Mikhail Ovechkin and vodka, Babe Ruth and whiskey


(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

I know you already read Barry Svrluga’s story about the Caps and their fathers, but you might have missed the photo that helps accompany the opening scene.

Something had to change. These guys had come too far: Gunther Alzner from outside Vancouver, Dave Green from Calgary, Lars Johansson from Sweden, Frank Fehr from the tiny town of Winkler, Manitoba. They had shared beers and stories — and more beers, and more stories. And here they sat, at the first intermission of Friday’s game in New Jersey, their Washington Capitals — really, their Washington Capitals, because the jerseys they wore bore the names of their sons — in a flat funk.

So up from his front-row seat in a suite at Prudential Center came their leader, seeking a momentum shift. Mikhail Ovechkin is an immense man with a ruddy face. The father of the Capitals’ captain, Alex, Mikhail speaks little English. With this group, he didn’t have to. He grabbed a full bottle of Absolut vodka from the counter, spread out little plastic cups on a circular table, and poured. And poured. From Russia, with love.

As you’ll notice above, these weren’t stingy pours, either. From the left, these are the fathers of Eric Fehr, Mike Green, Karl Alzner and John Carlson, thanking Papa Ovechkin for the liquid refreshment. See this gallery for more from Jonathan Newton.

Anyhow, this probably wasn’t enough for an item on its own — just shamelessly using one of my colleague’s words, and another one of my colleague’s photograph — so I went combing through the archives to find another classic D.C. sports story involving a jorum of skee, as they say. I found this excerpt from a Shirley Povich column, published in early September of 1961, during the height of the Maris/Mantle chase.

THIS MORNING, BY SHIRLEY POVICH

September 3, 1961

“Say,” [Al] Schacht said, “did I ever tell you about the time in Washington Bucky Harris tried to frame Ruth? That was in 1924 and we’re trying to win the pennant we won, and the Yankees are in town for a July 4 doubleheader, and they’re invited to a party the night before.

“The Polish Ambassador is a baseball fan and he has invited some of the Yankees like Ruth and Pennock and Hoyt to the embassy, and Harris says ‘Schacht, you go, too, and keep Ruth up late.’ In those days, it was prohibition, but at the embassies it didn’t count, and I knew what Harris wanted. I took Goose Goslin along with me.

“It’s two-thirty in the morning and I can’t take any more of the embassy whiskey and I figure I done my duty anyway, so I tell Babe, ‘Time to go, two games tomorrow.’ Ruth has got his arm round the ambassador and he is saying, ‘The drinkers are staying, you and Goslin go.’

“I tell Ruth, ‘Remember, we got to go to Walter Reed Hospital in the morning to visit the soldiers, and he said ‘Okay, okay, I’ll meet you in the lobby.’ He rolled it at nine o’clock, straight from the embassy, and he said to me, ‘Hey, you missed all the fun.’

“From the hospital, we go straight to the ball park and I tell Harris, I did my duty. ‘The Babe ain’t been to bed,’ and I told him the whole story. I figure I got to get at least a oak leaf cluster from Harris.

“Then what happens? In the first inning, ‘Boom.’ Babe has got a home run with a couple men on. In the second game in the first inning again, ‘Boom!’ the Babe has got another one. I’m a coach. I haven’t thrown any of those pitches, but now Harris is looking at me harder than he is looking at his pitchers.”

At this point there was a gingerly inquiry about the performance of Goose Goslin, the well-behaved Washington outfielder who brightly left the ambassador’s party at a fairly reasonable hour.

“Oh, the Goose,” says Schacht. “He went oh for nine the whole day.”

(I don’t want to ruin the story, and maybe someone else figured this out better than I can, but the facts are a bit different. The Yankees and Nats did indeed play a double-header on July 4, 1924. Goslin finished the day 3-for-7 with a double, and RBI and a walk. Ruth was 2-for-7 with two runs scored and a walk. The Yankees won both halves of the double-header, but this just can’t be what Schacht was referring to.)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · January 28