I’d like to say a few words in remembrance and appreciation of one of the most loyal and longest-tenured fans that this area’s baseball and football teams ever had. During the Nationals’ mostly dreadful start to their tenure in this area, I was reminded frequently by my grandmother, Catharine Delaney Garber, that she remembered when “our baseball team used to be good.” That’s because she was one of the few in the 21st century that still recalled Washington’s 1924 World Series winning team as well as its pennant winners in 1925 and 1933.
Catharine was able to see many Senators games with her brother Paul, who she said “would take me because he wanted to have someone to go with and help keep score.” They would take a streetcar from Alexandria, noting that there were only day games back then as night games didn’t start at Griffith Stadium until 1941. Over this past summer, my grandmother reminisced about watching Babe Ruth “run around on those little tiny legs.” We talked about Senators greats from Walter Johnson to Goose Goslin, but she singled out 1930 AL MVP Joe Cronin as her favorite.
As with me, my grandmother’s family baseball connection was multi-generational, as her Aunt Mamie would never miss a Senators game on the radio during the heyday of broadcaster Arch McDonald. My grandmother’s latter-year baseball encounters included a handful of memorable excursions to Memorial Stadium, which were enjoyable but infrequent, usually requiring a charter bus that left this area in the early afternoon and got back very late. The fact of the day-trip nature of Orioles games combined with the knowledge that we once had our own team helped prompt me to join with the others pushing for so long to get a team of our own back to this area. She was happy that her great-grandchildren have been able to grow up with a baseball team just as she did.
While my grandmother’s baseball connection was interrupted for awhile, nothing ever impeded her fervor for the Burgundy and Gold. The family still talks about hearing from a nurse when my grandmother was recovering from surgery at Georgetown Hospital who complained about how loudly Catharine was cheering for running back John Riggins when he was steamrolling through the Eagles towards the end zone that particular afternoon. As my grandmother was in a private room with the door closed, it was really a non-issue, which my grandmother pointed out in no uncertain terms. She even asked the nurse if she was just an Eagles fan who didn’t like the cheering, and the nurse actually admitted she was from Philadelphia, which made the source of her displeasure clear.
Last season was particularly enjoyable for my grandmother with the success of the Nationals and Redskins, and she watched several of their triumphs. She was especially thrilled each time the Redskins beat the Cowboys – whose former coach Tom Landry she referred to with respect as “the man with the hat” -- and was very impressed with “Number Three”, aka Robert Griffin III. When I saw her eleventh great-granddaughter wearing a Redskins bib Monday night, I couldn’t help but smile as I saw another generation adding to the connection and sense of community of our local sports that my grandmother enjoyed so well.