As the Washington Nationals enter the playoffs, lots of bars will jump on the bandwagon to show games and offer drink specials. But diehards know to go to Duffy’s Irish Pub, which has been a Nationals bar since day one.
“I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life,” says owner Andy Duffy, 41, who grew up in upstate New York and moved to Washington 18 years ago. But, he says, the arrival of the Nationals was “the first time I’ve ever had a home team.” When he opened his pub in May 2006, he began showing every Nats game.
It became “a destination for regulars who hung out and kvetched about how we were wasting all our time watching such an awful team,” says Gene Moses, 39, a Nationals fan who lives a few blocks from the bar and has watched 40 to 50 games at Duffy’s this year. “It was a really great bonding experience for us during those times.”
No matter what the team’s record was, Duffy’s ran specials. Last summer, during Nats games, Duffy’s offered 16-ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys for the princely sum of Jayson Werth’s batting average. There were distinctly mixed feelings about paying $2.17 for a PBR: glad for the cheap beer, unhappy the team’s prized free agent was slumping.
This year’s specials have been more optimistic: Duffy’s offers a free shot of Jameson to fans wearing Nats gear whenever Werth hits a home run (five so far) or Bryce Harper steals a base (17). In August, after former Nationals broadcaster Rob Dibble made comments on his radio show disparaging the team, Duffy’s offered a free drink to anyone who said “Dibble’s a d-----” to the bartender during that night’s game.
The bar created a special camaraderie among Washington baseball enthusiasts. To sit at Duffy’s during a Nationals game is to be among people who proudly wear the teams’s colors and cheer for every game. Whether you know the people sitting next to you or not, it’s easy to join in conversations about playoff seedings, whether Tyler Moore or Chad Tracy should pinch hit for the starting pitcher and the inevitable “Should Teddy ever win?” discussion.
Duffy’s regulars Robin and Adam Watkins, one sporting a Nats jacket and the other a cap, talk about how they formed friendships over wings and baseball at the bar. The married couple now gathers with those friends at the bar to watch the game or to grab drinks before jumping on the Metro for the 15-minute ride to Nationals Park.
On a recent Tuesday night, several people were trying the new “cortisone” shot, which Duffy’s sells for $5 during games. Made of Jameson, Jack Daniels, apple schnapps and cranberry juice, it’s a sweet, apple-flavored concoction named for the anti-inflamatory treatment that Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Ian Desmond and other players received this season.
With the Nationals heading to the playoffs and, hopefully, a division crown, these are heady times at Duffy’s. For the people who were there at the beginning, patience is finally beginning to pay off.
Duffy’s Irish Pub, 2106 Vermont Ave. NW. 202-265-3413. www.duffysdc.com.