Mark Gauvreau Judge, author of "Damn Senators: My Grandfather and the Story of Washington's Only World Series Championship," was online Thursday, April 14, at 3:30 p.m. ET to talk about the history of baseball in the nation's capital -- the same day the Nationals will take the field for the first time at RFK Stadium.
Mark Gauvreau Judge's work has appeared in various publications, including the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and the Weekly Standard.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
Thank you for joining us to talk about the Nationals on the day of the team's first home game. Can you describe how you feel about the Nationals taking the field at RFK Stadium tonight? Will you be at the game?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: I will - I got scalped tickets because my connections failed me because everyone in the city wants to go. It's like the first day of school. It's like the butterflies and just tremendous excitement. It really is like the first day of a good school, of a fun school. It's hard to put it into words.
Do you think the Nationals -- the city's first baseball team since 1971 -- will change life in Washington, D.C., as we now know it? How?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: They already have. There has been a spiritual and mental boost to the city that hasn't been seen since the Redskins won the Super Bowl. Psychologically and spiritually the city will change starting tonight, and also it's going to bring a lot of money to inner city schools and sports programs that need it, at least that's what the team is promising. Yes, one of the reasons the old team left was because Calvin Griffith said "blacks don't go to baseball games as much as whites," and obviously an ignorant thing to say, and this new team hopefully will help those divisions because the most integrated place in Washington is RFK stadium.
Your grandfather was Joe Judge, a former Senator who was part of the only Washington Senators squad to win a World Series. On October 21, 1990, Joe Judge was inducted into RFK Stadium's Hall of Stars, a local Hall of Fame for Washington, D.C., athletes. When did you decide to write your grandfather's story, and what do you hope readers will take away from reading it?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: I decided when as a poor writer a publisher offered me money - I'm sorry but it's the truth. But in writing it, the money became irrelevant as I got to know my grandfather who died in 1963, the year before I was born. And the Hall of Stars is fantastic but he should be in the Hall of Fame. He is not in the Hall of Fame because of an article he wrote in 1959 in Sports Illustrated critical of the Hall.
I am happy that D.C. finally has a team to root for, and sad that my two adult sons never had a chance to root for them. Raised here, I forbade them from rooting for the carpetbaggers north of us on I-95, and encouraged them to become what I am -- or was -- a Yankee fan.
However, now that D.C. has a true team, I am on the bandwagon, a moment I have wished for for more than two decades since I moved here. Of course I will always have affection for the Pinstripers, but the moment our president throws out that ball tonight, all I will be able to say, with my eyes moist, will be GO NATS!
Your thoughts on "conversion?"
Mark Gauvreau Judge: That's interesting. My grandfather was the inspiration for the character Joe Hardy in Damn Yankees. The author of Damn Yankees, Douglass Wallop, dated Joe Judge's daughter. As you probably know, the character in the play and movie hates the Yankees. We had to go through the Yankees to win the 1924 World Series, so I've never had to convert because I've never had love for the Yankees. But welcome to the church of Washington Baseball.
Since President Bush is going to revive an old tradition and throw out Washington baseball's first pitch, I was wondering whether that event used to be politicized? My first instinct, if I were lucky enough to be at the game tonight, would be to boo him. Did they ever used to do that? Were fans less likely to boo a president who threw out the first pitch from the stands, rather than the field? And how did the bigwig politicians interact with the team generally? Thanks.
Mark Gauvreau Judge: In researching the book, I never once came across an incident of a president being booed at a Senators game. These days they boo everyone. I'm a supporter of President Bush, but when John Kerry got booed in Boston during the campaign, I thought it was disrespectful and inappropriate. People should let them play and keep the politics off the field. And Bush has the best arm of any president. So he'll do better than Mayor Williams.
Re: scalped ticket:
A couple hours ago a friend of mine just got a section 325 row 4 seat from the team's Web site, at no extra charge.
Power to the average citizens!
Mark Gauvreau Judge: Amen to that.
I remember when I was in junior high school here and the Senators left before I got to see a game ... then the minor league team left here in something like '83 or '84 ... the Alexandria Dukes? and went down to Prince William county to be the Cannons. I thought sheesh, D.C. can't even keep a minor league team. But oh, how this area has grown since then ... I am so excited about watching the Nats on TV and at RFK. It will also completely renovate the Anacostia riverside and turn it into a Georgetown-like area. Win, win, win for everyone!. We need a cable contract though ... someone has to get these games on cable TV! What's up with that?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: I don't know, but one comment is if you're interested, check the attendance for the Senators games in the 1960s. It was never ever as bad as people say. In 1969, we outdrew the San Francisco Giants, who had Willie Mays and were a good team.
With all this excitement do you think anyone will think of 1924 and when the Nationals actually won the World Series?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: Yes. Growing up I would get asked by old old-timers if I was related to Joe Judge. Since the book came out I get asked that question by people my own age and younger. It's as if history stopped for 34 years and is about to restart.
Falls Church, Va.:
With a team in D.C. and all the attention on the old Senators, what do you think the chances are of Joe Judge getting into the Hall of Fame? Thanks!
Mark Gauvreau Judge: The Hall of Fame is incomprehensible. I think his 1959 Sports Illustrated article really hurt his chances, but then again, they won't let Cecil Travis, won of the greatest Senators and baseball players of all time, into the Hall. Travis was an amazing hitter and shortstop, but got called up in World War II and got frostbite. Joe Judge gave 40 years of his life to DC baseball. Twenty on the field and 20 coaching at Georgetown University. He was a gentleman and brilliant baseball player. They'll let Barry Bonds into the Hall and not him.
The game's supposedly sold out for tonight. Do you think after all the initial hoopla is over and done that the initial enthusiasm for a home team will prevail and sell tickets throughout the season?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: I do. I was at the April 4th exhibition game. It was after a huge rain and about 20 degrees in RFK and there were 25,000 people there. I go to games at Shirley Povich field in Bethesda. It's college age kids playing baseball and they charge 5 or 7 dollars and the place sells out constantly. This is a town with baseball in its soul and I don't think attendance will be a problem. With the subway here now unlike 34 years ago, you can literally be anywhere in the city 20 minutes before a game and simply decide to go. That was harder to do before the metro.
"And Bush has the best arm of any president."
Don't think so, unless you meant Bush, Sr.
Mark Gauvreau Judge: All I know is that at the games I've seen Bush throw out a pitch, it's always been a strike. President Taft was too heavy, President Kennedy had a bad back, President Nixon was not athletic. I disagree with President Bush on several things, but the man can throw a pitch. It's also ironic that the Washington Senators moved to Texas in 1971 to become the Texas Rangers, a team the president part owned.
Everybody in one way or another is from
somewhere else. I take umbrage with the
"carpetbagger" slur. If one truly loves
baseball, one wants to see both
franchises succeed and develop a
healthy rivalry. When I first moved to this
area, I ran across a local photographer
named Emily Holloway who as a little girl
had played catch with Walter Johnson
who lived in her neighborhood. GOOD
LUCK tonight, NATIONALS. MAKE A
Mark Gauvreau Judge: Jim Palmer, the great Orioles pitcher, once said the Orioles loved playing Washington because it was "a quick drive down the Beltway and an easy win." I saw many, many Orioles games growing up, but I could never embrace the team. But it does seem like a natural rivalry.
Do you believe that the Nats and the new stadium will truly give us the opportunity to revitalize Buzzards Point area, on South Cap Street, to make it into what so many of us envision (a beautiful waterfront park area, like the Inner Harbor, with wide grassy areas, bars and restaurants, loft housing, etc.)? Or are we all a bit too hopeful that the civic pride for the Nationals will turn into real economic growth?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: Two words: MCI Center. 7th Street, which was barren for years, now looks like New York City. I think people will be amazed at the new stadium. The crucial thing is that there is foot traffic there unlike RFK -- commercial foot traffic, like shops and restaurants. I think it will be beautiful.
What do you think of the idea of changing the name of RFK Stadium?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: It's ironic and appropriate that the National Guard wanted to name the stadium. Ed Brinkman was a short stop for the Senators in the 1960s. During the riots of 1968, he got called up and actually found himself defending RFK from the left field bleachers, but that name would conjur bad memories. If I had my way, the new stadium or RFK would be named after Josh Gibson, the great Homestead Grays player, or Sam Lacey, the brilliant and late African American sports writer. Gibson and Lacey were pioneers and I dare say that keeping their names alive is even more important than keeping a lot of the names alive of players from the Senators past.
The franchise should not forget its Montreal link. I hope the new mascot is Youppi!
Mark Gauvreau Judge: The new mascot should be a huge pothole or you can have 50 mascots who form a gigantic line at the DMV.
I thought the local baseball owners missed a great
opportunity when they named the new team after the
Nationals -- and not after the Grays, the great Negro
League team that played here for many years.
The name "Nationals" taps into a certain kind of
"establishment" nostalgia; but wouldn't it have made
sense, given MLB's declining popularity among African
Americans, to give a nod to the great black team our area
once played host to? Imagine if we were honoring the
great Grays players today, instead of (or alongside) the old
What do you think? Black Washington dissed again?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: Very good points. And well put. I don't think it's "Black Washington" dissed again, but I do believe we have to go the extra mile to honor the Negro League players. I would love to buy a Homestead Grays T-Shirt and I have been unable to find one in any store. They should name the new stadium after Josh Gibson or Sam Lacey and there should be statues or a museum honoring these men.
Do you think it's just a matter of time before the press turns on the Nats like they do the Skins? Meaning if the Nats don't make the playoffs then fire the manager, etc. Kind of like a Dan Snyder mentality.
Mark Gauvreau Judge: No owner in any professional sport is as tyrannical, uptight, and downright insane as Daniel Snyder. Frank Robinson, the Nats manager, is a brilliant and wise man. And the new managers of the operation are desperate to keep fans coming. Tickets for games and the upper deck are seven dollars each. Try that at FedEx field.
Do you think within the next few years the payroll of the Nationals will be in the top or are we doomed to have a small market club which will ultimately rely on the Harrisburg and other farm systems to produce players of worth?
Mark Gauvreau Judge: It all depends on who the new owners are.
Actually, that raises an interesting question -- it's important to remember the Montreal history here. This team had a couple of very successful years, and success or not, endured many VERY trying years there, with ownership disasters, the MLB effort to kill the team, etc.
Is there ever a chance we'll see an "Expos Night" for the Nats? Turn that goofy looking Expos logo upside-down and it's a W, or close to it!
Mark Gauvreau Judge: My middle name is Gauvreau, so I have a soft spot for French Canadians. I'll always be grateful that they gave us their team, but I believe when the players hit that real grass and dirt tonight, they will be overjoyed to be out of astroturf Montreal.
Mark Gauvreau Judge: I'm leaving for the game soon. This is a wonderful night in a city I love, and I hope to see you all there. I'd tell you where I'm sitting, but I don't want Daniel Snyder to send some goons out there.