One problem: His recorder didn't keep a map of the District. McCraw got a ride to RFK Wednesday night to pick up his car, which had been delivered from Florida. He hopped in and expected to make the drive to the team's hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, which is just down Capitol Hill from the stadium.
"I really thought I had it down," McCraw said. He didn't, and got completely lost. "I saw everything in this city," he said. Three hours later, sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, McCraw finally got to the hotel. "I just thought I'd see some of Washington at night."
Same eyes as Walter Johnson. Same cheekbones. Put a cap on him, and you could snap a photo and put it on a black-and-white, 1920s baseball card. Except for the bald pate, the likeness is uncanny.
"I didn't get his hair," Thomas said. Hank Thomas owns an Irish bar on Capitol Hill called Finnmac Cool's. He was eight months old when his grandfather died and had to rely on others for the memory of the Hall of Famer. "Come into the bar anytime," Thomas said, inviting you to have a beer on Walter Johnson's grandson.Quotable
"I think we've turned around all the politics here -- and that was the sport of choice for a while in this town, probably not surprisingly -- and made baseball the sport people will focus on."
-- Nationals President Tony Tavares
A Fan Pitches In
The concept for the main part of the pregame ceremony -- in which nine former Washington Senators took the field, carrying the gloves of the new Nationals, and handed them to the current players -- came not from some marketing bigwig, but from a listener to radio station WTOP and political analyst Mark Plotkin.
"He called up WTOP, and I heard about it," Tavares said. "I thought it was a great idea. As soon as I heard it, I said, 'Great idea.' "
Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden was asked how much sleep he got Wednesday night, the night before the home opener. "I'll tell you tomorrow," Bowden said. "I haven't been to bed. Too excited."
Despite preseason prognostications, these formerly awful Expos seem to be very competitive. Relief pitcher Joey Eischen said every Nationals player expects to win and make the postseason. But then, we're not too sure about Joey: " "We'll do whatever it takes to win," the 35-year-old veteran said prior to the game. "I'd choke the life out of you for a victory."
Don't take no prisoners, son.
-- Mike Wise Quotable
"This team will win more games than it did last year. I can promise you that."
-- Nationals General Manager Jim Bowden
The Last Game
When did Tom McCraw know it was time to leave the field in September 1971, the day fans stormed the field to steal sod and other souvenirs from the Senators' last game?
"I knew when they were tearing up Ted Williams's book into little pieces and throwing it onto the field like confetti," the Nationals' hitting coach said. "They tore Ted Williams's book all up. When it got thicker and thicker, guys started saying, 'They're coming down on the field.'."
McCraw sprinted into the dugout from first base. He spoke from the same clubhouse he was in 34 years ago, the day the Senators forfeited their last game to the Yankees when fans disturbed the proceedings. McCraw recorded the last hit, RBI and the last inside-the-park home run at RFK Stadium in 1971 -- his only season with the club. "This has always been a good baseball town. They just didn't want to see a horse [puckey] product," he said. "You couldn't blame them."
There had been some debate before the game about whether the sellout crowd would adhere to Baltimore Orioles tradition during the national anthem by shouting "Oh!"
The answer? Yes and no. An audible minority joined soprano Renee Fleming for the "Oh!" and a louder portion of the crowd then launched into a round of boos, partially drowning out Fleming as she sang "that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave . . ."
The crowd, as it turned out, saw fit to boo several times: when D.C. City Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp was introduced, when the Arizona Diamondbacks were introduced, and when Craig Counsell came to the plate to begin the game.
Sixty-five thousand official game programs were printed; they sold for $10 each. Fans were buying them as possible collectibles "maybe in a few years I'll put 'em on eBay," Frank Glascon of Mitchellville said after buying a pair of programs -- and at least some salesmen were encouraging such behavior.
"This is a wise investment," screamed vendor Rick Russell of Capitol Heights, who said by the fourth inning he had sold at least three whole cases, containing 40 programs each, to individual buyers.
"They've been buying 'em like hot cakes man," he said. "They're saying they hope they'll be worth something down the line."
-- Dan Steinberg Quotable
"You try to control your adrenaline, and not go with your heat. And wear the right shoes."
-- President Bush, on preparing for to throw the first pitch.
Take a Bow
The crowd seemed so desperate to cheer for someone in a baseball hat that it roared at the first public introduction of a National. It was equipment manager Mike Wallace, who doffed his hat at the enormous roar, albeit with a surprised look.
Get Your Beer?
By the fourth inning, a large pile of people had gathered near the ramps in the third deck. All pedestrian traffic had ceased. Had someone fallen? Was there a fight? No, just the SECOND beer line, a young woman sighed. Wonder what the first looked like.
-- Les Carpenter Quotable
"Maybe a few years ago I might have, but not now. I've lost the desire to play. You can't turn back the clock."
-- Two-time American League batting champion Mickey Vernon, when asked if he wanted to stay on the field after the pregame ceremony
Major League Baseball handled the credentials for the game, issuing more than 600 media credentials and more than 1,000 total credentials, including those for officials and VIPs. The numbers were comparable to those for an all-star or World Series game, a spokesman for the commissioner's office said.
President Bush visited the visitors' clubhouse before the game, leaving some of the Diamondbacks a bit star struck.
> "Awesome," Luis Gonzalez said. "It was pretty close to time to go out there and get on the line, but he's the president of the United States -- you put everything else on hold."
Manager Bob Melvin said Bush shook lots of hands and put everyone at ease.
"He was real personable in here," said Melvin, who planned to visit the White House and the Capitol today. "He's the most powerful guy in the world, but he makes you feel at ease."
Bush also signed a lineup card for Melvin, who was asked what he would do with the memento. "It's going to my house is where it's going," he said.
If the organizers of the pregame celebration wanted to use music to prove how much time had passed since Washington had baseball, they succeeded. The Washington baseball old-timers were serenaded on the diamond with the triumphant music from "The Natural." After a brief interlude featuring a driving dance beat, the newcomers took the field to hip-hop artist T.I.'s "Bring 'Em Out."
-- Dan Steinberg Hall of Fame History
A representative from the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown was in the Nationals' clubhouse after the game to pick up two items -- the ball from the first pitch of the game by Livan Hernandez, and the cap worn by Manager Frank Robinson. In addition, the Hall took a jar of dirt from the RFK pitchers' mound.
-- Dave Sheinin
© 2005 The Washington Post Company