WASHINGTON — I spotted a well worn-in, yet absolutely remarkable Senators jacket in the crowd at the Nationals victory parade today.
I just knew the man wearing it had a story to tell.
He was 3-years-old when Niel Valis went to his first Senators game. His older brother Wayne recalled that, "he had barely gotten out of diapers, but I was an older man." At a whopping six years of age, Wayne was his little brother's best friend.
"My brother and I...we used to catch the bus to go to the Senators [games]," Niel reminisced. They lived in Arlington, Virginia and would take the bus to Griffith Stadium. "It was 3 cents for the bus ride and 1 cent for the transfer," Niel told me. Wayne remembered the trip being a bit more expensive at 5 cents a trip.
Tickets to the game? Those cost one dollar. They didn't have a lot of money growing up, but they loved baseball so they'd save up for the "knothole game."
They remembered catching the transfer bus which they referred to as 'old sparky.' "It was a cable car and the sparks would fly all the way to Florida avenue," explained Niel.
When the Senators left DC they didn’t abandon ship and root for the Orioles (like some other people). No – they always held out hope for another team one day.
And in 2005 when that hope became a reality...
"I told my wife I was going to buy season tickets. She said, you don’t like baseball. I said I love baseball. We just haven’t had it for 33 years. I courted her, married her and during all that, we never had a team," Wayne laughed.
His love of Washington baseball laid dormant for so many years that his wife didn't even know about it!
"She was shocked to find out that I like baseball," he recalled.
Well you won’t be shocked to hear how happy they were about the Nationals World Series win.
Niel said that he was so happy that, "I could die happy now after 70 years of waiting." But his older brother Wayne isn't quite ready for the grave just yet. "Happy I am, but not to die," he proclaimed.
When I asked them about our chances for a back to back victory next season they were united on that front: "I believe we have a great chance to take it again," Niel told me. "We're in it to win it. And they're going to fight, fight, fight, win, win, win. Go Nats go!"