You know… something saccharine sweet like that.
Anyway, in the sports media business they combine the two with things called “events.” The All-Star Game is an event and so are the league championships, though with the late start times for the games they are much more festive for others. Truth is, the craziest time I ever had at a World Series was when I ordered up a 4 a.m. wake-up call for Kevin Roberts. He repaid me with a gift of a muscle contusion following a punch to the brachial plexus.
Nevertheless, the traveling circus known as The Stephen Strasburg Experience finally settled in The District after a two-month tour of exotic locales to places like Altoona, Reading, Norwich, New Britain and Harrisburg. Unfortunately, Strasburg made it away from City Island in Harrisburg where the flying insects are known to take up residence during the summer months. Some of those big bugs have been known to have pets, like puppies or ponies.
If a pitcher can spend a summer at City Island and survive, places like Nationals Park or any other big league outpost is a breeze.
Yet without that experience we’re all buckled in to see the second coming of Walter Johnson, which in Washington is pretty significant. See, baseball in Washington has been flirting with becoming a three-time loser since the National League club from Montreal pulled up stakes and set up on the banks of the muddy Anacostia. Past versions of the Washington Major League Baseball Club found better futures in St. Paul, Minnesota and Arlington, Texas while some have argued that things weren’t all that worse when the team was called the Expos.
Indeed, we might have to go back to when Johnson pitched Washington to the World Series in back-to-back seasons in 1924 and 1925 to find a player who has meant as much to the survival of baseball in The District as young Strasburg. Johnson’s career ended after the 1927 season and the franchise hung around for 33 more seasons after that.
Actually, Johnson was as good as it got for baseball in D.C. He was born in Kansas, went to high school in California, but was so beloved (schools and parks were named in his honor) in Washington that he remained there until his death in 1946. After The Big Train retired in ’27, the three different Washington franchises finished in first place in 1933, second place in 1930 and 1943, and never came closer than that since. Get this: Johnson won 417 games in his 21 seasons in the majors and still the Senators only made it to the World Series twice. In 1913 when Johnson won 36 games, the Senators came in second place with just 90 wins. That comes to 40 percent of the team's wins.
That’s so amazing it makes one’s head spin.
And that might only begin to explain why the sports world is focused on a Tuesday night matchup between the Nationals and Pirates. It’s not merely the debut of a pitcher paid $15 million for just signing his name to a piece of paper or the promise of a kid with a right arm so explosive it can hurl a baseball more than 100-mph with a curve ball that leaves grown men in a cowering mess while begging not to be forced to hold a bat ever again. This Strasburg kid—still just 21—is moving history. It’s as if he’s powered the flux capacitor and completely erased the entire time/space continuum.
Or, if Washington and baseball are not transformed by a kid born in San Diego the same day as when Michael Dukakis was accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, we’ll all take the easy road and label it the biggest failure in baseball. A career-threatening arm injury could cause a section of Southeast D.C. to go back to its pre-Nationals Park form while the franchise moves on to Portland, Charlotte, Las Vegas or maybe even Monterrey, Mexico. We’ll start using names like Brien Taylor, David Clyde and Todd Van Poppel. We’ll tell more cautionary tales only to go back to believing the hype with the next kid with an arm that supersedes his years.
That is truly what the media calls a party.
So we’re buckled up in Washington ready for an eyeful of the next savior… at least until The Next One is identified and sold for at least $15 million.