The slow-pitch softball teams led by Mayor Marion Barry and City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon took over the field at the Guy Mason Recreation Center for a grudge match last night, and in the process angered some of the city's top amateur softball players.
The four teams bumped off the lighted field -- the Saints, the Twangers the Monarchs and the Kitty Hawks -- had been scheduled for a fast-pitch double-header for two months. Instead, the field at 3600 Calvert St. NW was given to Barry's City Slickers and the City Council Home Rulers. And more than a few regular players were disgruntled.
"It seems like every time the mayor wants the field, he gets it," said Barry Ashton, business manager for the Twangers and a D.C. Department of Recreation playground director. "It's a clear case of discrimination because he's the mayor."
Traverne Barts, a Postal Service accountant and manager of the Monarchs, said, "I don't like the idea that just because he's the mayor he can say, 'Get the hell off the field."
"It just appears to me to be an exercise of political clout," echoed Wally Farnes, a Silver Spring insurance agent and manager of the Kitty Hawks.
As it turned out, Barry did not even appear for the game, choosing instead to attend a black tie dinner honoring First Lady Rosalynn Carter for her work in helping the mentally retarded.
Dixon showed up at the game in a business suit, wished his team well and left. The City Council chairman seemed embarrassed by the schedule of the Slickers-Rulers game at Guy Mason, the field where the city's best fast-pitch teams regularly play their game. He said that had he known that other games had to be postponed for the intra-District Building contest, he would have sought another site.
"If this is disrupting regularly scheduled games, then I'm very apologetic about that," Dixon said.
Amid a lot of joking and horseplay and a bit of beer drinking, the Slickers beat the Rulers, 12 to 9.
But Ward 1's David A. Clark was the only city council man to play. Most of Barry's top aides skipped the contest, although City Administrator Ellijah Rogers played second base long enough to make a couple of nifty fielding plays and boot an easy grounder.
Sam Fisher, the director of adult sports for the city's recreation department, said he assumed the Slickers-Rulers game was given priority because "some people in authority thought this game was more beneficial to the city than the ones scheduled."
That person in authority was Fisher's boss, Richard Terrell, director of cultural activities for the recreation department.
Terrell said he scheduled the game for Guy Mason because he felt it might be a contest that would attract some public interest. He said no one from city hall called to ask for the field at Guy Mason.
"We feel it's a joke, funny kind of game," Terrell said.D.C. residents "ought to see their officials fall on their faces."
He said that "two or three times a year" he postpones previously scheduled games so that special attraction can be held at Guy Mason, the only lighted field west of Rock Creek Park. He said that he was periodically had rodeos, jazz performances and donkey softball games at the field.
That was little consolation for officials of the teams who got the boot last night.
"We pay $375 to $425 per team for franchise fees and I don't see how [the mayor] would have the right to take the field," said Ashton. "If it was just the opposite, we couldn't bump him."
Farnes of the Kitty Hawks, who were ranked 17th in the nation last year, said that on one occasion last year his team showed up to play and was told that the mayor's team was playing that night.
This year, the preempted teams were informed a week ago that their games would be postponed, but without telling them that the Slickers and Rulers would be using the field last night.
Still, the fast pitch players feel a bit superior to the desk-bound, mostly out-of-shape players comprising the Slickers and Rulers.
"I was told by one of the umpires," says Barts of the Monarchs, "that the caliber of play is so bad that they have trouble getting umpires."