Fascinating Book Examines Washington's Baseball past.(SPORTS)(FANS: ON THE SHELF)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 21, 2002 | Go to article overview

Fascinating Book Examines Washington's Baseball past.(SPORTS)(FANS: ON THE SHELF)


Byline: Dick Heller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For anyone who has followed professional baseball in the nation's capital - after 31 years without, is that phrase an oxymoron? - a must-read is "Images of America: Baseball in Washington, D.C." by Frank Ceresi, Mark Rucker and researcher Carol McMains ($19.99, Arcadia, 128 pages, illus.).

This slim volume contains dozens of pictures ranging from the 1860s to the expansion Senators' 1971 departure for Texas and beyond. I hadn't seen many of the photos, and I kept wishing there were more pages and more pictures. The book is that fascinating.

Ceresi, formerly an Arlington judge and then curator of the National Sports Gallery at MCI Center, is in business for himself now, along with McMains, and he knows how to find all sorts of photographic memorabilia. Unfortunately, the book contains a number of minor errors - i.e. Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak is listed as 2,131 rather than 2,130 - but Ceresi says they will be corrected in subsequent editions.

No matter what your age, you'll find stuff you didn't know existed. In one memorable picture before the text even starts, Capitol pages are choosing up sides for a game in 1922 with the Washington Monument in the background. Another shows Walter Johnson, the Senators' Hall of Fame pitcher, accepting a loving cup full of money donated by appreciative fans after he won 36 games in 1913.

The images keep on coming. Washington's wooden ballpark is shown on Opening Day 1911, shortly before a fire destroyed it and led to the building of concrete-and-steel Griffith Stadium on the site. Johnson is shown on the cover of Baseball Magazine heralding a story called, "Why I signed With the [outlaw Federal League]" in 1914 - which, of course, he never did.

Police guard officials of the Senators as they carry boxes of tickets for the 1924 World Series. President Calvin Coolidge, not a baseball fan, dourly greets members of the '24 Series champions as they visit the White House. Bert Shepard straps on an artificial leg necessitated by a war injury before he goes out to pitch (briefly) for the Senators in 1945. Negro League slugger Josh Gibson crouches to look over a low pitch while playing for the Homestead Grays before nearly empty stands at Griffith Stadium.

It's a wonderful book that will bring back memories for older fans and introduce younger ones to the fact that baseball once lived and thrived in the nation's capital - and may again someday soon. It's available at area booksellers or may be ordered on the Web at www.fcassociates.com.

"The Baseball Almanac" by Dan Schlossberg ($14.95, Triumph, 376 pages, illus.) advertises itself as a "big bodacious book of baseball," and indeed it is. Included are page after page of tidbits, pictures and statistics.

The soft-cover volume is what I call a bathroom book - the kind you can pick up and read for five, 10 or 15 minutes when the mood and opportunity strikes. …

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