- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 24, 2009

Quick, somebody get the Nationals’ promotions director a calendar. The ballclub is celebrating what it calls the Oktoberfest End-of-Season Party before Thursday night’s game against the Dodgers. Shouldn’t somebody tell somebody that it’s neither October nor the end of the season?

Then again, what difference does one more error make in the Gnats’ latest Lost Season?

The last time a Washington baseball team had anything to celebrate in October was in 1924, when the Senators won their only World Series. How long ago was that? Well for one thing, Adolf Hitler was sporting stripes following the abortive Beer Hall Putsch a year earlier.

For another, the world was briefly at peace between WWI and WWII. Folks in this blessed land were truly free to pretend baseball was the most important thing on the planet, which hysterical Washingtonians certainly did after the redoubtable Walter Johnson vanquished John McGraw’s favored Giants in Game 7 of the Series at Griffith Stadium.

Ah, the Good Old Days - or what passed for them in local sporting circles.

More than eight decades later, we must settle for lesser rewards. For example, the co-sponsor of this ersatz Oktoberfest, Anheuser Busch, is offering complimentary food and drinks - meaning, I guess, that lucky participants won’t have to pay the usual inflated prices for those warm, flat suds that pass for liquid refreshment at most games.

The Nats haven’t mentioned any restrictions to the amount of free beer each person can ingest, but surely it won’t be enough to make fans forget the fourth last-place finish in five years by our lads in knickers.

Doesn’t it seem appropriate that the other Oktoberfest sponsor is Hard Times Cafe? I guess the Lerners didn’t have to think very long about that one.

I don’t know who will be waiting tables, but you might want to look for some of those pathetic pitchers who have posed as major leaguers underneath curly W caps this season.

Excuse me, but aren’t you Wil Ledezma (9.53 ERA)? How about another round, Logan Kensing (10.67)? What have you been up to, Zack Segovia (10.80)?

Hey, that young fellow with a towel draped over his arm looks a lot like Lastings Milledge. Whatever happened to him? You say he took a detour on the road to major league stardom by way of Pittsburgh? Too bad.

And that bald dude washing dishes reminds me of Manny Acta. Nah, it couldn’t be - could it?

This gala celebration will be held on the roof of Garage B at Nationals Park, which marks the first time lately that anything connected with Washington baseball has gotten out of the cellar.

Although it has been 76 years since a Washington team joined baseball’s postseason fun and games - the Senators lost the 1933 World Series to the Giants in five games - we have had occasion to celebrate the national pastime in October. You’ll remember that two of our nefarious owners, Calvin Griffith and Bob Short, skipped town during that month - which would have been cause for dancing in the streets if they hadn’t taken their ballclubs with ‘em.

Fortunately, we won’t have to spend much time in coming weeks worrying whether the Nats are destined to lose more than 100 games again in 2010 or whether prospective savior Stephen Strasburg can reach the major leagues faster than one of his 100 mph offerings whistles through the strike zone.

After all, there is no shortage of losers around here these days, even if you don’t include Joe Wilson. The Redskins appear tied irretrievably to mediocrity or worse. The Maryland Terrapins might drop games as steadily as Ralph Friedgen dropped offseason pounds. And before you know it, the Wizards should be looking up at most of their division rivals.

Titletown USA this ain’t.

Loserville is more like it.

For another 10 days, though, the Nationals should inspire pity more than anybody else. In five much too long seasons, they have done their very best (worst?) to erase the euphoria that greeted the return of the national pastime to the nation’s capital in 2005.

And I think the Nats blew it when they planned their ersatz Oktoberfest. Participants won’t be allowed to fork over their $25 for beer and pretzels alone. You have to stay for the ballgame, too - and against a first-place opponent at that.


Better keep that beer flowing.

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