memory Lane

nats park006 040113 445x297 Take a Trip Down Baseball Memory Lane

Things weren’t always so merry with Washington baseball. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the Washington Nationals open the National League Division Series on Friday, their second post-season appearance in three years, it’s easy to forget Washington baseball teams have frequently sucked.

Fred Frommer, author of “You Gotta Have Heart:  A History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions,” never forgot. His book will make any Nat fan appreciate what they have now, and he’ll be discussing it at the National Archives on Friday at noon in the William G. McGowan Theater with his frequent discussion sidekick, former Senators announcer Phil Hochberg. It’s a nice way to prepare for the 3:07 p.m. game against the San Francisco Giants at Nationals Park.

Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney wrote about some of the Senators’ woeful ways in today’s Post. The upshot? To be a Senators fan back in the day, one had to have real guts. “In my childhood, the whole point of rooting for the Senators was to affirm one’s fortitude in the face of cellar-dwelling finishes. Show loyalty and optimism despite setbacks and disappointment. ‘We grew up not expecting much. That’s not a bad lesson for life,’ said Hank Thomas, 68, of Arlington, who cheered for the Senators as a child in the late 1950s,” McCartney writes.

And the first few seasons after the Montreal Expos moved here to become the Nationals were no picnic either. Remember when Nook Logan started in center field? It’s best not to.

If you can’t make it to the Archives, Fred and Phil will be live on YouTube.

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat

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September 25, 2014

Jog Like It’s the 1860s This Saturday at Lincoln’s Cottage

rsz 20140924 140704 320x240 Jog Like Its the 1860s This Saturday at Lincolns Cottage

(Clark Mindock / Roll Call)

Heels pointed toward the Soldiers’ Home Cemetery in Petworth, runners in the Freedom XC 5k on Saturday will cross near the home where the Emancipation Proclamation was conceived and then continue further. Leg muscles expanding and contracting, they’ll move along the paths, normally closed, that wind through the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home, passing a golf course, community gardens and fishing ponds.

Or, they could scrap the running idea and walk it instead. Full story

July 16, 2014

Roll Call After Dark Book of the Week: ‘National Pastime’ by Barry Svrluga

 Roll Call After Dark Book of the Week: National Pastime by Barry Svrluga

(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

Baseball’s All-Star Game break provides us with a respite from the churn of the 162-game regular season, as well as an opportunity to check out a great baseball book, Barry Svrluga’s “National Pastime.”

The Washington Nationals are in first place in the National League East at the break, a nice position for a team that was up-and-down and replete with injuries at the beginning of the season. Amid a so-far successful current season, last year’s winning season (which saw the team miss the playoffs) and 2012′s dynamic division-winning team, it’s worth remembering that the Nats’ first year in the District was anything but auspicious.

There was no owner. The team’s transitional home, RFK Stadium, was barely ready for prime time. The team was a collection of injured or unproven or washed-up players. The staff had almost completely turned over from the team’s previous year iteration in Montreal as the Expos. The manager was a crank. And yet, the team finished 51-30 at the halfway point and contended for a playoff spot deep in September before ending the season 81-81.

Svrluga, a Washington Post sports reporter, was there from soup to nuts, covering the last-minute glitch in negotiations with the District Council that almost caused the deal to move the Expos to D.C. to crater, all the way to the last homestead against the Philadelphia Phillies. The writing is briskly paced and has an eye toward the human story that went with the business story.

It’s also a great reminder that the Nationals’ current success on the field and with the city — as the area around Nationals Park fills up with breweries, condos and bike lanes — were never guaranteed in those rough-hewn first days at RFK.

June 20, 2014

How Life Imitates the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game

Members of Congress frequently use terms like “camaraderie” and “fun” and “bipartisanship” to describe the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. All true. It’s also a place where they barrel into each, break bones, spill blood and jockey for influence on their own teams. In short, it’s an accurate depiction of life in Congress. Full story

June 15, 2014

Congressional Women’s Softball Game Highlights a Busy Week

Think it’s going to be a busy week in the Capitol, what with a full legislative calendar and House leadership elections? There’s just as much going on in the outside-work calendar, including a throw-down between members of Congress and the media and a telling of the Koch brothers’ tale.

softball048 062613 445x307 Congressional Womens Softball Game Highlights a Busy Week

Bendery, in a non-trash talking moment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The 6th Annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game is Wednesday night, and the trash talk is flying, including a radio “Softball Smackdown” featuring Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Huffington Post scribe Jennifer Bendery on the Bill Press Show. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Eventbrite. Proceeds benefit the Young Survival Coalition. The opening pitch is at 7 p.m. at the Watkins Recreation Center at 420 12th Street SE.

One of Washington’s high-profile film festivals, AFI Docs, gets underway Wednesday, with an opening night show at the Newseum of “Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey,” by Scott Teems. Actor Hal Holbrook, who has been portraying Mark Twain on stage for more than six decades, will be on hand to introduce the film. The festival, which as a full slate of 84 films, runs through June 22 at various venues in D.C. and Silver Spring, Md. For tickets and showtimes, visit the festival website.

Roll Call Book Club returns Thursday night, when we’ll sit down with Mother Jones Senior Editor Daniel Schulman to discuss his new book, “Sons of Wichita, How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.” In case you don’t check in on the Senate floor every once in a while, the Koch brothers are kind of a big deal. However, the K-Bros that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made into Democrats’ bete noire, Charles and David, are only half of the brood. Schulman’s biography serves up juicy bits on the eldest, Frederick, who’s a patron of the arts, and Bill, David’s fraternal twin, an America’s Cup winner and to this day a bitter rival to Charles and David. This free event, complete with wine, cheese and a book giveaway, starts at 6 p.m. at Hill Center at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Please register on Hill Center’s website ahead of time.

Friday is the day we wrap the voting for the annual Roll Call Taste of America contest. Pulling for the deep-sea heavyweight, Maine’s lobster rolls? Want to make sure Iowa bacon wraps itself in victory? Trying to make sure Maryland crab cakes scuttle to victory? Then vote at rollcalltasteofamerica.com. The winner will be announced at the following week’s 53rd Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park.

May 21, 2014

Potty Humor at ACLI Capital Challenge

One of the more charming aspects of Wednesday’s ACLI Capital Challenge were, um, how do we say this? The bathrooms. Every race has its porta-johns set up for runners seeking last-minute relief before the starting gun. This 3-miler, though, had some fun with it, labeling each receptacle in a tongue-in-uhh-cheek manner: Senate, House, Media/Left Wing, Media/Right Wing, VA (please move to back of line) and much more.

 Potty Humor at ACLI Capital Challenge

Members only? Sen. Grassley apparently thought so. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

And, of course, someone waited for his designated portable bathroom. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, a dedicated runner and long-time ACLI Capital Challenge competitor, waited in front of the “Senate” john. When a young woman came out of an adjoining one, she offered it to him. He declined, preferring to wait for the Senators Only rest room.

Patrick Fernandez of Team Coast Guard took the 1st Male Overall category with a 14:59 time. Erin Taylor of Human “Capitol” Running Club GSA took the 1st Female Overall category with a 17:43 time.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, was the fastest male senator, with a time of 25:04. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., was the fastest female senator with a 35:15 time.

Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., was the fastest male House member, with a time of 18:29. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., was the fastest House female with a 25:05 time.

For full results, see the Capital Challenge website.

May 16, 2014

The Coveted Roll Call Cup, or Golf in the Capital

Cup 222x335 The Coveted Roll Call Cup, or Golf in the Capital

The Coveted Roll Call Cup (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“This crowd has gone deadly silent, a Cinderella story outta nowhere. Former greenskeeper and now about to become the Masters champion. … He’s on his final hole. He’s about 455 yards away, he’s gonna hit about a 2-iron I think. … It’s in the hole!”

– Carl Spackler, “Caddyshack.”

The only reason horticultural expert/gopher hunter Spackler dreamed of glory at the Masters was that he had never gazed upon the Coveted Roll Call Cup. On Monday, when many a Washingtonian will be sleeping in, dreaming of legislative or political glories of their own (lots of primaries await on Tuesday after all), Congress’ 20 most-dedicated duffers will trek up to Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md., for the annual First Tee Congressional Challenge for the chance at the untold golf glory found in grasping the Coveted Roll Call Cup.

You never know what you’ll see. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the newly minted chairman of the special House committee on Benghazi in madras shorts that match his teammate, fellow Palmetto State Republican Mick Mulvaney? Check.

golf 008 070912 340x335 The Coveted Roll Call Cup, or Golf in the Capital

Mulvaney, left, and Gowdy match up well. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A little bipartisan bonding as members from across the aisle all beat the bushes looking for a lost ball? Check.

Lost 222x335 The Coveted Roll Call Cup, or Golf in the Capital

Reps. Joe Baca, Xavier Becerra and Zach Wamp look for a lost ball. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It all gets underway at 7:45 a.m. (not a misprint!) and will feature 27 holes of competition pitting Democrats versus Republicans in team and individual competition.

Last year, for only the second time in the tournament’s 12-year history, the sides tied, 10-10, and Republicans retained the cup. In the event of a tie, the team that won the cup the previous year gets to keep it. Why no tiebreakers? According to organizers, they try to make sure the matches wrap up around 3 p.m. so that members of Congress can make it to Capitol Hill or wherever else their business takes them. Votes are scheduled in the House for 6:30 p.m.

Before those votes, though, the winning team’s captain will be presented with the Coveted Roll Call Cup at 5:30 p.m. at Cornerstone Government Affairs. It all goes to benefit First Tee, a golf charity that seeks to introduce youth to the sport most often linked to power and influence — or for fans of Mark Twain, a good walk spoiled.

April 10, 2014

You’ve Got Hate! Feedback on Atlanta Braves Flag Burning Post is EN FUEGO!

dwo40728107 445x289 Youve Got Hate! Feedback on Atlanta Braves Flag Burning Post is EN FUEGO!

(Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Atlanta Braves fans rise up to defend their own! Justin Upton might be outfielder non grata in Washington, but he can take heart his aficionados will defend his right to not try. Also? Team die-hards are determined to shrug off Turner Field’s torching of Old Glory this week.

After the soon-to-be Cobb County Braves accidentally lit a giant American flag on fire with some ill-placed fireworks, the Internet lit up, too, including photos and snarky comments about the Braves’ patriotic conflagration. This included Roll Call After Dark, an unabashed Washington Nationals fan, who also took the opportunity to needle the Braves and their left fielder for an on-field foible that, while within the rules, was just kind of wimpy and an overly technocratic reading of the rules.

In an email received shortly after After Dark’s post went live with the subject line “Justin Upton and the Braves,” one reader stated: Full story

April 9, 2014

Burning Atlanta, or How the Braves Learned to Stop Worrying and Torch Old Glory

It’s bad enough that Justin Upton of the Atlanta Braves refuses to field balls in the outfield. Now his team burns flags at their home stadium.

According to Deadspin, the soon-to-be Cobb County Braves let Old Glory get too close to their fireworks display and — Boom! — some distasteful but constitutionally protected flamboyance occurred.

Booooo.

March 28, 2014

Calendar: Time to Make Outdoor Plans, Finally

Amazing what a couple of days above freezing will do for everyone’s disposition!

Whether it’s planning some fun runs, mussing about among the cherry blossoms or gearing up for the return of the Washington Nationals, it’s nice to be able to go outside without cold weather gear, finally.

Run, Run, Run

One of the biggest outdoor activities of the season brings together not just the Cherry Blossom Festival crowds but members of Congress and the physically fit. April 6 is the annual Congressional Federal Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, a massive foot race that raises money for charity that contains the Capitol Hill Competition race-within-the-race. Race organizers on April 3 will present the a check to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Room HVC-200 at the Capitol Visitor Center. Expect current and former members of Congress to attend. Congressional Federal CEO Charles A. Mallon Jr., is touting the 41 senators and 189 House members who are serving as honorary co-chairs of the race, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. The event starts at 10 a.m. Capitol Hill Competition runners can pick up their race packets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the same room. Full story

March 26, 2014

Suns v. Wiz: Home Town and Adopted Home Town Hoops

This is a tough one: Whom to root for when your home town team (Phoenix Suns) take on your adopted home town team (Washington Wizards.)

As a native Arizonan, born in Phoenix and raised in Cottonwood, the Suns were my first team. They were Arizona’s first team really, the first major league sport to grace the Valley of the Sun. There’s some sentimentality at work with the Suns.

But I haven’t lived in the Grand Canyon State since 1998, although, as my parents will attest, a lot of my crap is still there in their homes. My friend and former colleague, current New York Daily News scribe Dan Friedman, warns of the perils, nay, impossibility of divided loyalty. I try to listen to Dan as much as I can, even when he’s nearby.

So what’s it going to be tonight as the Purple Gang takes on the Wiz? Both teams are likely headed to the playoffs. Both have class act players and management.

Sorry, Wiz. When I see the following, it’s no contest.

March 17, 2014

Taking the Long View on Recess Week

PHOENIX — Monday’s snow is a reminder of why Major League Baseball long ago decamped for Arizona and Florida for its spring training schedule. With snow on the ground in Washington, Opening Day seems a long way away on the East Coast.

Here in the Valley of the Sun, teams are starting to make preparations to return to their home cities — or Australia for the season opener in the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers — but there are still plenty of exhibition/tune-up games to go, including at Roll Call After Dark’s favorite locale, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, where the Oakland A’s have long made their springtime home.

But if you’re not fortunate enough to be soaking in the rays in Arizona or Florida, there’s still plenty to do in Washington, even as it throws off the last vestiges of winter storming. Full story

February 27, 2014

After Snow Delay, Frederic Frommer Ready to Talk Baseball Again

You’ve heard of rain delays in baseball, but Frederic Frommer, author of “You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball From 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions,” got to experience that rarest of things, a snow delay.

Frommer, an Associated Press scribe who chronicles the trials and tribulations of Washington baseball, was all set to discuss his book with former Senators announcer Phil Hochberg at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library on Dec. 10. But then the heavens opened up, if you’ll recall, and the library called the whole thing off.

reid 040 050412 445x296 After Snow Delay, Frederic Frommer Ready to Talk Baseball Again

Will this be the year the Nationals deliver a championship to Washington? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, left, and Nats’ outfield Bryce Harper want to know. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes it rains, the saying goes. In December in D.C., it snows, so there you go.

Lucky for Frommer, Hochberg and baseball fans, the snow delay has resulted in a make-up book talk and signing in the midst of spring training. So come on down the MLK library on March 4 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held in room 307 of the library at 901 G St. NW. It is free to attend and is presented in partnership with the Historical Society of Washington, D. C.

February 14, 2014

Play Ball! on the AFI Silver Screen

It’s that first, hopeful sign of spring, at least for baseball fans: pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training. One way to get ready for Opening Day is to take advantage of the AFI Silver Theater’s “Play Ball! Hollywood and the American Pastime,” series, which opened earlier this month and runs through April 16.

Among classics such as “Bull Durham,” “A League of Their Own,” “The Bad News Bears” and “The Natural,” there are musicals — “Take Me Out to The Ball Game” and “Damn Yankees” — as well as curiosities including ” The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings” and documentaries like “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream” and “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” and “Knuckleball!”

There are a fair amount of free screenings; for a full calendar with showtimes, go to the AFI Silver’s website.

Play ball!

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