By Phil Wood
As an 8-year-old baseball fan in Washington, DC, I was cognizant of the fact that the Senators never seemed to be playing in the World Series. The New York Yankees were the American League’s juggernaut in the 1950’s, winning all but two pennants. The Senators seemed to exist merely to provide competition for the other 7 AL teams 22 times every season. Still, despite all of the hoopla that surrounded the Bronx Bombers and their superstar centerfielder Mickey Mantle, we took great pride in the slugging exploits of our own, Roy Sievers.
Roy, who passed away April 3 at his home in suburban St. Louis at the age of 90, was a genuine All-American power hitter. After arriving in Washington in a trade the Baltimore Orioles may still be regretting - Sievers for outfielder Gil Coan, straight up - Roy spent six full seasons at Griffith Stadium, 1954-59. In the prime of his career, between the ages of 27 and 32, Sievers averaged 30 home runs and 96 RBI every 154 games. He batted .267 during that period of time (also his career batting average), and averaged 72 walks and only 68 strikeouts per season. In today’s market, he’d be a $15-20 million a year player.
Oh yes, the Senators during those years had an average annual W-L record of 59-95.
The very first autograph I ever got on a baseball was Roy Sievers. It was June 21, 1959, and my dad and I went to Griffith Stadium for a Sunday doubleheader against Detroit. I had a brand new ball and my dad said to bring it along in case the opportunity for an autograph came along. Once inside after the gates opened - my dad really liked to watch batting practice - I noticed a lot of other boys close to my age were standing along the railing to one side of the Senators’ dugout. Dad suggested I join them with my ball and pen. Just as I got there, Sievers bounded out of the dugout, came right over and starting signing whatever was handed to him. He took my ball, signed it, and handed it back. A minute later Pedro Ramos - who was starting the second game - came out and did the same thing. Suddenly I had my first two autographs. Others signed the ball later, but Sievers is still the lone signature on the sweet spot. Washington swept Detroit that day, and Roy homered in the nightcap.
My heart was broken when the Nats traded Roy to the White Sox two weeks before the 1960 home opener. In return they received catcher Earl Battey, first baseman Don Mincher, and $150,000. My dad figured it was the cash that made the difference, but it seemed odd to see Roy in a Chicago uniform when the Pale Hose came to town.
I kept up with Roy’s career thereafter when the Sox sent him to Philadelphia in 1962, and was surprised when the Phils sold him to the expansion Senators in mid-July of 1964. He was joining another bad ballclub, but that aspect almost didn’t matter.
Roy mainly pinch hit for manager Gil Hodges, and his first hit in a home game was August 18, a month after he'd been acquired. It turned out to be a milestone. Batting for pitcher Alan Koch, leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, he homered off of his old Senators’ teammate Camilo Pascual. It was Washington’s only run that evening in a 6-1 loss to Minnesota. It was also the 315th home run of Roy’s career, and last one he’d hit in Washington. He hit three more long balls that year, with his final career dinger coming at Fenway Park on the season’s last day in another pinch hitting appearance.
It was my good fortune to get to know Roy over the last 30 or so years of his life. He came through town several times for card shows, and we’d sit and chat. When the Orioles were moving from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards the Orioles asked me to go through their old player personnel files and use my own judgement to determine which ones they should keep. They were not interested in the files of players who never actually wore an Orioles uniform, so when I came across Sievers’ St. Louis Browns file, I asked them to let me send it to Roy.
I did, and a couple of weeks later I received a note from Roy. He said he and his wife had spent an evening going through the file at the dining room table. “We laughed, we cried, it was wonderful,” he said adding “I didn’t remember how bad my handwriting was back then.”
Roy Sievers never “big leagued” anybody in his life. He was unfailingly kind to anyone who remembered his playing days, and had no shortage of stories about almost player he played with or against. He was a player of distinction on some second division teams in Washington that sometimes had very little else to offer their fans. Roy was the cornerstone of the Washington offense, a reason to go to the ballpark. He never got to play a postseason game, but he had no regrets. He often said getting traded to the Nats was the best thing that happened to him during his career. It was certainly one of the best trades the Griffith family ever made, and local fans of a certain age are eternally grateful he passed this way.
Phil Wood, a member of the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame nominating committee, is a commentator for WJFK (106.7) and MASN-TV.
By Hannah Yasharoff
Ceremony Set for Nationals-Braves Pre-Game on Sunday, July 9
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Five-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Katie Ledecky, former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and three intercollegiate athletic standouts from the University of Maryland spearhead a group of distinguished athletes, coaches and members of the media who have been selected for induction into the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame. The nine honorees will be inducted in a special ceremony on Sunday, July 9 at Nationals Park prior to the 1:35 p.m. game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.
The 2017 class is comprised of Bethesda native and two-time Olympian Ledecky, 17- year NFL Commissioner Tagliabue, Maryland men’s basketball stars Juan Dixon and Tom McMillen and current women’s basketball coach Brenda Frese, retired sportscaster Glenn Harris, popular broadcaster and former Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser, heralded Washington Redskins defensive back and kick returner Mike Nelms and long-time Washington Capitals radio play-by-play announcer Ron Weber.
“This year’s inductees have clearly earned their places in joining the list of luminaries who have represented the Nation’s Capital region so admirably through their excellence and accomplishments in sports,” said DC Sports Hall of Fame committee chairman Bobby Goldwater. “We look forward to honoring them on July 9 at the induction ceremony at Nationals Park and the committee is grateful once again for the generous and enthusiastic support of Mark Lerner and the Washington Nationals.”
The DC Sports Hall of Fame selection committee includes co-chairmen emeritus and veteran D.C. sports executives Charlie Brotman and Andy Ockershausen, former radio and TV reporter/producer Brenda J. Curtis-Heiken, journalist David Elfin, Georgetown University Sports Industry Management master’s program adjunct professor and sports industry consultant Bobby Goldwater, Comcast SportsNet anchor/commentator Chick Hernandez, attorney Phil Hochberg, Washington Nationals vice chairman and principal owner Mark D. Lerner, Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism Director at the University of Maryland George Solomon, attorney Mark Tuohey, radio and television personality and former Washington Redskins tight end Rick “Doc” Walker, baseball commentator and historian Phil Wood and former Comcast SportsNet managing editor and Merrill College visiting professor Joe Yasharoff.
Nominees for inclusion must have gained prominence in the Washington area through their achievements in sports as an athlete, coach, owner, executive, member of the media or contributor.
The 2017 inductees:
JUAN DIXON: A Baltimore native, Dixon led the University of Maryland men’s basketball team to its only NCAA national championship in 2002 and was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Dixon was drafted 17th overall by the Washington Wizards, played seven years in the NBA and recently spent three years as a special assistant on the Maryland men’s basketball team coaching staff. He is currently the head coach of the University of the District of Columbia women's basketball team.
BRENDA FRESE: The head coach of the University of Maryland women’s basketball team since 2002-03, Frese has guided the team to 13 winning seasons, 12 March Madness trips, three Final Four appearances and the 2006 NCAA national championship. Earlier this month, Frese led the Terps to a third straight Big Ten conference tournament title in her 18th campaign as head coach. Going into the NCAA tournament, she has a career head coaching record of 461-110, including 401 victories at Maryland.
GLENN HARRIS: A gregarious sportscaster who recently retired after spending 22 years as the host of “Sportstalk” on NewsChannel 8 and known for his extensive knowledge of DC sports history, Harris also had local television stints at WRC and WTTG and radio shows at WHUR and WOL. Harris graduated from Howard University.
TONY KORNHEISER: Kornheiser was a long-time newspaper writer and columnist, most notably for The Washington Post, following years at Newsday and The New York Times. He has hosted “The Tony Kornheiser Show,” beginning in 1992 on radio stations in the DC area and, more recently, in the form of a podcast. Kornheiser also co-hosts “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN along with DC Sports Hall of Fame inductee and former Post colleague Michael Wilbon.
KATIE LEDECKY: A graduate of Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart who trained at the Nation’s Capital Swim Club, Ledecky is a two-time Olympian and five-time Olympic gold medalist. She became one of just four American women to win four gold medals at a single Olympics with victories in the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events and the 800m free relay at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she memorably bested her own world records in the 400m and 800m and added a silver medal in the 400m free relay. She was named the 2016 U.S. Olympic Committee Female Athlete of the Olympic Games at a ceremony held at Georgetown University last September. After the Olympics, she began her career at Stanford University, where she helped lead Stanford to the 2017 NCAA championship and won titles in five events in the NCAA championships. She currently holds three world and six American records.
TOM McMILLEN: McMillen played for the University of Maryland men’s basketball team early in Lefty Driesell’s tenure as head coach and was a member of the 1972 United States Olympic basketball team. He was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by the Buffalo Braves, and later played for the Washington Bullets. After retiring, McMillen, a Rhodes Scholar, represented Maryland’s 4th district in the U.S. Congress for six years. He is currently the president and CEO of the LEAD1 Association, a group for Division I athletic directors dedicated to the improvement of college athletes on the playing field and in the classroom.
MIKE NELMS: Nelms played five seasons as a defensive back and kick returner for the Washington Redskins, including the 1983 Super Bowl XVII championship team. A member of the NFL’s 1980’s All-Decade Team, he was named three times to the Pro Bowl and was named one of the 70 greatest Redskins players.
PAUL TAGLIABUE: Tagliabue served as Commissioner of the NFL from 1989-2006. He attended Georgetown University, where he was the captain of the 1961-62 basketball team, was a Rhodes Scholar finalist and a Dean’s List graduate. He later served a three-year term as chairman of Georgetown’s board of directors. He is currently serving as senior counselor for the law firm, Covington & Burling, in Washington.
RON WEBER: Known as the voice of the Washington Capitals, Weber is perhaps best known for his streak of calling the team’s first 1,936 games from 1974 to 1997. Weber also covered NBA, MLB and NCAA games as well as the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He was the recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, given to outstanding hockey radio and television broadcasters, in 2010 from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
The names of DC Sports Hall of Fame inductees are prominently displayed at Nationals Park, the site of the annual induction ceremony. Information about the DC Sports Hall of Fame, including the honor roll of all inductees, is available at the organization’s website, dcsportshall.com.
Contact: Bobby Goldwater, firstname.lastname@example.org