For 50 years, Jim Powell kept half of a ticket stub from a 1961 Washington Senators game among his personal possessions. He put it in his jewelry box. He took it with him during his globe-trotting days in the U.S. Navy, bringing it to Norfolk and Providence, Naples and the Mediterranean, Charleston and Monterey. He used it to think back to a time when he had just graduated from Suitland High, and hadn’t yet entered the U.S. Naval Academy, and the Senators were doing their Washington baseball thing, losing 100 games and finishing ninth of 10 American-League teams.
“It was a memento, and I just held onto it,” Powell told me over the weekend. “And when it came up on 50 years, I said gee, 50 years is kind of a long time to hold onto something.’
Indeed it is. The half-stub, Powell said, also served as a rain check back in the day, and he thought maybe that’s why he had originally decided to keep this particular stub, from a June 20 game against the Detroit Tigers at Griffith Stadium. Anyhow, this spring, Powell decided to let the Nationals know that he had this 50-year old memory still, writing an e-mail to Nats ownership.
“I didn't know if it was a rain check or not,” Powell, now 68, said. “It clearly said it wasn’t valid after that season.”
Still, the Nationals thought the stub’s existence was reason enough to invite Powell to Nats Park, a place he had never been. They presented him with four tickets for Saturday’s game with the Mets, and even told some media members that they had a fan who was cashing in a 50-year old rain check on that date.
Of course, as things turn out, that long-ago game WAS played on June 20, with the Tigers scoring five runs in the first five innings and beating the Senators, 5-4, giving future Senator Jim Bunning the win. The other kind of Senator, I mean.
Now obviously this isn’t exactly the 139-year old 15th generation great-great-great-grandmotherly descendant of the Puritans who swallowed dirt from Fenway Park every October until the Red Sox finally won a World Series upon which point she instantly expired, but Washington will take its longtime baseball fans where we can get them. And Powell, a government contractor who now lives in Norfolk, certainly qualifies.
He “listened to many a game under the bedcovers at night with a flashlight, keeping score with the radio.” He went to three or four games a year, and still quickly rattles off the names of the late-50s starters, from Pete Runnels to Eddie Yost, Roy Sievers to Jim Lemon, Bob Allison to Clinton Courtney. The kid across the street in District Heights rooted for the Yankees “because they always had winning teams, but I was more of a hometown guy.”
And Powell remained a hometown guy in Norfolk, watching virtually every Nats game on television despite never visiting the park before last weekend.
“Oh, it's fantastic,” he said. “I can't compare this. I can vaguely remember Griffith Stadium, and it's just nowhere near, can't touch anything on this. This is just absolutely beautiful, a gorgeous stadium, clean and organized, and the people here have been so great to me.”
In fact, when we talked, Powell had just one concerned. He was supposed to exchange his ticket stub – for a $3 box seat on the third base side – to the Nats in something of a ceremony, but he was hoping he’d get the stub back after the trade.
“I don't know if they're gonna let me keep it or not; I hope they will,” he told me. “If I can get another 50 years with it, that’ll really be something.”
The Nats did, in fact, let him keep the stub.