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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!”
Just moments after being confirmed on Thursday to be the United States’ top envoy to China, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he was considering running the Beijing marathon in October. “I’ve actually got my eye on the Beijing Marathon,” he said on the floor, noting his longtime affection for running.
Baucus, left, is thinking about running the Beijing Marathon. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo.)
Baucus likes to hoof it. He made headlines in the 1990s when he walked the length of the Treasure State, more than 800 miles. In 2003, he ran a 50-mile ultra-marathon. It was during that 2003 race that he fell and banged his head. The bruising on his face when he returned to work was ghastly. He eventually had to have surgery to fix some bleeding in his skull, which stemmed from the injury.
Nearly 11 years later, Baucus doesn’t sound like he’ll seek out anything more than the standard 26.2 miles. He even joked on the floor that he might need to settle for the half-marathon in Beijing.
That might not be such a bad idea. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who came to the floor after Baucus was done signing off, reminded him of the horrific pollution levels in Beijing, which come from monitors “on top of the U.S. embassy.”
Word of advice for the new ambassador: If you run, you might want to don a mask, as many marathoners there do. And watch where you step. Because of the lack of public facilities, many runners urinated on the walls of the Forbidden City last year.
No shame in the half-marathon, 9K, or mini-marathon (4.2K), senator!
Capitol Hill staffers looking to compete in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run Capitol Hill Competition can start registering on Feb. 1.
The competition, which consists of congressional staffers who form teams to vie for the Capitol Hill Cup, is a sub-race within the larger Cherry Blossom Run, one of Washington’s biggest foot races of the year. Staffers can register here, starting at 7:30 a.m. on Feb. 1.
Nearly 800 Hill staffers ran in last year’s Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run Capitol Hill Competition. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo.)
According to a release from the race’s organizers, almost 800 staffers ran in last year’s competition. The “Red, White and Blumenauer” team carrying the banner for Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., won, posting a 3:18:24 time. Portions of the race proceeds go to children’s hospitals through the Children’s Miracle Network.
Happy Day of the Dead! There’s no way around it now: We’re firmly in the grip of fall, hurtling toward winter. Before we get to the really cold stuff, there’s time to do some autumn-appropriate stuff right here on Capitol Hill.
An Almighty Drive-In Experience
Union Market continues its fall season drive-in series on Friday with an All Saints Day showing of “Evan Almighty” at the Union Market Drive-In encore series. God, played by Morgan Freeman (no one else is allowed to play the big guy), asks Rep. Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) to build an ark in anticipation of a flood. The congressman obliges. In 2007, when the movie came out, this seemed far-fetched. In 2013, after observing the last few collections of freshman who have been elected, it seems feasible.
Gates open at 6 p.m., and the show starts at 7:30. Free, at 1309 Fifth St. NE.
Pottery on the Hill
Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital is hosting Pottery on the Hill this weekend, starting with a reception on Friday and extending into the weekend. The exhibit will showcase 16 artists, and folks will have the opportunity to both view and buy. Among the potters is former Washington Redskin fan favorite and renaissance man Chris Cooley, who seems to be holding up just fine in his post-NFL life.
Tickets to Friday’s reception are $25 and available here. That shindig starts at 6:30 p.m. at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Cooley will also be giving talks at noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday about his life as a sportsman and artist.
Street Level View
If you’d like your art in a different medium, check out the new exhibit Above the Radar III at The Fridge on Barracks Row. The exhibit shows off 25 artists from Los Angeles, New York and abroad, starting on Saturday. Curator Luna George brings many facets of the urban art experience, from street art to surrealism and more, for a month-long show. Among the artists showing are Cat Cult, Peeta, Robots Will Kill and XIST. Saturday’s opening reception is from 7 to 11 p.m. and is free; Sunday’s neighborhood reception is from noon to 4 p.m. and is also free, all at 516 1/2 Eighth St. SE.
New Columbia Distillers, the team behind the District’s Green Hat Gin, releases its new gin for the season, “Ginavit,” at the Ivy City distillery at 1832 Fenwick St. NE on Saturday. The portmanteau of two excellent spirits, gin and aquavit, suggests an interesting flavor. “This is a hardy and savory cool weather gin,” John Uselton, the co-owner and distiller said in a release, promising a mix of “Scandinavian aquavit botanicals” and gin botanicals. They’re only making 100 cases, so drink it while you can. Suggested retail is $40, and your first chance to get it is on Saturday. Whatever’s left over heads to restaurants and retailers the next week.
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick