Baseball, like no other sport, has a rich set of stories that connect the present with the far and distant past. With the Giants coming to Washington this weekend for a three game set, a window opens for such reflections.
This series will mark the team’s tenth trip to the nation’s capital. In that decade alone, there are a lineup’s worth of stories. Who could ever forget Barry Bonds laser beam into the night at RFK in 2005, capped off by a kiss blown to the heckler behind home plate? Or Randy Johnson notching his 300th win on a soggy field at Nationals Park in 2009?
Dipping into their franchise history, we know the Giants, who called New York home from 1883 to 1957, played the Senators in 1924 for the World Series. Playing in their fourth straight Fall Classic, McGraw’s mighty Giants looked to extend their dynasty by taking a third crown in the four years. Walter Johnson, the great fireballer, had other ideas. Drunk with jubilation, fans in Washington poured on to the streets downtown after Game Seven, won by the Senators in, as we say now, walk off style.
Baseball’s richness extends beyond the big leagues. Although they weren’t the Giants of the National League, a team called the Giants came to Washington in the summer of 1892. On September 2nd, baseball fans read an interesting headline while sipping their coffee and reading the morning’s Washington Post.
Won by the Cuban Giants
The contest was played at National Park, a new ballpark with wooden grandstands built the year prior at 7th and Florida NW. In his research article, "Washington Ballparks," Bill Wagner points out this corner spot was the site of Baier’s Seventh Street Park, a summer-time resort. A wide stretch of trees separated the single-decker from the Freedman’s Hospital (now Howard University).
In an era of shifting franchises and upstart leagues, Washington had rejoined the American Association in 1891 before switching to the National League in 1892.
Washington historian John Muller tells us about this game at his blog, “The Lion of Anacostia.” The Senators were on one of those long road trips, a necessary evil before air flight shortened them to lengths that pleased family and friends back home. The Senators were playing in Cleveland, with the railroad tracks in Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis behind them.
On this day, 900 cranks in the nation’s capital came out to see the exhibition. The Washington Post noted the home team was composed of “picked up players from the local colored teams.” The traveling Giants were earning fame as the first professional black team. Although there were no known players from Cuba, the team played there from time to time.
The newspaper article pointed out that among those in attendance was Frederick Douglass. The gray-haired Sage of Anacostia lived at Cedar Hill, his 14-rooms home perched on a knoll overlooking the capital city, a metaphorical watchtower he had earned by escaping an enslaved life not too far from Washington in 1838, and becoming a world-famous speaker, influential publisher, and civil rights reformer. Even if you did not care for him, and some did, you had to acknowledge his body of work.
Muller tells us this about Douglass.
He was a baseball man. His son, Charles, organized and played on Washington, DC-based colored teams in postbellum Washington. The Washington Mutual and later Alerts both traveled up the East Coast to play in other cities and they defended their home turf at bygone fields like Olympic Grounds
De jure and de facto segregation permeated many parts of the country, but on this day, the Post pointed out that:
“The majority of those present were colored, but there was a fair sprinkling of the regular ball patrons, who are anxiously awaiting the Senators’ return home. They were agreeably surprised by the really good game of ball which was put up.”
Friday night’s game against the Giants is Black Heritage Night. If you aren’t able to see the planned events, consider taking a moment to look across the Anacostia River to where Douglass’s home rests as a National Park historic site. The “Father of Civil Rights” spent many an hour at his desk there, but like many Americans, he found some time to be a fan of the national pastime.
On Thursday afternoon, I clicked on “Red Brick Town,” one of my favorite blogs. Lee is doing a great job, filling a long-needed niche for news junkies in Old Town and Parker Gray.
One of the features I enjoy is the occasional “Throwback Thursday” photo, a chance for history buffs to test their knowledge of the seaport.
For this Throwback Thursday, we turn back to manufacturing. Did you know that Alexandria, Virginia once had an airplane factory? It was called Berliner Aircraft Company. Any idea where this was located in Alexandria?
This one had me going. Through the years, Alexandria has certainly been home to a handful of industries - all the ones related to being a seaport, flour factories and such. But an aircraft company in Alexandria? Never heard of it.
I quickly pulled down my copy of “A Seaport Saga.” It is the bible for such things.
Just as I thought, nothing.
Next stop, google.
Berliner-Joyce Aircraft was an American aircraft manufacturer. It was founded on 4 February 1929 when Henry Berliner and his 1922 company, Berliner Aircraft Company of Alexandria, Virginia, joined with Maryland Aviation Commission leader Captain Temple Nach Joyce.
In January 1934 Joyce left the company to join Bellanca Aircraft, and soon after Berliner left for Engineering and Research Corporation. The company became the B/J division of North American Aviation, and was moved from Maryland to Inglewood, California.
Well, the time frame narrowed it down, but still, an aircraft company in Alexandria? Shuter’s Hill was used for testing monoplanes, but no hanger was ever built there. Jones Point was where those big ship building facilities rose up during the 1920s, but none of the 20 new interpretive markers there say anything about aircraft.
Next stop was The Washington Post via Proquest. My query produced a short article about the company moving from Alexandria to Baltimore, but nothing about where the factory was located.
This little mystery had me going.
I next went to the Library of Congress site. Many times they provide data sheets that accompany the historic photos, often times very helpful. For this photo, though, nada.
Back to google, which produced an article from The Alexandria Times, who publish a weekly “Out of the Attic” series.
During World War I, Alexandria experienced tremendous growth in defense-related industry. Virginia Shipbuilding opened a shipyard at Jones Point, and an airplane factory with a U.S. Navy contract opened in part of the former Portners Brewery.
Ok, now we’re getting somewhere. We know Robert Portner operated a brewery where Trader Joe’s is located on N. St. Asaph. In fact, across the street there’s an historical marker at 611 North St. Asaph Street.
This building, originally built as a bottling plant for the Robert Portner Brewing Company in 1912, was purchased along with the land surrounding it by the American National Red Cross in the spring of 1941. It served as the organization’s Eastern operations Headquarters until 1992.
Nothing about an aircraft company, although the time gap fits.I went back to the photograph. Oh, the irony. Most of the time we see photos of older buildings only from the outside, and often wish we could also have one of what’s inside. This time we needed an outside shot.
But look at those tall windows with arches. They’re fairly distinctive and now that I think about it, that could be the western side of the condos that face Trader’s Joe. I remember liking them when I first came across that marker.
I googled and viewed 615 N. St Asaph, the building with the marker.
Yes!!! That’s it. Those are the same windows. When they converted that building to condos they kept part of the windows.
It all adds up. Mystery, we believe, solved.
This is a great website dedicated to Robert Portner. If you tab down, there’s a photo of the marker and you can see the windows.
Also, check out Portner Brewhouse. Catherine and Margaret Portner, two of Robert Portner’s great-great granddaughters, are working on opening a new brewery that will pay honor to Robert Portner’s great legacy of brewing beer. Look for their operation, which will include a full-service restaurant, to open next year.
Took a nice Sunday morning walk along the new extension of Main Line Boulevard south of E. Monroe Avenue, the return walk up Mount Vernon Avenue, and back along Monroe to the dog park.
The new residential is separated from the old Potomac Yard but is part of Pulte's work.
New residential across from the playing fields along E. Monroe Avenue. Sign up for the debate of whether this is actually in Del Ray.
The new path along Main Line Boulevard,looking down to the Patent Office in Carlyle.
This is set back from Main Line. Anyone know the reference to Van Valkenburg?
A nice flair in terms of design, but without lighting, this is perilous to cyclists at night.
George Washington Middle School where Jim Morrison lit his high school fires in the early 60s.
Walked along Mount Vernon Avenue on the way back. This is a lovely rehab of a Craftsman.
An interpretive marker near the dog park showing this area in the 1920s.
Doggy fun in the park. That’s ME Swing coffee in the background. They're sitting pretty.
When Barack Obama was elected to the office of President of the United States in November 2008, black journalists - hardened veterans who long ago learned to keep their emotions in tack when the red light comes on - could not stop the flow of their tears of joy.
150 years ago, similar tears of joy also streamed down the faces of folks who thought they would never see a human being of color hold a high office, or any office for that matter.
We’re talking about what Eric Foner called “Freedom’s Lawmakers.” As part of Reconstruction, black men were either elected or appointed to offices ranging from city council to United States Senator. Between 1865 and 1876, about two thousand held office in the South.
Foner provides more than 1,500 profiles. A bonus is the number of photographs, never easy to find in that era. These are important because often times, newspapers and cartoonists used stereotypical images of African-Americans.
I’ve been going through the bios he researched. It’s one amazing story after another. Many of these men were courageous, a brave face needed when the hooded mobs plotted their ways of hate, and sadly, used them in violent ways.
And to those who were saying back then that the former slaves would not be able to handle their freedom - hogwash. These men slammed the door on that ignorance in a hurry. They became ministers and merchants, teachers and business owners, editors and phyicians. They produced firsts, such as Macon Allen of South Carolina who became the first black American licensed to practice law. Martin R. Delany, born in Charles Town, became the first black commissioned officer in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, earning the gold leafs of a Major. John W. Menard was the first black person to speak on the floor of Congress.
Free and freed, these men were eloquent. Thomas Bayne said, “Traitors shall not dictate or prescribe to us the terms or conditions of our citizenship.”
The book has several handy dandy indexes. Looking at Virginia, one can find Alexandria’s own George L. Seaton, whose historic home at 404 S. Royal Street has an historic marker. Born in Alexandria and educated in the District of Columbia, Seaton was the largest black grocer in Alexandria and was worth $100,000.
Alexandrians will also want to check out Fields Cook. His bio doesn’t mention it, but he came to Alexandria when he was 56. He was a pastor at the Third Baptist Church as well as Ebenezer Church. Cook passed away in 1897 and according to the Encyclopedia Virginia, was probably buried in the Frederick Douglass Cemetery in Alexandria. Historians also believe he wrote a 32-page manuscript slave narrative.
These men were not perfect, but they served as role models. Sadly, even today, some people continue to use stereotypical images of African Americans. They sell ads and grab attention, but they also reinforce fear-based and prejudicial heuristics and don’t bring us any closer to that more perfect union.
So this is your chance. If you are looking to honor and commemorate someone during the sesquicentennial of Reconstruction, be sure and read this book. We owe it to these “freedom’s lawmakers” who have languished in obscurity long enough.
Waltzed around north Old Town mid-week, with a focus on the new Belle Pre apartments at Route 1 South and Madison. They did a nice job, especially with the interior courtyard.
Red Brick Town got the scoop that Belle Pre is getting a Sugar Shack. Our nosy foot-pounder also found out Lost Dog Café (Gourmet Pizza/Deli) will open up there too (Fall?). They have cafes in Arlington and their love of dogs will make them a great fit with Old Town/Parker Gray. http://lostdogcafe.com/
The Pointer Pie looks good, as does a Sammy Smith Brown Ale.
These are the same folks who are working on opening up City View Restaurant and Brewery ("Casual restaurant and brewpub, with a focus on local cuisine and unique brews.") at 6925 Richmond Highway. We’re very pleased about this one, especially since they will have some nods to the City View mansion that once graced the top of Beacon Hill.
And who knows? They may even serve pizza...
Like no other sport, Major League Baseball is a series of ebbs and flows, game after game played out 162 times across the span of a six months regular season. The lows are worse for the teams with more losses than wins, but all ride the rollercoaster of emotions.
A recent case in point is the Washington Nationals. They remain in first place in the N.L. East, but they’ve been dealing with a pair of controversies.
The first came last month when Bryce Harper made comments that raised eyebrows.
As beat reporter Adam Kilgore put it:
On the day outfielder Bryce Harper returned to the Nationals lineup, he openly disagreed with how Manager Matt Williams filled it out. Harper, the 21-year-old star slugger who missed 57 games following left thumb surgery, said he believes Ryan Zimmerman should remain in left field, implying that the Nationals’ best chance would come with himself in center field and veteran Denard Span on the bench.
Span handled the situation with class. Harper, who turns 22 in October, proceeded to lapse into a hitting funk. His batting average made a dash for the "Mendoza Line" (under 200) with little pop in his bat.
This past Wednesday morning, someone asked Nationals skipper Matt Williams if sending the struggling young lad down to AAA was an option.
“Is it a terrible idea – just a wacky idea – to send him down to Syracuse for a week, just to get him right? Is that just a stupid idea on my part?”
Williams's reply balanced diplomacy with that sounded like - no, he’s not going down.
That afternoon, a reporter asked Williams – “Is sending Harper to the minors in the realm of possibility?”
Reporters sure do know their craft. In 1934, in a pre-season press conference, Roscoe McGowen with The Brooklyn Eagle asked Giants' skipper Bill Terry -
"What about Brooklyn Bill? What are their chances this year?"
McGowen covered the Dodgers and knew better than anyone that the team was not expected to challenge the Giants and the Cardinals.
With his guard down, Terry replied - “Brooklyn? Are they still in the league?” They were and despite being 10 games under .500, beat the Giants at season’s end to knock them out of the pennant race.
Matt Williams is smart and could see the fish bait. But he’s human and his ballclub had lost on Monday and Tuesday. He reacted by saying:
“I would caution everybody in this room: The minute you think you can read my freakin’ mind, you’re sorely mistaken. It [ticks] me off to even think about that somebody would take a comment I make on the radio and infer that I’m thinking one way or the other. I’ve had it. Don’t do it anymore. Bryce Harper is one of the guys on our team. He’s an important part of our team, just like everybody else is. It’s not fair to the kid. It’s not fair to the rest of the guys in that clubhouse to even think about sending Bryce Harper to the minor leagues, or to cause a stir. It’s unacceptable. It won’t happen. Is that good enough for you?”
Case closed, right?
No, Williams's response was described as awkward.
The game eventually takes care of these things, and isn’t it amazing how winning cures all?
The Nats got a two-fer deal in this regard yesterday afternoon. The game against the Mets at Nationals Park was one of those lazy 12:35 starts, a make up of a rain out earlier in the season and a getaway for both teams.
But not so fast on that early flight, beat the rush hour special. Into the 13th inning the game went knotted at three.
In the bottom of the frame, Harper stepped up to the plate. The scorecard showed him oh-for-four, with a strikeout in the bottom of the ninth. The kid with the nagging hand injury couldn’t bat an eye.
Carlos Torres, who once earned fame as a AAA Pitcher of the Year, but lately a journeyman reliever with the Mets, came in with the pitch. Harper deposited it over the left field wall.
The Nationals celebrated their 5 to 3 win with the usual hugging and jumping for joy.
And then it happened, Span and Harper were suddenly together at the foot of the pitcher’s mound, smiles exchanged, palms slapped together, a hug, the vet touching the rookie’s heart, the Kodak moment the two needed to bury any lingering bad feelings, and a moment of great satisfaction for Williams.
Ebb and flow. Game 114 tonight in Atlanta.
Gary Trudeau lends his wit and wisdom to "Jim Crow" laws this week.
“Sammy Tucker” refers to Samuel Tucker, the black Alexandria lawyer who organized a sit-in protest at the Queen Street library in Alexandria in 1939. The lunch counter seems to nod at Greensboro and the Woolworth's Sit-In there in 1963.
By the way, a Virginia State Highway Marker will be unveiled August 21 at the library to commemorate the sit-in. Inside the library is a historical marker that covers the historical event.
Good timing Gary...
Heaven knows, it’s not all A’s, but overall, the score is good, maybe even excellent.
The acid test for all transportation projects in the Washington region is The Washington Post’s Dr. Gridlock. He’s tough but fair. If he praises you, you’ve earned it.
So what does he think of the Silver Line so far?
“The problems were smaller than I feared.”
Hey Jay, that’s not exactly praise.
True. But you have to understand Dr. Gridlock operates under the Lester Bangs Principle. Show no mercy.
Ok, he's not that bad, but you just have to know he rarely gives praise when it comes to those in charge of getting Washingtonians to work each morning. It’s a minefield out there, and he’s not working for the Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Gridlock continues:
“This new train thing is going to be big.”
Poor Dr. Gridlock, he’s like a young man in love, desperately trying to find a way to tell his girl how he really feels about her.
“For commuters, there’s new car-free access to job centers previously reachable only by braving some of America’s most soul-sapping drives. Kiss the Beltway goodbye.”
There you are Richard Sarles, General Manager of WMATA. Cut that one out, frame it, put it on your “I love me” wall. Dr. Gridlock just gave you your best compliment.
Now get back to work. You’ve got Phase Two of the Silver Line, grumblings from Red Line riders this weekend, and 50 heads of state arriving this week for a summit.
And Dr. Gridlock will be watching….