May 15, 2005
Nick Johnson knocked a two-run homer into the mezzanine level of right field at RFK this afternoon, but the key to the Nats' 5-4 victory was Cubs 2B Neifi Perez, who committed two errors in the sixth inning. It's not often that the winning run is scored without benefit of either a hit or a walk. Relief pitcher Hector Carrasco was credited with the win (his only decision so far this year) even though he only threw one pitch to end the sixth inning. How often has that ever happened? Do the record books count such things? Last night's 4-3 win halted a three-game losing streak and put the Nats back into third place, ahead of the Mets. So far, the Nationals have won five of nine games in which the winning margin was only one run. Today's game was nearly sold out, and last night's probably would have if it weren't for the rain, which delayed the start by two hours. Cubs fan George Will saw his favorite team play in Our Nation's Capital for the first time since the 19th Century. When asked whether he pulled political strings to get his prime-location season tickets at RFK, he gave a coy "no comment."
Since I asked of the Yankees' dismal slump "When will this nightmare end?" on May 6, they have turned things around and been on a red-hot streak, led by Tino Martinez, who has hit a home run in almost every one of those games. Such good fortune couldn't come to a nicer guy. The Red Sox have been even hotter, however, while the Orioles keep winning often enough to remain on top of the AL East. The White Sox have the best record of any team this year, which is quite a story in itself, but on a divisional basis, the East is clearly dominant in both leagues.
Apparently suffering from a severe bout of baseball fever, Thomas Boswell wrote a (qualified) paean to RFK Stadium in yesterday's Washington Post. He concludes, however, by warning against complacency in resolving the broadcast issues and getting the team sold so that a new stadium can be built before the thrill is gone.
The grungy, musty anachronism, with its peeling exterior paint and its ingrained interior aromas of dust, beer and cigarettes, has provided a nostalgic destination for fans who have discovered an utterly unexpected affection for the old dump. RFK hasn't just proved to be a make-do facility but actually has its own time-warp charms. There's personality in the place. Normally sensible people have been caught discussing the "RFK experience," as if they'd forgotten that people have fun at ballgames.
But, eventually, RFK will become a curse. What seems quaint will inevitably become harshly dated. The smells that evoke memories will, in time, simply stink.
I share Boswell's enthusiasm for RFK, partly rooted in the feeling that playing baseball there rights the historical wrong suffered by D.C. after 1971. (See his response to my live chat comment on April 15.) The idea of a '60s-era cookie-cutter clone stadium having character is counter-intuitive, but who knows, we may come to miss those old places as the last few get replaced in the next few years.
As I began tweaking some of the stadium diagrams that had already been fully "upgraded" to conform to a standard home plate coordinate, as mentioned in the last posting, I noticed an inaccuracy in the Atlanta-Fulton County diagram: the distances down the lines are about six feet too long. "Close enough for government work," perhaps, but not good enough for me. Correcton is pending.
Bruce Orser just sent me a link to a page full of satellite photos of baseball stadiums, at yahoo.com. I believe that's called "hitting the jackpot."