- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2006

‘Damn Yankees’

Put the war in Iraq, illegal aliens and the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season on hold: The New York Yankees are back in town.

“This visit to RFK [Stadium] will mark the Yankees’ first trip to Washington since the final game of the old Senators [in 1971], when New York won by forfeit after fans rushed onto the field with two outs in the ninth inning,” baseball historian Fred Frommer, an Associated Press reporter in Washington, tells Inside the Beltway.

“The Yankees played prominently in the history of the Washington Senators,” he points out. “New York went head-to-head with the Senators for the 1924 American League pennant — Washington’s first — and of course inspired the play ‘Damn Yankees’ in the 1950s.”

As for that final, memorable, unfinished game before the Senators fled to Texas, we turn to Mr. Frommer’s trivia-packed book, “The Washington Nationals: 1859 to Today,” and read that 14,460 fans showed up for the last rites. Four thousand more slipped through unmanned turnstiles.

“Joe Grzenda took the mound in the bottom of the ninth with the Senators leading, 7-5,” he writes. “Grzenda recalls how he had instructions to hesitate after getting the second out of the inning, to give the bullpens a chance to empty out. ‘Because they knew something was going to happen. [The fans] were rowdy going back to the fourth inning.

” ‘After I got two outs … it was over. They came over the fence, and there was actually dust flying. There were hundreds that came over the fence. It looked like a herd of cattle coming in those old movies, when they stampede.’ Still, Grzenda says, he wasn’t scared. ‘The fans they had in Washington were all good fans. They wouldn’t hurt us.’ ”

Play never resumed. As Mr. Frommer recalls, fans pulled up bases, numbers from the scoreboard, light bulbs, even chunks of grass. This evening, the new Washington Nationals pick up where the old “Nats” left off — same opponent, same stadium, same great fans.

Bellini both ways

That was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who’s been busy testing the 2008 presidential waters, among guests sipping bellinis at Wednesday evening’s “Save Venice” benefit, hosted by Italian Ambassador Giovanni Castellaneta and his wife, Lila, at Teatro Goldoni.

Event coordinator Jacqueline Cundiff, wife of former U.S. Ambassador to Niger Carl Cundiff, had the pleasure of introducing the evening’s speaker, Eric Denker, senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art and curator of prints and drawings for the Corcoran.

We had to laugh when Mrs. Cundiff (she and her husband are great lovers of Venice) wondered out loud whether the title of Mr. Denker’s speech, “And a Bellini for the Road,” was “about the bellini we drank when we began our evening or about the wonderful works by Giovanni Bellini.”

Castro’s kin

A nephew of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican, is lauding the defeat of amendments that sought to weaken U.S. sanctions against the communist dictatorship.

A fellow Republican, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, pushed one such amendment to allow religious travel to Cuba, but withdrew it for lack of support.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, went further with his proposal to stop enforcement of the U.S. economic embargo against the island nation. And Rep. Barbara Lee, California Democrat, sought to eliminate restrictions on “academic” travel to Cuba.

Mr. Diaz-Balart, whose aunt was once married to Mr. Castro, wants no movement toward normalization of relations until all Cuban political prisoners are liberated; all political parties, labor unions and the press are legalized; and free elections are held.

Happy Father’s Day

This weekend, the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) will scour zoos, malls and parks — including those here in Washington — in search of fathers positively interacting with their children, awarding them “Golden Dad” honors.

Golden Dads was inspired by the album “Golden Slumbers, A Father’s Love,” featuring Phil Collins, Smokey Robinson, Dave Matthews, Michael McDonald and Buddy Jewell — all of whom sing songs for their children.

A Golden Dad is described as somebody “who exemplifies the three characteristics of what a good father is: involved, responsible and committed,” NFI President Roland Warren says.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin @washingtontimes.com.

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