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Posted at 03:52 PM ET, 05/07/2012

Bryce Harper steals home, and hearts

Yet another baseball item. Yes, it’s lunacy, but last night I went to Nats Park to see the Nationals vs. Phillies, and had a boffo time and at one point heroically trash-talked a guy from Philadelphia using my secret weapon of historical trivia. That dramatic tale in a moment, but first let’s talk about the game, and teen phenom Bryce Harper.

First inning, Hamels, the Phillies pitcher, plunks Harper, throwing a laser right into the small of his back, an unmistakable message of “Welcome to the NL East, punk.” Harper shrugs it off, then hustles to third on a Werth single. Then comes the big moment. Hamels, a lefty, has his back to Harper as he pitches from the stretch. He tosses the ball to first to chase Werth back to the bag. Then he does it again, and as he throws, Harper dashes home. Beats the throw, safe! No one steals home, and certainly no teenager steals home on national television in his prime-time debut. I don’t care what else this kid does, that was instantly legendary. Years from now, I can say I was there when Harper stole home in his rookie season, and can embellish the story by saying he gave me a high-five on the way back to the dugout and later we went out for beers.

There was some discussion in my group about whether, two innings later, Zimmermann intentionally plunked Hamels in the leg when Hamels came to bat. Question: Was this pay-back for plunking our star teenager? Answer: Ya think?? Watched it on tape later and it was obvious. If Zim doesn’t hit Hamels he violates a code going back to the days of Ty Cobb. [Our reporter Adam Kilgore disagrees with me on this. Boz weighs in. So does Tracee Hamilton, who says the Nats finally have a real rival in the Phillies.]

What fun.

For eight innings it was pretty typical Nats fare: Great pitching, hardly any runs. It was 3-1 Phillies going into the 9th, then it got silly and the Phillies began hitting the ball as if it were sitting on a tee. Final score 9-3.

It was in the 9th that a guy behind me, a Phillies fan, began heckling the Nats fans about the lack of championships in DC in recent years. I ignored it as long as I could, and then realized I had to take him out with my encyclopedic historical knowledge.

I looked him in the eye and said: You’re from Philadelphia? Nice town, but we are the nation’s capital, something you haven’t been since the 1790s.

Oh, nasty! He realized he had no answer to that. He was beat. Who can argue with facts? I mean, I don’t think Philadelphia is even the capital of Pennsylvania! And in the big contest over which place in the young republic would be the seat of government, we won. Congress decided in the Residence Act of 1790 (and I didn’t go into this much detail with the heckler because it would have been cruel) that the federal district would be this marshy place next to Georgetown near the fall line of the Potomac, and not New York or Philadelphia or Trenton or Harrisburg or whatever. [Technically the Act stipulated a town somewhere along a 100-mile stretch of the Potomac, but that’s not going to be on the test.]

Philadelphia got a consolation prize: It was able to pretend to be the capital for 10 years, until the real capital got scratched out of the muck.

All this is factual. In the grand contest that really mattered, Washington bested Philadelphia.

Final score: Washington 1, Philadephia 0.

By  |  03:52 PM ET, 05/07/2012

 
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