Home / Sports / Will D.C. remember this All-Star Game 50 years later? Something tells me yes.

Will D.C. remember this All-Star Game 50 years later? Something tells me yes.

If you were one of 43,843 fans at the All-Star Game on Tuesday night at Nationals Park, you probably had a wonderful night with a storm that just missed, a record 10 home runs, about half of them hit by likely future Hall of Famers, and even a competitive game with the American League winning, 8-6, in 10 innings.

But I can practically promise that 10 years or even 50 years from now, you will remember this five-day all-star celebration, and the friends and family you were with, far more than you can believe now. And I can prove it.

This month, I have been dumbfounded by emails from fans who were at the last MLB All-Star Game in D.C., in 1969 at RFK Stadium. They show how much people are moved by these symbolic emotional affinity-community events, how they remember every detail and every person involved. And how, 49 years later, it all springs back to life. You can’t make this stuff up. So I won’t try. Here it is.

Last week, I wrote about how I got to the 1969 Game on a fluke. I was a camp counselor in Virginia 100 miles from D.C. The game was rained out. Two boys in my cabin were invited last-minute to the rescheduled game because adults couldn’t use their tickets. They needed a chauffeur. That was me. I got to go, too!

I mentioned my memories from that game, including Willie McCovey hitting a home run through the face of the big Longines clock in deep right-center field. I wondered what ever happened to the ball — eaten by RFK rodents?

Two days later, I got an email from Marc Milzman, who said he found the filthy ball eight years later inside the clock, kept it as a souvenir, then saw it burn up in an apartment fire from which he escaped but the ball didn’t. I’ll print his note later.

At that 1969 game, a fan ran into center field to shake Willie Mays’s hand. Willie refused. A newspaper ran a photo. Someone on my Monday online chat said, “Do you know who that fan was? You should.” I was mystified. Until I got an email from Dan Freret telling me, “That was my father, Charlie Freret, who ran on the field. He was your teammate. I’ve heard this story told no less than 10,000 times.” I looked at the photo. So it was: Yes, the shortstop on our team in high school.

The MVP of Tuesday’s All-Star Game was Alex Bregman. While writing this story, I scrolled through last week’s emails. One, unopened, was from Ben Bregman.

“I grew up listening to Shirley Povich tell stories as I watched the Senators play. My father Stan was the in-house lawyer for the team, and my grandfather Samuel Bregman was a D.C. sports promoter. I played for Walter Johnson High along with my brother Sam — Alex Bregman’s dad. We both attended U. of New Mexico on baseball scholarship where the Reds offered me a can of corn and a bus ticket to sign. Now, after four generations, a Bregman finally made it to The Show. We are so thrilled to watch Alex and have our extended family attend the All-Star game.

P.S.: Tim Kurkjian (ESPN) covered me for the high school newspaper.”

In 1969, D.C. had a kind of a small-town feel. But I think it still does — a bit.

In recent months, a member of the family (the Leonards) that took me to the 1969 game contacted me. Stephen Leonard never believed the old story about his dad taking me to the game. After months of emails, we reunited in Section 240 at the Home Run Derby on Monday, my treat this time — the dad Bill Leonard, 83, his son Biff whom I’d driven, and brother Stephen. We had a great time, even though Bryce Harper tried to bean us with two home run bombs that went over our heads and landed on the concourse on the fly.

“Wasn’t there another camper in the car with us that day?” I asked Biff, who was 11 then and didn’t remember.

An hour before the All-Star Game, I got an email — yes, from the other boy in the car — Peter McKillop. He remembered many details of the day and the game. He grew up to be, among other things, a correspondent for Newsweek in Japan.

At this point, even I didn’t believe all this confluence of memory. What next, an account of the clothes I was wearing on July 23, 1969? Yup.

“I distinctly remember that day you and Biff left for the All-Star game. I was 10 years old . . . I walked into your cabin next to the rec hall. You were rushing to throw a few things in a bag and you had a raincoat on and one of those hats that men wore to the ball games in the 50s,” Bryan Lipps wrote.

So my hat was already 15 years out of fashion. And I had a raincoat on a day when it wasn’t going to rain. That sounds right. Included in the email were pictures, taken 10 days ago, of a reunion at Camp Whitehall with the Lipps family and many members of the Babyak family who ran the camp. (They looked great.)

Now, about that McCovey ball in the Longines clock. Marc Milzman writes: “I too was at the ’69 All Star game, 12 years old and a die-hard Nats and Hondo [Frank Howard] fan. . . . What a thrill. I saw McCovey’s home runs as well of course.

“Fast forward to 1977. I was working as a college intern for the Washington Diplomats soccer club. . . . We had an exhibition game at RFK against the Las Vegas Quicksilvers. . . . PR director Terry Hanson told me he needed me to run the scoreboard. . . . I was taken to right-center field and shown what to do. . . . It was a cramped little space. . . . And yeah, I was on my guard for rodents.

“I had a lantern or flashlight. At halftime, I was shining it around, and I saw a baseball under some contraption. . . . I crawled over and using my clipboard, wedged it out. It was sort of gross but clearly had that MLB logo. . . . It wasn’t until I went down to help clean up the press box that it hit me. This must have been the home run ball that disappeared into the Longines clock!

“I took the ball to Col. Sigholtz who ran RFK and the Armory. He was astounded that nobody had ever found it. He told me to keep it with his blessing.

“The sad part: My apartment building at Springhill Lake in Greenbelt went up in flames in spring of 1981. My roommate and I barely got out. Besides burning up two of my term papers, (what an awesome excuse I had), it also destroyed my all-star baseball.

“I was telling this story to a friend just 4 days ago for the first time in years. Then I read your article today. Synchronicity. And now you know what happened to the baseball!”

There’s more. From many people. But I’ll stop. You might not believe it.

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