- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Charlie Brotman reminisced yesterday about 1957, when he worked in public relations for one of the former incarnations of Washington baseball and wrote a little song that tried to ease a name change from the Nationals to the Senators.

“We’re crazy about the Senators and nuts about the Nationals,” Brotman said the little ditty went.

Fifteen minutes later, Brotman — who has been a fixture in metro area public relations for 40 years — showed just how nuts he is about the new version of the Washington Nationals. He put his body on the line to stop a protestor who disrupted the press conference at Union Station to unveil the official name of Washington’s new baseball team.

Adam Eidinger stood at the podium, waved a sign protesting the city’s funding for a new ballpark and yelled, “This is a bad deal.” No one reacted until Brotman, who will be 77 next month, went over and calmly tried to pull Eidinger away from the microphone. But Eidinger wasn’t going quietly, so Brotman — all 150 pounds of him — grabbed the burly Eidinger, who appeared to be at least half Brotman’s age, by the arm and then around the shoulders as they tussled on the stage.

Three days after the NBA riot in Detroit, this was an unbelievable scene, almost something out of a “Saturday Night Live” skit. Expect some reforms to follow, such as cutting off beer sales an hour before noon baseball press conferences.

What’s next, brawling at the National Spelling Bee?

This was a first for Brotman, who never had to pull anyone away from a microphone at a press conference before — not even Sugar Ray Leonard.

Finally, city council member Harold Brazil ran over to help Brotman, as did several other officials and a Union Station security guard. They took Eidinger away, and after giving him a 2005 Baltimore Orioles schedule, they let him leave.

Brotman had to be held back the whole time.

“I thought when I grabbed his arm, he would just casually go,” Brotman said after the press conference. “But he did not go casually. So I started pulling a little harder, and he started pulling the other way. Now I am really pulling him as hard as I can, and now he is starting to fight.

“My muscles are bulging,” Brotman said. “I’m glad I did my weightlifting this morning.”

However, Brotman was breathing heavy after he tried to restore order, clearly showing he has not been doing enough road work.

“This is really supposed to be a news conference about baseball,” Brotman told the crowd. “It has nothing to do with a heavyweight championship fight.”

Brotman bravely pushed forward with the press conference, as club president Tony Tavares and District Mayor Anthony A. Williams announced one of baseball’s worst kept secrets — that the new Washington team would be named the Nationals, as reported several weeks ago in The Washington Times. But despite the expected announcement and the unexpected furor, it turned out to be a largely celebratory event, with a classic new logo on display and plenty of interest in new Nationals merchandise.

Now baseball will find out what I’ve been saying all along — that it has missed out financially by not having a presence in Washington. Despite the attendance claims of the Orioles — and the presence of an Orioles store in downtown Washington (perhaps soon to be a TCBY or something more functional) — there never were seas of Orioles shirts and merchandise around the Washington area. When Domino’s Pizza announced a promotion in Washington to give away pizzas in exchange for Orioles merchandise, they didn’t go broke on that deal (by the way, I heard Peter Angelos showed up at one Domino’s store trying to exchange Lee Mazzilli).

In one of the richest areas of the United States, with sports fans carrying pockets full of disposable income, baseball has been an afterthought, a social event to take in occasionally at Camden Yards. Fans were not buying up baseball hats and jerseys. Yesterday, though, at times, it was impossible to get on the Nationals Web site (dcbaseball.com) to buy the newly unveiled merchandise.

Now, to make sure that merchandise doesn’t become more than just a novelty souvenir, the city council has to go ahead with its first vote Nov.30 to approve funding for the new Southeast ballpark, then major league owners officially have to approve the move of the former Montreal Expos to Washington by conference call the following day.

If they don’t, they can expect a visit from Bad News Brotman.

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