When Povich traveled to Washington for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Cardinals, he couldn’t resist making a small nod to his family’s history. His wife, journalist Connie Chung, combed through their closets and came up with just the right finishing touch.
“As an ode to my father, I dressed up the way he used to dress when he’d cover games,” Povich said in a phone interview. “I had a blue shirt, a rep tie and a jacket and a replica of his fedora. I went to Game 3 and it probably was the easiest of the lot because [Stephen] Strasburg pitched a gem."
Povich and Chung were longtime Yankees season-ticket holders, forced to find another team after the Senators left Washington. “When I first came to New York in ’86 — and remember, I had gone without a team since ’71 — the Yankees were terrible. I mean they were terrible,” he said. “For the first time in my life, I felt sorry for them, so I became a season-ticket holder. As soon as 2005 came along, I gave up the tickets.”
Because “Washington baseball is part of our DNA,” he and Chung became instant and bona fide Nats fans, suffering through all the ups and downs of that fledgling fan base. Superstitious? Sure. Ever hopeful? Definitely. Long suffering? Oh, yeah.
“The fourth game [of the NLCS] we watched in bed in a clenched embrace, fearful to the end,” Povich said of Chung. “I go all the way back to the incarnation with the first [Senators] and how we suffered for so many years after” the 1933 World Series loss to the New York Giants.
He has his own superstitious tics, too. “Sometimes when the opponent would get men on base in the first two series, I’d turn off the TV,” Povich said, “and Connie would run in [saying], ‘Why are you turning off the TV? Why are you turning off the TV? What’s happening?’ I just can’t watch. I’ve got to wait three minutes and turn it back on.” He confessed he missed Howie Kendrick’s 10th-inning grand slam in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series because he fell asleep. “I woke up at 5 and looked at the phone and I had all these congratulatory texts from friends of mine. I said, ‘What?’"
For Povich, seeing the Nationals’ success is somewhat bittersweet because he knows how much this run would have meant to his father, who died in 1998 at the age of 92. “The worst memories for me are those 27 years that he had to be witnessing a drought, that no team was there,” Povich said. George Solomon, The Post’s former sports editor, “told me that every year he’d invite my father to go to Opening Day in Baltimore, and as a protest, my father would refuse.”
“My father and mother went to Ted Lerner’s wedding,” Povich said. “We feel a kinship there.”
He has a kinship with the Houston Astros, too. The late Bo Bregman, a Washington native and the great-grandfather of Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, “was my father’s best friend and lived around the corner from us,” Povich said. “They would have a drink every night. Bo would come over and was part of our family. When Dad would work and I would play various sports at Landon, Bo would come out and be my surrogate father. I have a great affection for that family.”
So, you see, this business of being a Nats fan is a little complicated.
Povich and Chung can’t get to the Series until Game 5 because of prior commitments in Texas and he admitted to a bit of angst in even rooting for the Series to get to that point. Still, Povich, who covered the Senators’ final game as a reporter at Channel 5 in 1971, hopes to be a part of the city’s first World Series appearance in 86 years, and the accompanying Washington baseball renaissance.
“When I went to the stadium, I really have never heard a crowd with that kind of crescendo since the Redskins’ RFK Stadium days,” Povich said of the NLCS. “I’ve never heard a Washington crowd that loud and that celebratory on every pitch. I was just blown away because of how long it’s been — back to the RFK days.”
“Believe it or not, I was sitting almost within about 50 feet of Parra and where he sits in the dugout and I saw his little toy baby shark in the netting,” Povich said. “With every hit, I see the gestures the players [and fans] make. And,” he said with a laugh, “I will do that. I guarantee my friends the Yankees fans will say, ‘Are you nuts?’”
Nuts? No, he’s a Nats fan.