When Peter Golkin scours the stands at Nationals Park after a game, looking for discarded plastic souvenir soda cups, two things go through his mind: How could someone just throw away a collectible cup? And, Free cup!
“I guess people don’t like that they’re sticky,” Peter said. “That’s what the bathrooms are for.”
Peter washes out the cups and takes them home — often three or four per game. He’s been doing this since the Nationals’ RFK Stadium days. He said he now has “scores” of cups.
“Maybe hundreds. Unfortunately, I’m probably not the best archivist.”
Which is ironic, given that before his current job in the communications unit of the Arlington County manager’s office, Peter worked for Arlington’s public library.
“I used to work for the Smithsonian, so I know about the importance of preserving things,” said Peter, 49. “I know the curators would be disappointed in my lack of curatorial treatment, but I only have so much room. My wife doesn’t like me keeping them in the house, so I tried to keep them in the trunk of the car.”
That took up too much room so Peter moved what he calls “the bulk of the collection” into the shed.
“And then we needed a new shed.”
The collection was moved again. It is now in the new shed behind the family’s Arlington house.
I did not ask Peter whether the cups are kept in acid-free, UV-protected cases and bathed in argon gas, like the Charters of Freedom at the National Archives. I’m guessing they probably aren’t.
Still, call his collection the Nationals archives. Peter doesn’t know whether he has every cup the team has issued, for the simple reason that he’s never seen a catalogue raisonné of all the cups. (A team spokeswoman told me that there isn’t a complete list of all the concession cup designs, adding that a new design will be released Friday.)
Peter has the cups that celebrate the Racing Presidents, complete with stats and trivia. (Thomas Jefferson’s favorite sport? “Gardening.”) Peter has older cups imprinted with just a simple curly W and others that proclaim, “October Natitude.” Some cups bear the team’s schedule.
Remember in 2009 when the team name on some Nats jerseys was misspelled “Natinals”? Peter has a cup from that year. “My son, who was about 10 at the time, noticed that there were two March 30ths on the schedule on the cup,” Peter said. “So, that was a bad year for proofreading at Nats Park.”
People who collect one thing usually collect other things. That is true of Peter. He collected baseball cards, of course, and has a batting glove that Jayson Werth threw into the stands in 1999 when he was playing for the Frederick Keys.
Peter also once collected airsickness bags, assembled when he was in college and every airline had its own design.
“Why I got rid of that collection of hundreds of bags, I’ll never know,” he said. “And now, of course, the airlines all use a generic plain white bag.”
Peter possesses what he thinks may be one of the earliest pieces of Nationals memorabilia: “I bought a curly W ski cap in December 2004, before the team even got here. There was a guy selling unlicensed hats on Independence Avenue. I bought a couple. I appreciated the history that was to come.”
Peter wishes the Nats would celebrate that history a little more on their cups. How about reminding fans of the inaugural team, from 2005?
“That team had some very memorable guys, was in first place for half the season and finished at .500,” said Peter, who would love to sip from cups featuring Liván Hernández, Nick Johnson, José Vidro . . .
Perhaps, Peter mused, the team could issue a cup honoring Mike Bacsik, the Nats pitcher who in 2007 gave up Barry Bonds’s 756th home run, which broke Hank Aaron’s record.
I think that sometimes Peter is joking.
I asked Peter what he thought of the tiny plastic batting helmets that ice cream is served in.
“They’re very nice,” he said. “That’s a classic. You can put them on your pet’s head and take a quick picture.”
But Peter prefers the cups. “I can have a party and invite dozens of people over, and I’ll always have my cups,” he said. “I’d like to think I’m somehow carrying the flag — or at least carrying the cup — for the Nationals.”
Is your Washington-area school having a a reunion anytime soon? Send me the details — name of school, class year, date of reunion and contact info — and I’ll try to include it in my column. Put “Reunion” in the subject heading.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.