Washington, D.C. hosted the 1969 All-Star game at RFK stadium. It was a thrilling event that drew baseball fans together to watch the greats of the MLB, including hometown hero Frank Howard, go head-to-head. But the game also made history as the first, and only, All-Star game to be postponed due to weather. A torrential rain storm disrupted the city's plans, but that didn't stop more than 45,000 fans from coming out to RFK the next afternoon.
Scout Joe Cambria of the Washington Senators was in Florida in the summer of 1938, seeking out new recruits for D.C.’s major league baseball team. When he watched Forrest “Lefty” Brewer pitch for the St. Augustine Saints that summer, the scout had no doubt that this was a player who could help turn around the struggling D.C. club. On June 6, 1938, Brewer threw a no hitter in the minor leagues. Exactly six years later he jumped out of a plane over Normandy, France on D-Day.
In the winter of 1969, the Washington Senators baseball club was in transition. After a flirtation with comedian Bob Hope, the team had just been sold to transportation magnate Bob Short. Short, who looked across town and saw the Washington Redskins hire legendary coach Vince Lombardi, was looking for his own splashy hire – “a storybook manager, the kind people dream about” who could be the savior he felt the franchise needed. The answer? Ted Williams.
It's pretty common for historical societies or universities to sponsor history conferences. They generally have budgets (albeit small ones) and staffs to put on events. But, the annual D.C. Baseball History Meeting is something different. Each February, almost all by himself, Mark Hornbaker creates a unique event for local baseball history enthusiasts.
On his own dime, Hornbaker brings different speakers — including former Washington Senators and Nationals players, authors and journalists — to town for a discussion of the history of the national pasttime in Washington. A packed room of 80 attendees come (for free!) to enjoy stories and share some of their own. We recently sat down with Mark to discuss this year's meeting, how he got interested in D.C. baseball history, and how he pulls off the event.
Is it possible for a man to play Major League Baseball with one leg? Not for most men, but most men aren't Bert Shepard who played for the Washington Senators in 1945 after losing his right leg in World War II.
Bob Hope was no stranger to Washington. The comic was well-traveled and visited the nation’s capital numerous times for performances and events particularly through his work with the U.S.O. Hope and his wife Delores also periodically came to town to visit their son, Tony, who was a student at Georgetown University in the early 1960s and, later, a Washington attorney and lobbyist. In 1968, however, Hope was angling for a more permanent connection to the District when the Washington Senators baseball club went up for sale.
"The visions that baseball fans could conjure only in their fondest dreams will evolve as realisms at Griffith Stadium on Wednesday when spectacle will be heaped on spectacle, thrill piled on thrill. There, in a contest apart from all the rest, the dream game comes to life." Though few others described the mood as eloquently as Shirley Povich, many in the nation’s capital shared his excitement as Washington prepared to host its first baseball All-Star game in 1937.
Few people in history have skipped their senior prom for the opportunity to play baseball in Hagerstown, Maryland. Few people in history have also hit 660 home runs, played in 24 All-Star games, and won 13 Gold Glove Awards. As far as we know, there’s only one who has done both.
Over the years, Washington, D.C. has been home to numerous professional baseball teams, very few of them with winning records. But, 1884 might take the cake for weirdness. That year, the nation's capital boasted two separate teams called the Washington Nationals. They finished a combined 59-116.
Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color barrier, was pressured into testifying before the infamous communist-hunting committee in July 1949. But he also used the opportunity to speak out about racial injustice.