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Last Men Out

The last time the starting lineup of a major league baseball team was announced in Washington's RFK Stadium, Richard Nixon was president, hot dogs cost 40 cents and nine men of varying talents, all living out their boyhood dreams, took to the field under a dreary sky for a final game as the home team, at least in this particular home.

They were the Washington Senators - a team not known for generating much in the way of excitement, wins or revenue.

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Ten days after team owner Bob Short, bemoaning declining profits and poor fan support, announced in September 1971 that he was moving the team to Texas, just 14,460 paid fans showed up for the final game.

For many of those and for most of the players, emotions ran more bitter than bittersweet. About 4,000 fans crashed the gates rather than buy tickets. Some carried "anti-Short" banners; others hung effigies of Short over stadium railings, setting one on fire.

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And it would only get uglier. The departure of the national pastime from the nation's capital 34 years ago was marred by ill will, pillaging and - horror of horrors in a sport that prides itself on its tidy symmetry - a final game left unfinished.

Still, life went on, even after baseball, for that last Senators lineup: the nine players who started the game, the relief pitcher who tried to finish it and the late manager whose body is cryogenically preserved at an Arizona "life extension" laboratory.

Contrary to how the players may have felt at the time, they didn't stay young forever, and they weren't invulnerable. Try as they might to cling to a young man's game, only about half continue making a living from baseball, the rest slipping back into life as mere workaday mortals - selling cars, hawking vinyl siding, working on assembly lines.

Today, the youngest of them is 54, the oldest 68. But on Sept. 30, 1971, they were major leaguers, soured by the turn of events but hoping to go out with a win as RFK's public address system - as it will again today when the Washington Nationals play their first exhibition game there - crackled to life:

And now, ladies and gentlemen, here's today's starting lineup.

Batting in the leadoff position and playing center field, No. 37, Elliott Maddox ...

Elliott Maddox, who drove in the last run the Senators would ever score, is 57 now and taking some time to figure out the next step in a life after baseball that has included legal trouble, marital strife, numerous jobs and 13 surgeries, one of which saw his heart stop.

"Dying was the greatest thing that ever happened to me in life," he said. "You learn what's valuable and what isn't, how important friends and family are. You wake up and see the sun and it's a beautiful day. You wake up and it's raining and it's still a beautiful day - such a gorgeous rainfall."

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That rosy attitude is a far cry from the kind of antagonism that led manager Ted Williams to dub Maddox and four other players "the underminers."

Maddox had come to Washington begrudgingly, and with a strike against him - as part of an unpopular trade that brought Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain to D.C. Maddox, who was attending college at the University of Michigan when he read in a newspaper he'd been traded, didn't want to leave - either the Tigers or college.

"The '70s was a great time," Maddox said. "There was total unrest and anarchy in the country. It was beautiful. In college, we would demonstrate every day. If there wasn't anything to demonstrate about, we'd demonstrate about it being boring."

Maddox, a left-winger, and Williams, about as far as one can go in the other direction, clashed regularly. When Williams held court on the art of hitting a baseball - something many believe he did better than any human - Maddox would take exception.

"Your theories only work if you're 6-foot-4, left-handed, with great eyesight and Superman-like reflexes, and probably only if you're white," Maddox recalled telling Williams.

"I'd say, 'Henry Aaron doesn't hit that way.' He'd say, 'Shut up, I don't want to talk about him.' I'd say, 'Roberto Clemente doesn't hit that way.' He'd say, 'You're really starting to aggravate me.' And then I'd bring up Willie Mays, and he'd walk away [ticked] off."

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Along with McLain, a 30-game winner in Detroit who pitched poorly with the Senators, Maddox and three other players seized on the label Williams gave them. Near the season's end, "We had a goodbye party at McLain's house with a big banner that said 'underminers club,' " Maddox said.

After two years as a Texas Ranger, Maddox was traded to the New York Yankees, playing just 20 miles from where he grew up in northern New Jersey.

In 1975, Maddox was playing the best ball of his career. But, while chasing a fly ball in Shea Stadium, the Yankees' temporary home that year, his foot got caught in a sprinkler head, causing a knee injury that ended his season and, later, his career. He filed a $12 million lawsuit against Shea Stadium, but it was dismissed.

Maddox was traded to the Orioles in 1977, then played for the Mets from 1978 to 1980, when his knee problems led him to retire. He worked briefly coaching a Yankees farm team, but has spent most of the years since then in non-baseball jobs. He was an investment banker on Wall Street, opened up a few businesses and was a youth counselor in Florida.

In 1997, after reinjuring his knee at his counseling job, he went out on disability. In 2000, he was charged with fraud for allegedly collecting $36,000 in disability pay and benefits while running baseball camps for the city of Coral Springs, but was acquitted in 2003. He was once sentenced to probation after a physical altercation with his estranged wife.

Still living in Florida, Maddox has three children, one of whom, an 18-year-old son, he raised as a single father.

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Batting second and playing shortstop, No. 11, Toby Harrah ...

Whether pulling a prank or falling victim to one, Toby Harrah usually got the last laugh.

The rookie shortstop, playing his first full season in 1971, would be the last member of the team to retire. He spent seven years as shortstop and third baseman with the Rangers, five with the Cleveland Indians and one with the Yankees before returning to the Rangers for two years before retiring.

He left the game as he came in - carrying the same picture of Mickey Mantle in his wallet that he had through childhood. Then again, he never really left the game. He has worked as a coach or manager ever since, slowed by heart surgery, he stopped playing. He is now a batting coach for the Detroit Tigers' minor league teams.

Harrah was known for being a consistent and dedicated player on the field, and a bit of a prankster off it. Once, before a Rangers road trip, he used a razor blade to cut every other stitch in the rear of the pants of first baseman Mike Hargrove's new suit. Aboard the bus to the airport, Hargrove's pants split open. Harrah confessed to being the culprit only when Hargrove, later a manager for the Orioles, was on the verge of punching an innocent teammate.

Harrah was selected to three All-Star teams. He holds records for hitting one of three grand slams in a game (against the Orioles in 1986) and being the only shortstop in history to play a complete doubleheader without a fielding chance.

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In his final years as a player, he was used sparingly, and in 1987 he opted not to go to spring training, instead becoming manager of the Rangers' minor league team in Oklahoma City.

"He was used to playing every day, and doing anything less was very difficult for him," said Harrah's wife, Jan. "It was very difficult for him to adjust to that type of role. The money is so big now, guys tend to hang on as long as they can."

The Harrahs recently celebrated their 25th anniversary - an event that might never have occurred were it not for a Toby Harrah impersonator.

While visiting Kansas City, Jan was approached by a man in a bar who claimed to be Texas Ranger Toby Harrah. Not being a baseball fan, she asked to see his badge. They talked for a while and, unimpressed, she rejoined her group.

The next night, after going with friends to see the Rangers play the Kansas City Royals, her group saw some of the Rangers at a bar. "I met your third baseman last night," Jan said to one of them. "No, you didn't," the player replied. "We weren't in town last night."

He introduced her to the real Toby Harrah. A year and a half later, they were married.

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At 56, Harrah keeps in shape, spending much of his time on the road, often riding his Harley-Davidson from one farm team to the next.

His photo of Mickey Mantle hasn't held up as well. Worn and wrinkled after decades in his wallet, it fell apart about five years ago.

Batting third and playing first base, No. 33, Frank Howard ...

The Senators, to the chagrin of their already disgruntled fans, were behind 5-1 in their last home game when Frank Howard came to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Standing 6 feet 7 and weighing 250 - or so said his baseball card - Frank Oliver Howard's nickname was "Hondo," but he was also called the "Capitol Punisher," a gentle giant and one of the nicest guys in the game.

The Senators, it seemed, had two father figures. Manager Ted Williams was the stern taskmaster. Howard was the pal - supportive and willing to give you an advance on your allowance.

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"He's just the greatest person in the world," said second baseman Tom Ragland. "When I first came north, he took me aside. He said, 'Rags, listen to Hondo. For the next two weeks, wherever Hondo goes, you go. Whatever Hondo eats, you eat. It takes two weeks for the first paycheck. I know you're not making any money.' He carried me for two weeks. I'll never forget him for that."

When Howard stepped up to face Yankees left-hander Mike Kekich, forlorn fans managed a decent cheer. Howard loved fastballs. Kekich threw one.

As the ball sailed into the left-field stands, Howard circled the bases. It was his 26th home run of the season, and the crowd cheered long after he disappeared into the dugout.

He stepped out briefly, waved and threw his helmet liner in the stands. But the crowd wanted more. Howard stepped out again, blew a kiss and, according to some accounts, wept.

"That's bull," Howard says today. "I was emotional, maybe, but not crying. That story, like my home runs, keeps going further and further the older I get."

Now a father of six and grandfather of nine, Howard is 68 and lives in Middleburg, Va. He works for the Yankees, in player development, and is a consultant for a liquor distribution company in the winter.

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As for whether the Nationals had made any overtures, he said, "That's all really just speculation and rumors. Our business has always been such that when you think you're in, you're out, and when you think you're out, you're in."

Howard joined the Senators in 1965 after seven years with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the Senators moved, he spent one season as a Texas Ranger and, at 36, was sold to Detroit, where he played two more seasons.

"I thought I still had a couple of years left in me," he said. "It's tough for any athlete to face the reality that he's losing his skills and his hand-eye coordination."

After retiring in 1974, Howard coached for major league teams in Milwaukee, New York, Seattle and Tampa Bay. Washington, though, remained home, and his last home run there, his most meaningful of the 382 he hit.

"When you've had your best years there and become so attached to a city, it was a little heart-breaking to leave ... "

Williams took Howard out of the game after his home run. "Ted said, 'You better get out of here, this place is going to go wild in another half hour.'"

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Howard watched from the dugout as the Senators, inspired by his home run, scored three more runs to tie the game 5-5.

Batting fourth and playing catcher, No. 8, Dick Billings ...

Like most of the Senators, catcher Rich (as he now prefers to be called) Billings wasn't happy when news surfaced that the team was moving to the middle of Texas.

"I didn't know a thing about Texas," said Billings, a native of Detroit. "I thought, stagecoaches and tumbleweeds."

But Texas grew on Billings. Once he retired as a player in 1976, he came back, raised three children and still earns his living selling pieces of the place he once dreaded. Billings, who obtained his real estate license while playing ball, now has his own firm, RBI - Rich Billings Inc.

As his playing career wound down, Billings said: "I was like everybody else, trying to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up. When all the [baseball-related] freebies go away, you get a rude awakening."

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He stayed with the Rangers until 1974, when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played little in his last two years. After that, he coached a minor league team in Tulsa for two years and went back to work for the Rangers in the front office.

Today, Billings, 62, lives two miles from the Rangers' ballpark and goes to games regularly. He is married, with three children and two grandchildren.

For reasons he never understood, Billings was batting cleanup in the Senators' last game. "That," he said, "tells you how bad a team we had."

Told he had three hits in that game, Billings was surprised.

"It's too bad it was a forfeit. If those hits had counted, I might have had a lifetime batting average of .221 instead of .220."

Batting fifth and playing left field, No. 20, Jeff Burroughs ...

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A first-round draft pick by the Senators when he was 18, Jeff Burroughs was the youngest of the 1971 Senators. He spent five years with the Rangers, winning the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1974. After that, he played for the Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays before retiring in 1985.

But his contributions to baseball continued.

He coached the Long Beach, Calif., team that won back-to-back Little League World Series in 1992 and 1993. He wrote a book in 1994 for Little League coaches and parents. And he fathered Sean Burroughs, now third baseman for the San Diego Padres.

As a Ranger, Jeff Burroughs played in another forfeited game - one of only five in the majors since 1955.

In June of 1974, hoping to pump up ticket sales, the Cleveland Indians held 10-cent beer night. Burroughs spent much of the game getting pelted with plastic cups, batteries and golf balls, and in the ninth inning he exchanged blows with drunken fans who spilled onto the field. Umpires, some of whom were also attacked, halted the game, awarding a win to the visiting Rangers.

Batting sixth and playing third base, No. 15, Dave Nelson ...

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Except for a year spent selling vinyl siding, Dave Nelson, the Senators' master base stealer, has managed to remain close to baseball since he stopped playing in 1977.

Nelson spent two years with the Cleveland Indians before joining the Senators in 1970. He spent four years as a Ranger, then two more with the Kansas City Royals.

"The year after I was released by the Royals, I totally had to work for a living," said Nelson, who lived in Columbia, Md., during his year as a sales rep for a vinyl siding company. "I didn't want to go and ask teams for jobs, so I just waited for offers. None came."

The next year, though, Nelson was hired as a commentator on Royals TV broadcasts, and since then has bounced between coaching and broadcasting jobs - in Chicago, Oakland, Montreal, Cleveland and Florida. He is now first base coach for the Milwaukee Brewers, a team he's been with since 2001.

He lives in Florida in the offseason with his mother, who suffered a stroke in 1997. Nelson, 60, has one son. He has never married, but once - before millions - he came close.

In the early 1980s, during a nationally televised game, Nelson, then with the White Sox, arranged to have the scoreboard flash "Will you marry me?" as he left his first base coaching box, walked to the stands and presented a ring to a woman he had been dating.

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The marriage didn't happen.

"We're still great friends, though," Nelson said. "She and her husband come to Milwaukee to see me, and I take their kids out on the field."

Batting seventh and playing right field, No. 30, Del Unser ...

Del Unser, now a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, has mostly fond memories of the Senators - infielder Eddie Brinkman tossing lit matches at Frank Howard, visits to the clubhouse by President Nixon, and a manager who could bellow with the best of them.

"Ted Williams had a pretty loud bark, but not a real enviable vocabulary. He made his point, though," Unser said.

Williams became manager in 1969 - nine years after Washington lost the Senators the first time (to Minneapolis). The District was granted an expansion team in the 1961 season. In 10 years, only once, in 1969, would it finish a season above .500.

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In 1971, the Senators went 63-96 - a record some fans and players, including Unser, blamed on a failure to invest in and market the team. "They were just very limited in personnel and wouldn't spend any money," he said.

When the season ended, Unser was traded to Cleveland. He would go from there to the Phillies to the Mets to the Expos, ending up back with the Phillies in time to play a role in their 1980 World Series victory. He retired after the 1982 season.

After some minor league coaching, he rejoined the Phillies as a coach. Since 1998, he has been a scout for the team, a job that keeps him on the road seven months a year. Now 60, he lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his high school sweetheart and wife of 39 years, Dale. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

He stays in touch with several members of the old team.

"Some of the best friends I ever had in baseball are the ones I go way back with. It was just a special time - the euphoria of being a big league player, to be in Washington where everything in the world is happening, meeting senators and congressmen. It's a big league town, and I'm just thrilled we got baseball back there."

Batting eighth and playing second base, No. 21, Tom Ragland ...

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Tom "Rags" Ragland never appeared on a Senators baseball card, but in 1971 he was called up from the minors twice, at the beginning of the season and again at the end.

It was a dream come true - briefly.

"On Opening Day, I got a chance to get in the game in the last couple of innings. I finally made it to the show. To hear that national anthem, that was just awesome," he said.

Ragland played in 23 games for the Senators that year, 58 for the Texas Rangers the next. He spent one season with the Cleveland Indians before being traded to the Houston Astros and sent to the minors, where he saw his salary drop from $18,000 to $11,000.

"I declined the contract, politely. I told them to give another kid a chance. My wife and I had our fourth child by then. I was 28. I wasn't ready to quit ball, but we had a mortgage payment and I had to provide for my family."

He went home to Detroit and began working full time in what had been his offseason job, making ice cream at a Kroger milk-processing plant. Now 58, he still works for the company, as a distribution manager, and serves as a deacon in his Baptist church.

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Ragland grew up in Detroit and Alabama, shuttled between the homes of his single mother and sharecropper grandparents. By age 9, he was picking cotton when not in school, and listening to baseball with his grandfather when he could.

At 5, he asked his mother for a baseball glove, but he didn't get one until years later - a discarded mitt picked up off the street in Detroit. A hardworking ballplayer - "I patterned myself after Pete Rose," he says - he went into the baseball draft straight out of high school and, after six years in the minors, got the call from the Senators.

"There were good fans there; we just never had a ballclub," he said.

In 1999, after 20 years out of baseball, Ragland decided to reconnect.

"I was on my way to spring training. I had taken two weeks' vacation and I was going to go to Florida and mingle, get my name back in the hat. Everybody in my family was grown. It was the right time to get back in the game."

On the way, he received word that his only son, Thomas Jr., 24, had been critically injured in a car accident. Ragland returned home. Three weeks later, his son died.

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"It took me five years to get my cry out," he said.

Ragland scored the last run in Senators history. In the bottom of the eighth inning, with the game tied 5-5, Nelson and Ragland got on base. Maddox brought him home with a double.

Still, he longs to leave more of a legacy to the sport.

"That's my wish, that I could get back in the game again," he said. "Not a week goes by that I don't dream about baseball. It hurts sometimes."

Batting ninth and pitching, No. 27, Dick Bosman ...

Dick Bosman was watching the news with his wife when he heard that owner Bob Short had received permission to move the Senators to Arlington, Texas.

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Bosman had started his major league career in 1966 with the Senators, and Washington had become home. He had met his wife, Pam, there and started a family that would grow to four daughters.

When he took the mound for the last game, Bosman was angry about leaving, aching to win.

"I didn't distinguish myself very well in that game," he says now. "I hadn't learned to separate emotions from the task at hand."

Behind 5-1, Bosman was yanked after five innings and watched the rest of the game from the dugout. "It was history, it was something I wanted to be there for."

He would play six more seasons after that, in Texas, Cleveland and Oakland, retiring in 1977. He moved back to Virginia and took a job selling cars.

"It was a means to an end, and that was to pay the bills," he said. "I missed the things about baseball most players miss - the camaraderie, the competition, the life."

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In 1986, Bosman was contacted by the Chicago White Sox and hired as a pitching coach. He filled the same role for the Orioles from 1992 to '94. For the past five years, Bosman, 61, has been a pitching coach in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' farm system, most recently for the Hudson Valley Renegades.

Managing the Senators, Ted Williams ...

Ted Williams died of a heart attack on July 5, 2002, at age 83, and since then has been suspended in liquid nitrogen at Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The former Boston Red Sox slugger's body is stored upright inside a 10-foot steel cylinder. His head is in a separate container, marked with his patient ID number, A-1949. Both are kept at a temperature of 320 degrees below zero.

Whether cryogenic preservation was his last wish was the subject of a two-year feud between his children. Some family members and friends had sought to have his body removed from the lab and cremated, as called for in his will. Williams' son, John Henry Williams, successfully argued that his father had written a note on his sickbed requesting to be cryogenically preserved in hopes that medical science might someday bring him back to life.

Joe Waynick, chief executive officer of Alcor, said Williams is one of 67 "patients" at the facility, which has another 730 clients who intend to check in after their deaths. While the company offers public tours, the canisters holding Williams are not part of them, he said.

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Williams, with the Senators three years, retired after his first year managing the Rangers.

In the Senators final game, Williams replaced pitcher Bosman with Horacio Pina in the sixth, then called in reliever Paul Lindblad for the seventh and eighth. In the top of the ninth inning, holding a 7-5 lead, he turned to his closer.

On to pitch for the Senators, No. 31, Joe Grzenda ...

Joe Grzenda is 67 now, retired and living in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, not far from his Scranton birthplace.

When his pitching career ended - 18 pro teams and 20 years after it began - Grzenda returned to his hometown, ran for county commissioner, lost and started looking for work. He would have preferred to remain in baseball, he said, but he couldn't afford to.

Before the 1972 season, Grzenda was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, who sent him back to the minors the next year. He played in Syracuse, then finished his career in Richmond, where his salary was too low to support his family. He quit in 1975, turning down a low-paying offer to be a pitching coach for a Yankees farm team.

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Instead, he took a job in Dunsmore, Pa., as a security guard at a vacant warehouse. When a company moved into the building, he signed on with them, making batteries for $4 an hour and later joined the managerial ranks.

In 1998, after a heart attack and back problems, he went out on disability, the plant closed and Grzenda - a father of two, grandfather of three - slipped into retirement. Today, his bushy white hair thinning, he keeps busy chopping wood, hunting deer and walking five miles a day.

"He's in and out all the time," says his wife, Ruth. "He can't stay still."

Grzenda was that way on the mound, too - itching to get his pitches thrown and eager to get back to the cigarette he usually had burning in the dugout.

When he entered the game on Sept. 30, 1971, Grzenda's delivery was particularly speedy. "I wanted to get it over with. That extra save would have meant more money the next year. I really wanted to see it end."

First he faced Felipe Alou, who grounded out. Some fans spilled onto the field and the game was briefly halted. Bobby Murcer came up next and hit a sharp grounder back to the mound. Grzenda threw him out. One out from victory, Grzenda waited impatiently for Horace Clarke to step to the plate.

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But by then, fans had begun spilling onto the field by the dozens, then by the hundreds.

From the outfield, "it looked like a human tsunami," Maddox recalled. "I didn't know why these people were running out. Are they angry? Are they happy? Do they want to say goodbye? Are they looking for souvenirs?"

"It was frightening," said catcher Billings. "The umpires and players stood there mesmerized. ... It was total bedlam."

Grzenda stood stunned on the mound. Seeing a large man with a long beard heading toward him, he looked at the ball in his hand and considered using it as a weapon.

"I got a little frightened. This guy kept coming and coming and coming. I thought, is that guy gonna tackle me or knock me over or what? ... He came all the way up to me, and all he did was touch me. That was it.

"They weren't mad at us; they were just mad at Short."

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As fans began going after bases, turf and pieces of the scoreboard, Grzenda ran to the dugout, still gripping the ball.

Umpires declared the game a forfeit, awarding a 9-0 win to the Yankees. When the crowds cleared, the Senators went home, Grzenda with the ball.

For 33 years, it sat in a drawer, inside a manila envelope marked "Last baseball ever thrown as a Washington Senator baseball club. Sept 30, 1971, Murcer grounded out to me."

On April 14, though, at the home opener for the new Washington Nationals, it is expected to be used for a ceremonial first pitch, thrown by President Bush.

"It's going to be a little exciting," said Grzenda, one of many old Senators being invited to attend the game. "In a way, it will be like completing the game from 1971.

"This whole thing has put some spark back in me. It makes me feel young again."


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