August 30, 2010 – After more than a three hour rain delay, INF Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run home run in the third inning triggered a 9-3 victory for the Nationals against the Marlins in South Florida. The blast broke a left-field electronic scoreboard that was left reading “Sun Life Stadiu” after the “m” was struck by the ball.
Before playing the Rockies on Friday, the Nationals inducted former Washington Senators outfielder Frank Howard into the Ring of Honor at Nationals Park. During the ceremony, Nationals Manager Dusty Baker spoke glowingly about Howard, who was his brother’s favorite player while growing up.
“He’s the most pleasant gentle giant of a man that I know,” Baker said. “Now, I’d hate to upset him because as a kid his name was Big Frank Howard or Hondo.”
Howard is one of the most beloved figures in D.C. baseball history and, to this day, no player representing Washington D.C. has been able to hit more home runs than Howard – a legendary 237.
During his time in Washington, teammates, media and fans alike marveled at Howard’s tape-measure home runs, many of which taunted cavernous D.C. Stadium’s dimensions. As Dusty alluded to, his powerful hits earned him the nicknames “The Capital Punisher,” “The Washington Monument,” and “Hondo.”
Before the ceremony on Friday, we had the pleasure to sit down with someone who knew Howard very well, Brad Eney. Brad orchestrated team travel for the Washington Senators from 1969 to 1971, and attended every Senators game during the 1970 and 1971 seasons. Brad and his wife, Linda, traveled from West Virginia to Nationals Park on Friday to help honor Frank. Brad participated in pregame ceremonies, and proudly watched as Howard was inducted into the Ring of Honor.
Brad on Frank’s incredible size…
“I’ve got a picture of me and Frank [from his playing days]. I was 265 pounds at the time, and he makes me look like a 10-year-old, undernourished kid. This guy was big.”
On Frank’s legendary power…
“We were in Boston and I remember Frank was taking batting practice, and I was in left field shagging flies. He’s bouncing them off the big Green Monster. I [kept thinking] I’m going to catch this one, and then it’s ten feet over my head. You can count the dents in that wall that Frank put in there. It was unbelievable how hard he could hit a ball.”
On Frank’s amazing one-week stretch in the spring of 1968, when he hit 10 home runs in 20 at bats…
“The team had a series in Detroit, and people were just sitting there with their mouths hanging open. Another [home run]. Then another one. Another one.”
On the Senators leaving for Texas in 1971 and the Nationals bringing baseball back to Washington…
“34 years without a ball club in D.C. was heartbreaking. On the final flight before our last series in D.C., I had to get on the PA system and I know I was choking up doing it. This town wasn’t just losing a ball club, I’m losing 40 friends. It was really a sad day. It was amazing when the team came back… we never miss a game on television.”
Thank you to Brad for chatting with us, and congratulations to Frank Howard on his induction into the Ring of Honor!
August 28, 2008 – INF Cristian Guzman became the first Washington, D.C.-based big leaguer to hit for the cycle (sequence HR, 1B, 2B, 3B) in front of fans in the Nation’s Capital. Before Guzman’s achievement, six players representing the AL Nationals, Senators, expansion Senators or Nationals hit for the cycle, but all six came on the road. Guzman’s cycle was the seventh to occur in D.C. since 1900, the first in nearly 61 years since Detroit’s Vic Wertz accomplished the feat on September 14, 1947 at Griffith Stadium.
August 17, 2009 – The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with RHP Stephen Strasburg, the number one overall selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft from San Diego State University. Strasburg signed the contract at Nationals Park and greeted more than 1,000 fans in a public press conference held near third base.
August 8, 2012 – LHP Gio Gonzalez hit for distance and went the distance as Washington defeated Houston, 4-3. Gonzalez hit his first career big league home run, a two-run shot in the second inning, and tallied his second career complete game. After the Astros rallied to put the winning run in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Gonzalez recorded his seventh strikeout to finish the game and become the first DC-based pitcher since Pete Broberg (9/19/71 vs. Boston) to homer and pitch a complete game in the same contest.
Today in Nationals’ History: Ryan Zimmerman hits another walk-off home run & Nationals acquire Tanner Roark
July 31, 2010 – INF Ryan Zimmerman’s seventh career game-winning home run — the most in MLB since his 9/1/05 big league debut — came at Brad Lidge’s expense and lifted the Nationals past the Phillies, 7-5. His 3-run shot was also the 12th time in Zimmerman’s young career that he sent the Nationals home with a win with a game-ending “event” (hit, sac fly, walk, etc.). LHP Ross Detwiler left in line for the win after allowing just one run in 5.1 innings and striking out three.
July 31, 2010 – In a deadline deal that would prove to be a steal three seasons later, the Nationals acquired little-known RHP Tanner Roark (and minor league RHP Ryan Tatusko) from the Texas Rangers in exchange for infielder Christian Guzman.
Today in Nationals’ History: Adam Dunn hits ball out of Miller Park & Wilson Ramos’ first career grand slam
July 28, 2009 – INF Adam Dunn’s fourth-inning solo shot off Carlos Villanueva became the first ball to leave Miller Park. It was tracked down by a young boy who did not have a ticket to the game. The Nationals defeated the Brewers by a score of 8-3 behind RHP Collin Balester.
July 28, 2013 – C Wilson Ramos hit his first career grand slam and matched a career high with five RBI as the Nationals beat the Mets at home, 14-1. Blessed with ample run support, RHP Taylor Jordan pitched well enough to record his first career win, allowing one run on five hits in 6 innings. He also struck out a career-high seven.
July 27, 2009 – OF Josh Willingham made MLB history by becoming just the 13th big leaguer — the third NL player — to hit two grand slams in the same game. He went deep off Jeff Suppan in the 5th inning and Mark DiFelice in the 6th inning during the Nationals’ 14-6 win at Miller Park against the Brewers. His eight RBI set a Nationals single-game record and matched the franchise single-game mark.
On this day 10 years ago, the Washington Nationals announced the official transfer of ownership from Major League Baseball to an ownership group headed by Theodore N. Lerner and his son Mark D. Lerner, sons-in-law Edward L. Cohen and Robert K. Tanenbaum and their families.
At the time of the announcement, Managing Principal Owner Ted Lerner stated, “It has long been my dream to bring the national pastime back to my hometown, the nation’s capital. Now that it’s been realized, I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that this franchise becomes an international jewel for MLB, D.C. and the nation.”
We sat down with Nationals Principal Owner Mark D. Lerner, as he reflected on that special day a decade ago.
Could you describe the process of Major League Baseball handing over the team to you and your family?
It was a monumental task. Not only was our family taking over an entire organization, but we also were doing it in the middle of the season. It didn’t make things any easier that aspects of the team’s infrastructure were still based in Montreal. It took a number of years to really get our arms around it, hire the people we wanted and change the systems in place to ones we were comfortable with.
What were some of the first changes made after your family became owners of the team?
We wanted to make sure that when fans walked through the gates of RFK Stadium they knew there was a change. We spent 10 days cleaning RFK Stadium before our first home game as owners of the team. Prior to the start of that game, my family and I stood in front of RFK Stadium to greet fans as they came through the main turnstiles. From that moment on, we weren’t looking back, we were looking forward.
We gathered all the ushers and employees who would have face-to-face interaction with our fans and I told them that they were the face of the franchise – the first people fans see when they arrive, and the last people they see on their way home. We wanted to ensure that going to the ballpark was a great experience.
We were excited about the opportunity to take the organization to new heights. Our goal was to create an organization with a tradition of excellence, both on and off the field. I feel we have accomplished this, but we will never stop trying to improve.
Could you describe the moment it really hit you that you owned a Major League Baseball franchise?
The real celebration was on the morning of May 3, 2006, when Commissioner Selig called my dad to tell us that we were selected to purchase the team over 12 other groups that were bidding for the franchise. It was a special moment for our entire family, especially my dad, and I’ll never forget where I was when we got the call.
That evening, we had a major press conference, the first one our family had ever participated in, followed by a groundbreaking ceremony for Nationals Park the next morning. It certainly was an amazing 24 hours for my family and me.
What is it like to own a team in your family’s hometown?
It is an incredible honor for our family. We had never done anything in the public eye like this before, but owning a baseball team in your hometown is a special opportunity.
We operate the Nationals for our fans. Our fan base has entrusted us to run the organization, and this trust is something that we take very seriously. It is our duty not only to provide first-class entertainment, but to give back to the surrounding community. We were so honored to be selected as stewards of the Washington Nationals and we are proud to have been a part of bringing the national pastime back to the nation’s capital.
Thank you, Mark, for chatting with us, and congratulations to your family on this very special anniversary!
July 20, 2014 – OF Jayson Werth answered RHP Rafael Soriano’s third blown save of the season with a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the 9th inning to nudge the Nationals past the Brewers, 5-4. Werth’s two-out double to left field sent INF Anthony Rendon on a 270-foot mad dash from first base to score the decisive run and give the Nationals’ their 11th final at-bat win of the season. OF Denard Span also went 2-for-4 with a walk on his Bobblehead day.
July 20, 2005 – Facing Colorado at RFK, LHP Mike Stanton pitched in his 1,000th big league game, becoming the 10th player in MLB history to do so, joining Jesse Orosco, John Franco, Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Dan Plesac, Kent Tekulve, Lee Smith, Mike Jackson and Rich “Goose” Gossage on the impressive list.