Newark Star-Ledger sports writer Dan Graziano had another mention of the Washington Nationals in his Sunday Sports page, "Dan Graziano on MLB", in which Mr. Graziano included Ryan Zimmerman and his Opening Night walk-off winner in a list of, "Five Opening Day Home Run Heroes", writing:
"1. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington
The Nationals third baseman got the season off to a pretty good start in the nation's capital, tagging Atlanta's Peter Moylan for a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth last Sunday night in the first game at Nationals Park. He became the third player to end a ballpark's inaugural game with a home run. The others were Dante Bichette (Coors Field, 1995) and Bill Bruton (County Stadium, 1953)."
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Bill Bruton was twenty-seven year old rookie outfielder with the Milwaukee Braves in 1953 when he hit his historic home run at County Stadium, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 13 of that year, to give the Braves a 3-2 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds in the second game of that season for Milwaukee, but the first in their new ballpark, which was filled with 34,357 fans in a game the legendary Warren Spahn pitched in and eventually won as a result of Bruton's heroics. But the home run was almost ruled a ground-rule double according to an excerpt of an article found on Bruton's profile page at www.baseball-almanac.com, written by Sportswriter Frank Cline in the Milwaukee Journal, which picks up the action, once again in extra innings:
"'(Billy) Bruton came up again with one out in the bottom of the 10th. (Gerry) Staley matching (Warren) Spahn in going the distance, 'threw me a knuckleball and I liked the looks of it,' Bruton later said. The ball went soaring toward the right-field fence. Enos Slaughter chased it down and got his glove on it, but his elbow hit the four-foot fence at that instant and the ball poppped over into the crowd. Bruton started circling the bases as the crowd roared -- and then suddenly stopped. Umpire Lon Warneke was signaling a ground-rule double, believing that a fan had interfered with Slaughter's catch. Braves manager Charlie Grimm shot out of the dugout to protest, and he was quickly vindicated when (Jocko) Conlan overruled Warneke and called the home run. The Cardinals didn't squawk. Bruton finished his trip around the bases and was mobbed by his teammates at the plare. The new stadium rocked with the chant of 'Bruton! Bruton!' Bruton!' And the love affair between Milwaukee and the Braves was on.'" - Sportswriter Frank Cline in the Milwaukee Journal (4/15/1999)
Dante Bichette, then twenty-nine, hit his walk-off home run against the New York Mets and relief pitcher Mike Remlinger with two on and one out in the 14th inning of the Inaugural game at Coors Field in Colorado, on April 26th of the 1995 season, in front of 47,228 brand new Rockies' fans to give Colorado an 11-9 walk-off win.
Ryan Zimmerman, twenty-three this season, provided his own account of his walk-off blast to Washington Post Sports Columnist Thomas Boswell for an article about Opening Night at Nationals Park entitled, "Finally, a Foundation Built for Winning", in which Mr. Zimmerman states:
"'I've never hit the ball out of the infield against that guy [Peter Moylan],' said Zimmerman, who is on an enormous photo that covers almost the entire back of the scoreboard, showing him jumping into the arms of his mates after a walk-off homer in '06. 'I guessed right...I was talkin' to that ball a little on the way to first base. You really can't write it better than that.'"
Bill Bruton played 12 Major League seasons as an outfielder with Milwaukee and then the Detroit Tigers from (1953-1964), putting up a .273 career BA, with 241 doubles, 94 HR's and 545 RBI's, and Bruton led the league in stolen bases three straight seasons from '53-55.
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Dante Bichette played 14 seasons in the Majors with the California Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox from (1988-2001), accumulating a .299 BA, 1,906 hits, 401 doubles, 274 HR's and 1,141 RBI's, finishing second in MVP voting in 1995, first in HR's (40) in the same year, and Bichette appeared in 4 All-Star Games in his career.
Through seven games in 2008, Ryan Zimmerman's batting a combined .282 in his fourth Major League season with the Nationals. Zimmerman's hit for 102 doubles, 46 HR's and 210 RBI's so far in the Majors. So far this season, Zimmerman's batting .290 with 9 hits in 31 at bats, 2 doubles, 2 HR's, and 3 RBI's in 7 games.
Four years into his career at twenty-three years old, Zimmerman's four years younger than Bill Bruton was when he started his career with a walk-off in 1953, a year younger than Dante Bichette was when he made his Major-League debut at twenty-four years old in 1998, and eight years younger Bichette was when he hit his walk-off homer as a thirty-one year old in '95.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Having already accomplished so much at a relatively young age, Zimmerman's still got a long way to go before he truly earns a place, and not just a footnote like this home run provides, in baseball history, but Zimmerman's historic home run has already gone a long way, to paraphrase Frank Cline, towards assuring that the love affair between Washington and the Nationals is on.