Jul 19

Good Ol’ Days: Fans Get Behind Nats in Turn-Back, Comeback Win

Remember when most of the noise at a baseball game came from the fans, themselves, and not from loud music or recorded sound cues, or in response to from flashing scoreboard signs imploring everyone to “get loud?”

Remember when the fans knew on their own when to clap in rhythm to urge the pitcher to throw that third strike, or seemingly will a batter to get a clutch hit?

Those may seem like distant memories for most fans, but all that actually happened at Nationals Park on July 5, as the Nats hosted the San Francisco Giants for Turn Back the Clock Night. But for this night only, it was the Washington Senators hosting the New York Giants in a tribute to the classic Game Seven of the 1924 World Series, when Washington came from behind to beat the Giants 4-3 in 12 innings and claim the city’s first — and only — World Series title to date.

The teams wore replica uniforms, the ushers donned skimmer hats and the grounds crew wore newsboy hats and period attire. Of course, there were some anachronisms — the first night game was not played until 1935 and the public address system would not make its debut until 1929 (93 years, to the day, before this game, coincidentally). But the team did its best to make modern technology fit in with the theme, with the high-def video board taking on the look of a hand-operated scoreboard, and Charlie Brotman and Phil Hochberg hosted the pre-game ceremonies on the PA.

But the best part of the night was the lack of loud music  and sound effects. Instead of the pre-recorded “walkup” music that usually accompanies each plate or mound appearance, the players were greeted with an organ rendition of the tune. And as for when the clap and cheer, well, the fans were on their own. And amazingly enough, they drew on their own baseball knowledge — and common sense — to make the park as raucous as it has ever been as they cheered the team to a comeback win.

Just as the Senators came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the classic 1924 Game 7, the Nats were behind 5-1 in the seventh inning before mounting their big rally. The crowd of 29,819 was behind Ross Detwiler as he struck out five batters on a steamy night when the Giants did their damage with of dinks and dribbers. But once Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa belted back-to-back homers in the bottom of the seventh, the fans were on their feet without being told.

When Tyler Clippard pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to keep the deficit at one run, they were cheering loudly, and by the time Bryce Harper had the second of his RBI singles in the ninth inning to tie the game, the place was roaring. When Adam LaRoche stepped to the plate with one out and the bases loaded in a tie game, the noise was practically deafening, and as Harper raced home with the winning run on a botched double-play grounder, it seemed the place was shaking — possibly as much as Griffith Stadium shook when Muddey Ruel scored the Series winner in 1924 after Earl McNeely’s grounder bad-hopped by Freddie Linstrom.

A satisfying win by the Nats, a satisfying reaction from the hometown crowd and a satisfying peek back through nostalgic eyes at what 1924 might have looked and sounded like.