What a Cinderella story! The 2019 baseball season began with a terrible slump by the Washington Nationals, landing them 12 games below .500 (19-31) on May 22. For many, the loss of Bryce Harper to the Phillies was a herald for the team’s fortune. The press was calling for manager Davey Martinez’s head, and predictions were dire for the season.
But something happened. Martinez was not fired, the front office fully supported the team, continuing to shape the bullpen and utility players, and almost magically, the Nats began their climb out of fourth place (only the Miami Marlins had a worse record).
Scrabbling and scraping, the team adopted the slogan, “Stay In The Fight.” Martinez’s public comments always reverberated the phrase, “1-0” (Today we are going for a 1-0 record). And stay in the fight they did. Utility outfielder Gerardo Parra was released by the San Francisco Giants, and the Nats signed him on. During a frustrating slump at bat, on June 19, Parra asked the stadium PA system to play a new “walk-up song:” Baby Shark. Getting two hits that day, the song became a rallying cry for the team and fans alike, generating “shark moves” by both during games. Some fans started wearing shark-themed attire to games.
From May 24, 2019 on, the Nats had the best record in baseball. They never reached first place in their division (National League East), but managed to nab a wild card slot. On October 1, the wild card game against the Milwaukee Brewers was played, and the Nats came from behind, scoring three runs in the 8th inning, winning 4-3 to advance to the divisional playoffs.
A five game series against the heavily-favored Los Angeles Dodgers, who were heavily favored to take it all, having had a regular season record of 106-56. The only team with a better record was the American League Houston Astros. When the dust had settled, the Nats had once again taken a 3-2 series, overcoming a 0-3 deficit and winning the finale by a Grand Slam home run in the 10th inning, shocking the baseball world!
Then came the League Championship series. This, a seven game series, was a new experience for the Nationals, who had never reached this level of competition before. Nevertheless, it didn’t seem to daunt them, as they swept the St. Louis Cardinals in four games! The league championship belonged to the Nationals!
There was only one series left to play: The World Series! Matched up against the Houston Astros, the Nats were considered severe underdogs. No one apparently told the Nats, as they continued to STAY IN THE FIGHT. Much history was made during this seven games series, perhaps the most striking is that the road team won every game! The Nationals played in Houston the first two games, and walked away 2-0. But Houston went ahead by winning all three games in Washington. Back to Houston, where the improbably happened: The Nats won both. And again, they came from behind in Game 7 to win it all.
My father was never a warm, caring father figure to me. He was a driven, Type-A man, who worked to succeed and provide for his family. Thus, my fondest memories of him were the times we spent going to Griffith Stadium in D.C. to watch the Washington Senators play. We would also sit on a darkened porch at night, listening to games on transistor radio. It was something we both shared. Maybe it’s a reason I played Little League Baseball (second base) and won the only championship I’ve been in. So, dad, you never got to see a Washington baseball team win the World Series. But I have.
I hope wherever you are Dad, I hope you’re smiling.