Tales from Political and Sporting Bouts
Waiting for the Fightin' Washington Nationals game to play on television Wednesday, I caught the muggles hard at vocalizing. To be accurate, they, the news gals and guys, and then those on the Senate Intelligence Committee, were knocking themselves out to come up with a way for outright impeachment of the billionaire.
I couldn't help but recall days in February 1974 when Richard Nixon was on the gallows. A few weeks after his departure from the finally sin-free seat of power, I managed an interview with Virginia's then-independent U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd Jr.
Senator Byrd, member of the celebrated Winchester, Virginia, dynasty, sat with me for an old-time chin wag. He was also a newspaper publisher, apple grower and political powerhouse.
I didn't question him as an interrogator from hell or a Hooverite. Knowing he had been Senate comrades with the 37th president, I wanted to know if they talked before Gerald Ford became No. 38 to end the national nightmare.
Senator Byrd described it this way. The president called him at 3:45 AM, thanking him for his years of friendship and apologized for leaving the White House. Mr. Nixon was in tears, slurring his words from late night imbibing and said goodnight after some 10 minutes. He had more calls to make.
The current spate of navel-gazers have a long way to go before use of the "I" word gets traction that count against the 45th president. Talk is cheap, of course, unless it comes from the airwaves.
It is quite a relief to know the political turmoil we're experiencing may have to take a back seat to the exciting business of baseball. Mr. Nixon loved the game, and that lets me return to baseball.
I've mentioned the joy of seeing the Nats' Bryce Harper put the slug on a pitcher from the left coast, then watch another Curley Dubya firebrand Koda Glover not take any guff Tuesday night from a Dodger he fanned to end the game.
While the Nationals manhandled the Giants last week, the fabled Willie Mays, 86, visited their clubhouse anxious to meet Mr. Harper and ace pitcher Max Scherzer.
Mr. Mays, I can report, spent two years (1952-53) in the army at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Va. He honed his skills there, learning to make basket catches. His New York Giants manager, Leo Durocher, regularly visited his 21 year old phenom.
Willie allowed his name to be used for a club on 25th Street, Newport News. The place was closed after some license violation. Willy wasn't involved and Mr. Durocher advised the "Say Hey" kid to play ball and leave the eatin' and drinkin' club to others.
I thought this was a good way to mix politics and sports. It's fun to meet and cover real people.
Here's another warmup before today's brouhaha in the Senate.
One of my favorite sporting figures is the late Joe Louis, the world heavyweight boxing champion, the "Brown Bomber."
Louis, in later life, began to appear as honorary referee for professional wrestling matches. He was a gentle man with fists about the size of boxing gloves. He was a great draw. My oldest son would meet him arriving, take him to dinner, then to the arena. The genial giant loved signing autographs.
It was fun talking with him and making notes.
One afternoon a year later the phone rang. "Hey, this is Joe. You gonna meet me at the plane?" You bet we did. He got $500 and travel fare for the show. I got a good story and a terrific memory. Even the pro-wrestlers were thrilled and loved being "knocked out" by the champ – almost.