- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2006

Heeeeere’s Johnny

It was early November of last year and Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were being feted at a formal White House dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Bush.

Among the 130 guests on hand to toast the royal couple was former first lady Nancy Reagan and Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who barely five weeks earlier, on Sept. 29, was sworn in as 17th chief justice of the United States. The date is an important one, as you will now read.

While hors d’oeuvres were being served, Mrs.. Reagan told the new chief justice that nothing would thrill her more than for him to lecture at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. Therein was the problem.

You see, the chief justice promised himself the day he took the oath that he’d wait for one year before making any public appearances, and for two reasons: First, he wanted to learn more about the nation’s highest court; second, he felt he didn’t have much to say anyway.

He vowed to stick to his plan. And he politely told Mrs. Reagan as much. But as Chief Justice Roberts explains it, by the time White House waiters served the entrees, he’d penciled in a date to appear at the library.

“It was his first public appearance,” Fred Ryan, chairman of the Reagan Library board, says of the recent address. “He was absolutely captivating — very enlightening and very funny, one great story after another.”

Indeed, an overflow crowd of 1,000, including more than 100 judges and lawyers, were on hand for the chief justice’s inaugural appearance. Of course, Mrs. Reagan was front row and center, along with good friend Betsy Bloomingdale, former Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Wick, Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Kenneth W. Starr and even Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens.

Mr. Ryan tells Inside the Beltway he couldn’t help but laugh when a Hollywood producer he didn’t name, also seated in the audience, approached him afterward to say of Chief Justice Roberts: “He’s got real talent. After this court thing, he could have his own show.”

City cons

“This is an interesting case study that counters the claim that true conservatives can only win in rural America and not big cities,” we’re told by Mike Burita of the Washington consulting firm Burita Media Solutions.

He speaks of the recent impressive landslide re-election victory of Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, who garnered a record-breaking 88 percent of ballots cast.

“Cornett has also been dubbed ‘the most conservative big-city mayor in the country’ by Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Pat McCrory, who serves as president of the Republican mayors association,” Mr. Burita notes.

Support these Nats

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams writes the forward of a just-released book by Associated Press writer Fred Frommer on the history of baseball in the nation’s capital, “The Washington Nationals: 1859 to Today.”

Mr. Frommer tells Inside the Beltway his book recalls the earliest baseball clubs of government civil servants prior to the Civil War to the return of a major league team in Washington in 2005.

In fact, we read that as the sport grew in popularity, President Andrew Johnson in 1865 dismissed government workers early one day to catch a baseball tournament on the Ellipse.

Nearly 50 years later, in 1912, the man who turned around Washington’s fortunes did so by risking his own. Clark Griffith bought a 10 percent share in the team for $27,000 by mortgaging his Montana ranch, and ushered in a golden era of Washington baseball after the Nationals had started off with 11 straight losing seasons.

By 1924, Washington’s only World Series championship season, the city was in such a tizzy over the team that President Calvin Coolidge half-joked that government productivity was suffering as a result.

Washington nearly won the pennant in 1945, despite hitting just one home run at home all season — inside the park. The team, short on players because of World War II, even resorted to a one-legged pitcher.

This columnist was growing up when Richard M. Nixon, as vice president, summoned the slumping Senators to the airport for a pep talk after returning from a trip to the Soviet Union. And when in the late 1960s, team shortstop Eddie Brinkman doubled as a National Guardsman, missing nearly half the season to keep peace on Washington’s riot-torn streets.

And did you know that comedian Bob Hope twice tried to buy the Senators — in 1968 and again in 1971, the latter in a last-ditch effort to prevent the team from moving? Eventually, owner Bob Short moved the team to Texas. Bowie Kuhn, a native Washingtonian, said the only time he cried during his tenure as commissioner was when the Senators left town. Let’s hope it never happens again.

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

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