On Sunday, four more names will be affixed to the facade ringing the mezzanine at RFK Stadium. The ritual speaks of the latest Washington sports figures voted into the Hall of Stars in recognition of their celebrity.
Yet it is proper, if disturbing, to note that in the case of some past nominees to the RFK gallery, their eminence was a bit unclear and still is. In the instance of these newest additions to the group, such is not the case.
Elvin Hayes was a giant of the basketball world. John Riggins and Joe Theismann were super Redskins heroes and Super Bowlers. And if there are queries as to the qualifications of the fourth nominee, the late Joe Judge, they inspire the comment: "Glad you asked, and what took them so long?"
For the last two, maybe three, generations of Washington baseball fans, it was their misfortune that they never saw Judge perform for the Senators (1915-1932). They were very much deprived. They never saw the slickest little first baseman in the American League make an art form of playing that position.
Wearing his pancake-sized first baseman's glove, in contrast to the scoop-all fishnets permitted the modern types, Judge also made a baseball ballet of the first-to-second-to-first double play. In nine different seasons, he led all AL first basemen in fielding.
Until his 19th and 20th seasons in the majors, when he overstayed a bit, he was a .300-plus hitter. As it was, he finished with a career average of .298. All of this at 5 feet 8 1/2 inches 155 pounds.
Contrast such credentials with the dubious merit of some others who were favored by the careless votes of selection committees and beat him into the Hall of Stars. Judge was a certified Washington hero. Some of the others were of borderline importance, if that, and were overcelebrated.
These include a couple of Redskins of undistinguished memory, some boxers of dim repute, a short-term Senators player unmentionable in the same bracket with Judge, a sportswriter of disputable fame and, to mention one name: George Selkirk.
Selkirk was a splendid ballplayer -- for the Yankees. With the Senators' expansion team, he had only a few undistinguished years as a general manager. He is best remembered here for the day the Yankees, trailing in the ninth by three runs, inserted him as a pinch hitter. He hit one out of the park with two out and the bases loaded. He belongs to the Yankees' hall of fame, not Washington's.
It all began with Judge and the Senators in 1915 in Rochester, N.Y., where Clark Griffith went to scout Buffalo outfielder Charlie Jamieson. He ended the haggling over Buffalo's asking price of $7,000 for Jamieson by proposing: "Throw in that young first basemen and you've got a deal."
That young first baseman was a regular in the Senators' lineup for the next 18 years, the joy of Washington fans. Around the bag he was, well, more than nimble. When necessary, he could whip the ball anywhere. It was once said by an old ballplayer: "I like to see that cat play first base."
Even at 155 pounds, he was a power hitter. He defied the high right field wall in Griffith Stadium by hitting home runs over it, rattling doubles and triples off it.
In those Roger Peckinpaugh-to-Bucky Harris-to-Judge killings that broke the league's double-play record in 1924, Judge wasn't always the end man. He started a slew of them with his fancy grabs and throws. In 1920, when Walter Johnson pitched his only no-hitter, it was Judge who saved it for him in the ninth inning in Boston with a two-out grab of a hot smash over the bag.
On Sunday at RFK, when they unveil the name of Joe Judge up there on the facade, there should be extra hurrahs. And let them strike up all the bands. The wait was far too long. Judge doesn't only belong in Washington's Hall of Stars. He graces it.