The Thinker: Rich Galen

  
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A Reason to Celebrate

Rich Galen

Thursday October 31, 2019

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  • First of all, I want to thank each of you who took the time to wish me a quick recovery from the pulmonary distress that struck me a couple of weeks ago.

  • It wasn't as quick as I had wished, but the operant word is "recovery" so, I'm taking a deep breath and crawling off the den sofa and getting back to work.

  • Being ill is what was. Impeachments and Invasions can wait for another day.

  • For today: The Washington Nationals won the World Series.

  • The Washington Nationals used to be the Montreal Expos. The Expos were so horrid that Major League Baseball had to buy the team from its owners.

  • In an effort to expand a fan base, there was a time the Expos played 59 of their 81 home games in Canada and the other 22 in Puerto Rico.

  • Finally, Major League Baseball decided to move the team somewhere else and that somewhere was at the end of East Capitol Street to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, DC.

  • About a New York minute after that was announced, I got a call from The Lad, Reed, suggesting we get season tickets. I raced down to RFK found the sales office (recently relocated inside the stadium from a trailer in the parking lot) and bought two seats.

  • They were GREAT seats.

  • The were one row up from the visitors' dugout up the first base line.

  • On some writing nights, I would bring my laptop, sit in the second row, keep an eye out for foul balls, and write a column while watching the game.

  • As I wrote for the annual "Opening Day" column: "Life might get better than that, but it doesn't have to get much better."

  • As the team was still owned by MLB, there was not much effort or money put into making the team much good. Why would the other owners want to create a strong competitor?

  • In 2006, MLB awarded ownership of the team to a local family of real estate developers, the Lerners. They soon found out that building a successful baseball team was more complicated than building a successful mall where (it was once explained to me) you find two anchor stores, a bunch of specialty shops, and then wait for the shoe stores to fill in the holes.

  • After three years at the decrepit RFK, the Nats moved into their brand, spanking, new, paid-for-by-the-District-of-Columbia stadium named: Nationals Park.

  • Starting with the 2007 season I was granted press credentials to cover the Nats for the mighty Alexandria Times - one of the weekly papers distributed for free in Alexandria, Virginia.

  • I know it doesn't make much sense to cover a daily sporting event for a weekly paper, but back in those days there wasn't exactly a fight for seating in the press box.

  • As a political hack, I can (and have) walked into political events around the world. A doctor can walk into any hospital; a lawyer into any courthouse, and within minutes, feel pretty well oriented.

  • In my earliest days as a beat reporter covering the Nats I couldn't figure out how to get onto the field before the game. I even tried keeping eyes on a guy who routinely prowled the foul lines before the game to see how he got there.

  • It was like Mad Magazine's Spy vs. Spy: I would look away for a second - FOR A SECOND - and the next thing I knew, there he was, chatting with the General Manager standing near first base.

  • I finally figured it out and by the time we moved to the new stadium, enough reporters had read my stuff so I had mostly shed the "political guy" tag and was more-or-less accepted among the real sports writers.

  • In their first year in Washington, the Nationals finished 81-81. That's .500. Not enough to win any prizes but a Gentleman's C in professional sports.

  • They wouldn't climb back to anywhere near .500 until 2011 when they finished 80-91 (.497) before winning the National League East division the next year at 98-64 (.605).

  • There followed a series of first-round losses, including wholly preposterous late-game collapses when victory seemed assured.

  • I had long since given up my press creds to the great relief of the communications staff as well as our season tickets.

  • But, I never lost my taste for driving down the Maryland side of the Potomac from my house on a whim to buy a ticket on StubHub and take in a game.

  • All that to say, that Wednesday night, when the Nationals jumped out to a 6-2 lead over the powerful Houston Astros I was sitting at my kitchen counter trying not to remember all those disappointments, all those times the Nats should have moved on, but knowing in the seventh game of the World Series there is no where to move on to.

  • But, on Wednesday night, for the first time since 2005, since they moved from the trailers in the parking lot to makeshift offices inside RFK, since they suffered humiliating defeats in the regular season, then even more humiliating defeats in the post-season.

  • Oh, on Wednesday night, there was joy in Mudville. Mighty Casey did not strike out.

  • The Nationals won.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A history of the Washington Nationals via Wikipedia and a link to the famous baseball poem, Casey at the Bat."

    The Mullfoto is of The Lad and me from the annual Opening Day column.

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