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The Washington Post’s Scott Allen raises an interesting question today when he wonders who should throw out the ceremonial first pitches at the Nationals’ World Series games.
He lists 16 candidates, and even notes they are “mostly serious” as some are good ideas and some read like he’s sampled one too many of the concession stand delicacies he’s been known to write about every year when Nats Park and Fed Ex Field add new food offerings to their overpriced menus.
I, of course, have my own list. Since the Nats are only guaranteed a minimum of 2 home game and a maximum of 3, there’s no need to pound out another 16. But I do have six in mind so there’s always one and a backup for each game.
Here’s my list:
Sonny Jurgensen: If you’re an older person like me (and a significant part of the Nationals faithful is) Sonny was the first real superstar we all followed. No. 9 was the bright light on dimly lit Redskins teams, and when he was done playing, he moved over to television and radio for another 40 years to keep us all in the pocket. Frank, Sonny and Sam were a broadcasting institution that will never ever be replicated, and many of us to this day still wear No. 9 Jurgensen jerseys on game day.
Baseball is a sport of tradition, and with Sonny just retiring, it would only be fitting to have someone so much a part of Washington sports history for so long a period of time throw out the first pitch.
Thomas Boswell: You may balk at having a non-player throw out the first pitch, and indeed, there may be journalistic ethics (which used to be a thing back when I was in journalism school 45 years ago) that prevents someone who covers the team from participating in such. But no matter what you think of newspapers, journalism or the like, Boz has been this area’s baseball guru throughout the modern era of baseball in the DC region.
He eats, drinks and lives the sport, and he’s one of us: a Washington sports guy who not only writes about the crimes and misdemeanors local sports teams perpetrate on us yearly, he also suffers in silence with each soul-crushing loss just like the rest of us. When I think of DC baseball, one of the first names I think of is Boz. Plus if you think it was hard for us to watch all those 59-win seasons, imagine having to then write about them.
Ray Knight: For the first time since it seems the team started televising games, Uncle Ray was not on the air this season. No one associated with the team was ever as passionate about every game, win, lose or rainout, as Uncle Ray. When the team did poorly, you tuned in to Nats postgame to hear Knight tell the bare knuckles, honest-to-God truth about what happened and how bad it was.
Conversely, when the Nats did well, nothing lifted your soul like hearing the almost giddy commentary of one very happy Uncle Ray. I have missed him this season as the team charged back up the hill after the slow start, and letting him throw the first pitch out would give him one last chance to tip his hat and say goodbye to everyone.
Wes Unseld: Wes offers a connection to the last time the Washington basketball team won an NBA title. That team wasn’t the Wizards, they were the Bullets. Much like this year’s Nationals, that team at times looked out of the race, but their coach – Dick Motta – constantly told people not to give up. Davey Martinez had his “let’s go 1-0 today” but for Motta, it was “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”
Much has been made about the comradery between the Capitals and the Nationals, but this allows a tip of the cap to the basketball team. And of course, the Nationals this season are the living personification of “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” It seems fitting.
Ted Leonsis: No sports owner is ever truly liked, but versus that one that owns the football team, Ted Leonsis and the Lerner family have been model citizens with the Caps and Nationals in terms of showing what can be possible. Leonsis owns the Caps and the Wizards, and the way the two teams have supported each other in both teams’ pursuit of a championship has been very cool.
Having Ted throw out the first pitch acknowledges that support and says thank you from the Nationals.
Samuel L. Jackson: Yes, I know he doesn’t have much to do with the area’s sports history. But he is a famous actor and he is from D.C. He’d be a cool interview and probably be quite entertaining leading up to that first pitch.
The real reason I suggest him is to keep things in perspective. It’s been a wild ride to the World Series, but there is still work to be done. So before throwing that first pitch, I want him to address the crowd and congratulate everyone for making it to the World Series.
Then there should be a 10 second pause before he offers one more line:
“Don’t let that go to your head.”