[September 20th] -- I haven't posted for a few days. It wasn't because of the poor play the last three or four games, however. I have begun to feel very melancholy about the impeding demise of RFK's baseball future.
Some are surprised that the Nationals were not able to fill the old girl up with well-wishers seeking to say goodbye. I'm not surprised, not one bit. One glance around the stands and it becomes obvious that the great majority of those who attend Nationals' games these days were born after the team left town, meaning that the stadium holds no sentimental value whatsoever to the vast majority of the team's fan-base.
And what about those of us who did attend Senators' games at RFK? Well, to be sure, we have memories of Frank Howard and Ted Williams and Claude Osteen and Don Zimmer and Tom Cheney, good memories to be sure. But RFK, to us anyway, was never a place where memories were easily formed. D.C. Stadium was scrubbed clean of any memory makers for the fans. There were no big green monsters, or short porches in right field, or "hit sign win suit" signs or nook and cranny's where balls would get lost. There wasn't any monuments in center or dark corners in the stands where you could be alone with your thoughts. Or your girl friend. No, D.C. stadium was all about neutrality. The stadium was designed to facilitate the game, not to become part of it.
So a stadium that was never loved, that wasn't used for baseball From the Nixon through the Bush administrations, is on the way out. Some of us will remember it, a few will miss it. But come next year, no one will reflect fondly on it's impersonal bowl, the seemingly endless concrete walkways, and that waffle-top roof that got you seasick if you stared at it for too long.
But let me tell you why I am going to miss the stadium, and it has little to do with unassisted triple plays and 500 foot homers. It's all about my youth. I was there when the stories began to run in the Washington Post and Daily News and Evening Star about this new "flying saucer of a stadium" that was going up on East Capitol Street. Baseball was being played there when my father would scream at me and call me names, and baseball was there when my mother died when both of us were too young for it to happen. Baseball remained through the riots following Martin Luther King's death and remained alive while Resurrection City came, and went, on the mall.
Neil Armstong walked on the moon and Richard Nixon became our president while my generation turned the stiles at RFK. Baseball at RFK was seven years old before Vince Lombardi came to town, and was still there when George Allen was hired by Edward Bennett Williams. Baseball was here when we lost John Kennedy, and his brother Bobby. When I hear Charlie Slowes say, 'Good Afternoon, and welcome to RFK Stadium...,' I remember the dark days of 1968, when the murders of Bobby and Martin turned the city against itself.
To me, RFK isn't a place, but rather a time. America lost its innocence during its run, it grew up from it's 'Leave It To Beaver' beginnings to become 'All In The Family.' 18 year-olds got the vote and the draft disappeared. At no time will America experience a decade like the '60's. That's a good thing, and a bad thing all in one.
So while I'm happy to see the Nationals move into their new digs, I only wish that the memories, both good and bad, could move with them. Regardless of the future, the new Nationals' park will never see the history that RFK did.
And that's why I'm a bit melancholy, why games are being played but stories aren't being written.
One glance around the stands and it becomes obvious that the great majority of those who attend Nationals' games these days were born after the team left town, meaning that the stadium holds no sentimental value whatsoever to the vast majority of the team's fan-base.
I gotta disagree with this on two counts:
1. Did you hear the ovation that Frank Howard got? It was the longest and loudest of the game. I imagine much of that was inspired by people who remember watching him play at RFK.
2. I am one of those people who wasn't around for the old Senators, and in fact only moved to the area a couple years before the Nats. But I can sure tell you that RFK holds a lot of sentimental value for me. Most of it is tied to the 05 Nats, that miracle team that lead the division for over half the season. The stadium where Chad Cordero got most of is 15 record-tying saves in a month. The stadium where the seats bounce and the fans are always right on the 2 strike counts. It was wonderful to see that again on Sunday... the stadium hasn't been like that since 05. And it was fantastic to see Cordero finish the ballpark out with a strikeout and a save.
I stood in the stands until the ushers kicked me out... it was hard to leave knowing I'd never be back for another game at RFK. It may be a little worn and need a new coat of paint (why didn't they ever get rid of the Red Skins-colored seats???), but that place really is beautiful when it reverberates with the impassioned cheers of a full house and literally thumps with the enthusiasm.
I was born after the Senators left and grew up a fan of a different team, but I can tell you that when I'm sitting in a brand new stadium with a 50-mile wide jumbotron in my face and in my ears, I'll miss ole RFK and the sights and sounds of a stadium that doesn't need any special effects.
And (more importantly) I hope that you are right and that I am wrong.
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