A few weeks ago, after Dave Bass and his father settled on a mid-August trip to Nationals Park, the younger Bass expressed satisfaction that his father would finally see the Nats in person.
At which point Sam Bass reminded his son that he had seen the Nats play in person. In 1938.
Indeed, 75 years after Bass last saw his favorite baseball team play in his home town, the 84-year old was back last week, this time sitting in 200-level club seats with his son and a few other family members.“I knew he had talked about going to see the Senators years ago, but that just gave me a chuckle,” said Dave Bass, 53.Sam Bass is a native Washingtonian, born and raised, who grew up not far from Nats Park in Anacostia. As a schoolboy, he delivered papers for both The Washington Post and The Evening Star — the former paid better, by his recollection, but the latter would occasionally provide delivery boys with complimentary tickets to Senators games at Griffith Stadium.His family wasn’t wealthy though, and so aside from those Evening Star tickets, Bass didn’t go to pro baseball games. Then he grew up and joined the U.S. Army, traveling the world while eventually rising to the rank of two-star general. He was stationed in Japan and in Korea, in Germany and in Hawaii, where Dave was born. After Sam retired from the military, he moved joined the private sector and moved to Richmond, where he watched the minor-league Braves play now and then. But for three-quarters of a century, he never returned to a big-league Ballpark.
Dave Bass – a Loudoun County resident who manages the U.S. Senate Recording Studio – of course became a Nats fan in 2005, and is now a partial-plan holder. But his parents live almost three hours away, in a small town called Saluda on the Rappahannock, with Sam providing care for his wife. So while he always said he’d love to join his son for a ballgame, he just couldn’t get away.
That finally changed when the two men were having a conversation about a ‘bucket list’ they’d seen earlier this year.
“I don’t see ‘Take your dad to a Nationals game on there,’ “ Dave noted at the time. “That’s on my bucket list.”
That set their trip in motion, with one of Bass’s sisters eventually volunteering to drive down and spend time with his mother while the two men headed to a game.
Which all raises the question: why did this trip to see a struggling team play an even worse opponent on a random Thursday afternoon in August seem so important?
“I don’t know,” Bass said at first. “Growing up, I felt like I didn’t get an opportunity to spend a whole lot of time with my dad. And there’s something about baseball; it always felt it was something a guy and his dad needed to do together, go out and see a game. I don’t know, maybe I’m watching too many movies. Maybe it was something from ‘Field of Dreams.’ But it’s a lot like that. I just felt the need — I’ve got to take my dad to a game.”
Major League games, of course, are a bit different now than they were in 1938. Sam marveled at the scoreboard, and the pageantry, and the lack of suits at what was once called a businessman’s special. They walked the park, and looked out over the Anacostia, and watched the Nats reach the verge of a sixth straight win.
But Bass’s daughter had a baby-sitting engagement that night, so the family left during the 7th-inning stretch, with the Nats still ahead. Maybe it was better that way. They were already on the Dulles Toll Road when Rafael Soriano gave up the game-winning home run.
For his son, though, that day meant something, even in the middle of this lost season.
“It’s kind of hard to explain, but it was really important to me,” Dave Bass said. “Now I’ve just got to figure out when I can get him up here again.”