The End is Near


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Pfitzner Stadium, August 24, 2019

Thursday night will mark the end of an era: the Potomac Nationals (lovingly referred to as the P-Nats) will play their last game in Pfitzner Stadium. After 25 years, the team is moving from Woodbridge, VA, to a stadium far, far away (at least for me) in Fredericksburg, VA. Last Saturday, I saw what just might have been my last P-Nats game. It was an emotional night.

The Potomac Nationals entered this world as the Alexandria Dukes in 1978, an expansion team in the Class A Advanced Carolina League. That first season, they were a co-op team, meaning they weren’t affiliated with any one MLB team, but had players from more than one team. They were affiliated with the Seattle Mariners in 1979 (and known as the Alexandria Mariners), but were a co-op team again in 1980. From 1981 to 1983, they were affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates. I didn’t know the team then, but I wish I did. Alexandria Dukes players included Mickey Mantle, Jr.; Rick Renteria; Bobby Bonilla; Rafael Belliard; and Joe Orsulak (a future Oriole). They even won the Carolina League Championship in 1982.

The Dukes played in Municipal Stadium at Four Mile Run Park in Alexandria. According to Baseball Reference, “The ballpark was of high school caliber, with Image result for Alexandria Dukes logometal stands seating around 1,500 with a few metal folding chairs standing in for box seats, and almost no facilities or concessions (the team was prohibited from selling alcohol because the park was on land belonging to an elementary school).” Not surprisingly, then, the team announced it would be moving after the 1983 season.

The stadium formerly known as Davis Ford Park (named after the main road to the stadium) was built in 1984. It is located in Woodbridge, VA, adjacent to the McCoart Government Center. It was to this 6,000 seat stadium that the newly re-named Prince William Pirates made their home after moving from Alexandria for the 1984 season.

In 1987, the team changed Major League affiliations and became known as the Prince William Yankees. Prospects like Hensley Meulens, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Brad Ausmus, and Bernie Williams, played on the team. In 1989, the team changed its name to the Prince William Cannons, but maintained its affiliation with the Yankees until 1994 when it became the class-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. The team changed affiliations again 1997 (St. Louis Cardinals) and 2003 (Cincinnati Reds). Thus, more future stars played for Prince William, including: Magglio Ordonez, Albert Puljos, Coco Crisp, and Joey Votto.

According toPotomac cannons screenshot the team’s website, the team rebranded in 1999 as the Potomac Cannons, “to better represent their fan base, which covers much of the Northern Virginia region.” They became the Potomac Nationals in 2005, when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, DC, becoming the Washington Nationals and the Major League affiliate of the P-Nats.

Tomorrow, as the team celebrates its last night at the Pfitz, I’ll post a little more about the old stadium, the new stadium, and the end of an era.

~ baseballrebecca

 

 

 

 

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Earthmen and Spacettes at the Ballpark


Our countdown to the moon landing anniversary continues with this photo of the Houston Astros grounds crew (circa 1965), which was tweeted out a few years ago by @AstrosDaily:

The photo reminds us the links between the Houston Astros and the space program and how sport and community are closely intertwined. The Astros and their former stadium, the Astrodome, were named in honor of NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, which had opened its doors in Houston in 1963 (it was renamed Johnson Space Center in 1973). At the Astrodome, Earthmen tended to the astroturf, Spacettes helped you find your seats, and the Astros played baseball.

Check out more cool pics from the Houston Chronicle, Houston History Magazine, Uni Watch, and Getty Images.

~ baseballrebecca

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The Houston Astrodome in 1965 looking a little extraterrestrial (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

 

 

 

 

Apollo at the Park


DSCN8874In a great example of the intersection among baseball, pop culture, and American history, this summer baseball fans at 15 stadiums across the country will have the opportunity to see and interact with a replica of the spacesuit worn by Neil Armstrong 50 years ago when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The replica suit was created from 3-D scans of the original spacesuit that was restored in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, which happened on July 20, 1969.

Last week, the National Air and Space Museum installed the first replica at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. It will be on display for the remainder of the season. Apollo at the Park can be seen at the following teams’ stadiums:

  • Atlanta Braves
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Chicago Cubs
  • Cleveland Indians
  • Cincinnati Reds
  • Colorado Rockies
  • Detroit Tigers
  • Houston Astros
  • Minnesota Twins
  • New York Yankees
  • Pittsburgh Pirates
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Seattle Mariners
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Washington Nationals

Check out the video in the tweet below for more info on the project:

 

 

~ baseballrebecca

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Scenes from a Nats Game: The Traditions


DSCN8879The thing that led me to become a baseball sociologist is the simple fact that each team and ballpark has their own distinct personality. Part of that is the traditions that occur at the park. At Nats Park, traditions include the President’s Race, a stupid cheer (“Nats, Nats, Nats, Woo!”), singing stupid songs at the 7th inning (like “Take on Me” by A-ha), showing up late, and roaming around the stadium not really paying attention to the game. I caught several of these on camera at the game I attended last week.

Saluting the military:

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The presidents and the Presidents’ Race:

 

The bullpen cart that almost nobody rides in (but it still zooms around the park anyway):

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Standing around chatting, not paying attention to the game, and blocking the view for those of us who actually want to watch the game:

 

 

Only at Nats Park!

~ baseballrebecca

 

 

Dell Chambers, PFC, U.S. Army


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Udell Chambers (photo courtesy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund)

Over the past several years, my annual Memorial Day post has sought to remind us that Memorial Day is a holiday to honor and remember those who died while serving in the Armed Forces. While baseball fans have the day off, players don special uniforms, MLB tries to sell us those special uniforms, and Justin Verlander continues to educate us about Memorial Day poppies, its also important to take time to think about what Memorial Day really means. Last year we honored Elmer Gedeon, baseball player and Army Captain, who died during World War II. This year, we remember Dell Chambers, who died while serving in Vietnam.

Udell Chambers was born on February 2, 1948, in Clayton, Missouri, and attended Kirkwood High School in nearby Kirkwood, MO. According to the website, Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice, developed by Gary Bedingfield, “Dell was perfectly suited as a shortstop or centerfielder, and he was the prototype leadoff hitter. He possessed such remarkable baseball talent during his prep years that he was recruited by the Atlanta Braves during his senior year in 1966. He reported to Sarasota (Florida) of the Gulf Coast League and was playing professional baseball just weeks after receiving his cap and gown.”

At the age of 18, Chambers signed with the Atlanta Braves and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Braves. The next season he was promoted to the Class A Lexington Braves of the Western Carolinas League. In 1967, he batted .325 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI. He received his draft notice in September 1967, just after the end of the season. He was assigned to the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division and did basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. His unit was sent to Vietnam in February 1968, two weeks after the beginning of the Tet Offensive. On the night of June 21, 1968, Chambers was stationed just outside the city of Da Nang in the Binh Duong Province when the North Vietnamese attacked. Chambers and two fellow soldiers from his unit, Sgt. William Law and PFC James Zyboyovski, died in the attack. Chambers was just 20 years old.

Chambers was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Vietnam Campaign Medal. As the Baseball Greatest Sacrifice website notes, “[Chambers] was very well liked by those who knew him; he had tremendous potential as a baseball athlete; and he served his country during a most unpopular war and paid for it with his life. We all owe him our indebted gratitude.”  Thank you for your sacrifice, PFC Chambers.

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day, everyone!

~ baseballrebecca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stat-urday, 5/18/2019


https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d2/Dodger_Stadium_field_from_upper_deck_2015-10-04.jpgAfter two rain outs in a row in New York this week, I started wondering how the weather has affected games and attendance this year, and stumbled upon an interesting article about MLB attendance being down for the sixth straight year. Last year, they tried to blame it on the weather, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year.

Below are the stats for this year’s attendance so far, courtesy of Baseball-reference.com. A whopping 18 teams have lower attendance this year than for the same time last year.

What do you think is causing the drop in attendance and what should MLB do about it?

Average Attendance per Game
Miami 9,516
Tampa Bay 14,540
Baltimore 14,972
Cleveland 15,285
Kansas City 15,525
Pittsburgh 15,717
Detroit 16,359
Cincinnati 17,124
Chicago White Sox 17,362
Minnesota 19,151
Oakland 19,541
Toronto 19,841
Seattle 23,066
Arizona 26,560
Washington 26,908
Texas 27,698
New York Mets 28,219
Atlanta 29,457
San Diego 30,454
Houston 31,941
San Francisco 32,669
Colorado 32,919
Milwaukee 33,079
Boston 33,902
Los Angeles Angels 34,866
Chicago Cubs 35,998
Philadelphia 36,130
New York Yankees 39,316
St. Louis 41,449
Los Angeles Dodgers 47,346

Happy Stat-urday!

~ baseballrebecca