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Rowdy Fans Hand Senators Final Loss

By Myra McPherson and Tom Huth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 1, 1971

The Washington Senators' 71-year-old life ended one out too soon.

In the top of the ninth last night -- with the Senators leading 7 to 5 and two out -- several hundred youths in the yelling crowd of 14,460 surged onto the playing field at R.F. Kennedy Stadium. They ran the bases and stole home, tore out tufts of grass, grabbed the ball boys' folding chair and pinched dirt for their jacket pockets.

When first base was lifted and carried away, you could tell it was all over. And so, the final irony: the fans lost the game for the Senators, who had to forfeit their last contest here to the Yankees.

No one on the field cared, nor did those fans who watched smilingly from their seats. The huge banks of lights dimmed out one by one. Police started herding the crowd back into the stands. Three men were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Two groundskeepers lifted their shovels under police guard to dig up the pitching rubber. Four other officers stood over home plate. One of them said, "They just told us to guard home playte." He didn't say for what.

And so ended one of the rowdiest wakes ever. The crowd was noisy and wild from the beginning. They came on a muggy, windy night to say goodbye to the Texas-bound Senators, who in their lifetime lost far more than they won.

The crowd came with a jovial camaraderie for one another and their departing team -- an emotion born out of their dislike for Robert Short, the owner who made it possible for them to never, ever see another Washington Senators game here.

One woman wore a black mourning arm band over her raincoat sleeve ("I don't know what I'm going to do without them") and a 14-year-old boy wept as he lugged a styrofoam dummy of Short around the stands with him.

Mostly the crowd was jovially optimistic. From an aging vendor to a 7-year-old boy with his front teeth missing, the cry was "we'll get some team here -- maybe the San Diego Padres -- by next year."

There were gray haired women with red baseball caps on and vintage 1950 "greasers" -- still with their duck tail hair but 20 years older, T-shirts covering potbellies

There were college students in beards and 4-year-olds who were more interested in watching ripped up programs rain down from the bleachers than watching Frank (Hondo) Howard's last home run in Washington.

There were a 3-year-old boy and an 87-year-old man, neither of whom said much and or remembered the first game he ever saw.

Fifteen minutes before game time, Northern Virginia Community College students Dean Phillips, 19, and Ron Gasberri, 18, hauled out one of the biggest signs around, a 6-by-8 foot sheet still smelling of fresh green paint, that said "How Dare you Sell Us Short."

People shouted "give 'em room" and helped them up on top of the dugout, which was already crawling with boys of all ages, shouting "Let's see your face. Why don't you show, chicken Short?"

During the game, as a "Short Stinks" sign was draped down from the far-off bleachers, a whole block of fans looking from across the field and gave the sign a standing ovation. Others said "we've been short changed." Another long one said, "Good luck Senators, we are sure gonna miss you. We love you (signed) Kay and Karen."

Three women, "retired senior citizens" they called themselves, filled out their score cards like seasoned scorers as they watched the game. They wore "give-away hats," part of the loot the Senators were disposing of on the last night.

Anny Woychorski wouldn't give her age. "I'm retired, you retire when you're 65, but that's all I'll say." She said she would spend her summer evenings next year, "doing fancy work and puzzles and watching David Frost."

Her friend, Rose Cummins, who is in her 70s, said she had something to occupy her baseball-less evenings. "I dance a little."

Halfheartedly motioning kids to get off the dugout for the last time, usher captain James Findley, who started working at Griffith Stadium 28 years ago "before they cracked down on the child labor laws." He was 14 at the time and remembers "Walt Masterson and DiMaggio and Mantle and Williams when he was playing." The rowdiness? "Just one of them things. Can't blame 'em on a last night. They're sad. I'm sad. This is my life."

Fighting back his tears, Larry McGreevy said "me and my mother" made a Short dummy because "he's mean. I been to about 40 games this year. I've been coming out here most all my life." Larry McGreevy is 14.

The last time the Senators won the pennant, the New Deal was new. That was 1933 and there was at least one man in the stands last night, watching his last game, who remembered those days.

G.E. Feeney, who will be 82 in November said, "Oh heavens. I remember way back before then. There was Walter Johnson and a pitcher named Hughes. He was in 1900 and 123, I believe. I went to the last game when they won the pennant in '33. Those were great days."

Talking about the team leaving town, he said, "I was terribly upset. I can't drive any more at night and I enjoy watching it on TV. I guess that's all over now."

Less than an hour after the game had ended, groundskeepers were taking up the left field turf to make way for two new sections of stands for the football seasons.

© Copyright 1971 The Washington Post Company

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