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The Streak: A daily look back

Greetings, Nationals Journal readers. This is Barry Svrluga, and I'll be breaking into Kilgore's territory once a day over the next week or so. Those who have no interest in nostalgia, please look away. Others, read on.

Wednesday morning, as we pointed out in the $.75 edition today, is the five-year anniversary of the Nationals' 10-game winning streak, the one that put them in first place for much of the 2005 season. The full-on look back at that team -- and look at what they're doing now -- is here. And here's a chart looking at where key members of the 2005 Nationals are now, and where the 2010 Nationals were then.

But we figured there might be a group of you -- perhaps a small group, but a group nonetheless -- that might like a more thorough look back. With that, each day, we'll look at the game the Nats won, and feature one of the figures who starred in that game.

With that, here we go:

Game 1, June 2
Nationals 8, Braves 6
W: Carrasco (2-1)
L: Kolb (1-5)
S: Cordero (14)

Backup catcher Gary Bennett had the big statistical night, matching a career high with five RBI and hitting his first Washington home run. But it turned out the first win in the streak kind of characterized them all: The Nats, by virtue of two errors in the Braves' four-run eighth, coughed up a lead -- but then grabbed it right back. "Let's [expletive] go!" right fielder Jose Guillen bellowed when they came back to the dugout. "Let's show these people how we can come back." Guillen contributed a one-out single, but the big blow in a five-run eighth: Bennett's bases-clearing, three-run double. Cordero's save included deep fly balls from Ryan Langerhans and Chipper Jones, but concluded with a strikeout of Adam LaRoche -- and the start of an amazing string. "It was a tremendous psychological win -- if there is such a thing," Frank Robinson said.

At end of the day: 28-26, third place in NL East, 1-1/2 games behind

By the time Gary Bennett signed with the Nationals prior to the 2005 season, he had already played for five other major league teams, and, as he said last week, "I had a pretty good idea I wasn't going to hit .320 or 40 home runs every year." So Bennett started thinking thoughts other athletes tend to avoid: He started preparing for retirement.

"Right about then, maybe 2005 or 2006, I started thinking about, 'What's going to happen after?'" Bennett said by phone. "Those last four or five years of my career, I would network, ask questions. I had a few good friends who were five or six years older, and I would pick their brain. How was their transition? A couple of guys who played football, it was a nightmare. The day they were released, it hit them: They didn't know what they were going to do."

Among those people who Bennett talked to was Brooks Kieschneck, a former teammate with the Brewers. Craig Holman, a minor league teammate from Bennett's days in the Phillies chain, had retired and turned to selling medical supplies. Bennett began dabbling in real estate, going in with friends and partners in an indoor batting facility, then some rental properties near his home in Libertyville, Ill., as well as in southern Wisconsin.

And after the 2008 season, much of which Bennett spent injured with the Dodgers, he called his agent and said, "That's it."

"It had been four, five years in my mind that I'd been preparing for it," Bennett said. "And there were times, quite frankly, where it's not like I was lighting it up week to week every season, all season. There were times where if you had a bad month, you could be gone. So it wasn't going to be that much of a shock for me.

"The down side, obviously, is it was something I wanted to do since I was 8 years old. It's dominated my mindset. It was the only thing on my mind since I was 17 years old till the 2008 season. From that standpoint, it was weird switching gears and mixing it into the real world. That's one hell of a nice job to have. You're in your own bubble, your own cocoon."

Bennett used the 2009 season to be home every night with his three kids -- now 9, 7 and 5 -- and to pursue the real estate investments. Then, three months ago, he took on the job selling supplies to orthopedic surgeons and the like. The hospitals in his territory are all within a short drive of his house. He still gets to see the kids every night. And at 38, he has a new life.

He does so, too, with memories of that 2005 season. He won a World Series with the Cardinals the following year, but '05 in Washington, "it absolutely stands out."

By Barry Svrluga  |  June 2, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
 | Tags: The Streak remembered  
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Next: All-Star voting still unkind to Nationals

Comments

Very, very cool, Barry. Keep it up! :-)

Posted by: Juan-John1 | June 2, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

(raises hand) You'll always have my loyalty, Blogfather. :-)

Loved the first item, and will look forward to more. btw, wonder whether Guillen was rubbing his hand around in little circles on F-Robbie's arm when he said that? I seem to recall seeing him do that on occasion back in the day, probably as part of his good luck, er, dugout "routine."

---

But we figured there might be a group of you -- perhaps a small group, but a group nonetheless -- that might like a more thorough look back.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 2, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I remember this game well. The now-defunct BallWonk blog named someone other than Bennett player of the game, arguing that he was conducting a season-long MVP competition and the backup catcher had no business there. There was sufficient outcry in the comments that he changed his mind.

Posted by: CarlosdelVaca | June 2, 2010 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Was this Braves game the one that Frank Robinson had the umpires overturn a home run hit by Brian Jordan, I believe, into a foul ball?

Posted by: urbanbunnies | June 2, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Loyal follower? I was here when you were writing, "in the $.25 edition..."

Posted by: NatsNut | June 2, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't think so, urbanbunnies. I don't recall which day it was, but we were at all but the final game of that series, and I remember sitting in the stands and wondering what the heck was going on before the call was reversed.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 2, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Barry.

I attended all 10 games and remember the BUZZ walking to the Metro after each game.

Full STH in 05 and 06 and attended 65 or so games each year. Nothing besides opening day in 05 compares to those 10 games. Hope to get some Nats magic in Nats stadium.

That stolen home run game was a different one - and one of my all time favorite Nats memories.

Posted by: alm1000 | June 2, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I also recall ragging on 1b at one game because of her gal-crush on Smoltz, but that's another story. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 2, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the memories, oh Vowelless one. Looking forward to more.

Posted by: cassander | June 2, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Welcome home, Barry! Your retrospective even made this historian nostalgic (despite it being only five years ago). I look forward to the week ahead.

Posted by: lowcountry | June 2, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Wow, what memories. Hope you got enough from the interviews for a new chapter in the next printing of "National Pastime" (which, BTW, I'd just re-read joyfully this spring).

Posted by: JamesWebster | June 2, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Gary Bennett!! Heeheehee! Thank you for leading off your first "look back" with the guy who was the reason behind what I do now.

Posted by: misschatter | June 2, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The chart is awesome! I really would like to know more about Wilkerson and what happened to him. Was it his shoulder injury?

Perhaps an '05 reunion would be a cool event to hold at the stadium for one game sometime this season. We've actually had this team long enough now to have some old timers!

Posted by: raymitten | June 2, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The game when Frank got Brian Jordan's home run call reversed was Memorial Day, May 30, 2005. Here's the link. http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050530&content_id=1068423&vkey=recap&fext=.jsp&c_id=atl

It was a really humid day and I think we had a thunderstorm during the game.

Posted by: HistoryBoy | June 2, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info HistoryBoy

Posted by: urbanbunnies | June 2, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Welcome back Barry, even if only for a short time. That 2005 team had just a little bit of magic. Maybe they were just happy to be out of Montreal (and Puerto Rico). Reality set in far too soon, and it lingers yet.

Posted by: BobLHead | June 2, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

This is gonna be fun.

Speaking of long flies, one of the things I loved about Cordero was how well he used the RFK outfield. That was a guy who trusted his fielders.

Posted by: Scooter_ | June 2, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff. By far, my fondest memory of those days was the crowd being on their feet in the 9th yelling “Chief” at the top of our lungs as Cordero closed it out. He wasn’t always 1-2-3 lock down solid but you just knew the Nats would win.

Posted by: gonatsgo1 | June 2, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Great to have you back - and with such fun, interesting stories.

I have often wondered what happens to baseball players, etc. who are one day big shots, with a salary, grinding daily schedules (especially with overnight plane trips, long bus rides in Spring training or the minors), very little free time - and bang, suddenly "nothing to do".

Posted by: BethesdaFan | June 2, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I was delighted to see Barry's story in the Post today when, as usual, I turned to the sports section first. Watching those games with my son cemented our baseball bond. Like many fond memories, though, I'd forgotten the individual details of many of the games, including which particular player was the hero of a given game. It was also a pleasure to remember players such as Gary Bennett and Carlos Baerga. (Didn't Baerga once suggest to the team when they returned to DC really late one night that they should just sleep in the clubhouse -- a slumber party of sorts? Naw, that couldn't have happened.)

Posted by: Natsgal | June 2, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Nobody ran the bases like Baerga (and that's probably a good thing). :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 2, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

One of the best summers of my life my wife kept on saying "are they gonna lose" when we watched together and that was like our good luck charm,i loved that team their grit, F.Robby standing up for each and every one of his players remember the road trip to LA when F.Robby and Mike Scossia got into it and Jose Guillen had to be restrained, the streak was special and if you listened to sports talk 980 they had a voice over with F.Robby & hip-hop artist Nelly's hot-hot during that streak.Thanks Barry for a great look back.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 2, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Thanks!

Posted by: DCSec112 | June 2, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

One of the best summers of my life my wife kept on saying "are they gonna lose" when we watched together and that was like our good luck charm,i loved that team their grit, F.Robby standing up for each and every one of his players remember the road trip to LA when F.Robby and Mike Scossia got into it and Jose Guillen had to be restrained, the streak was special and if you listened to sports talk 980 they had a voice over with F.Robby & hip-hop artist Nelly's hot-hot during that streak.Thanks Barry for a great look back.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 2, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Apologize for the double post.

Posted by: dargregmag | June 2, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Hey BS! Nice to have you back for a bit! Yes I remember this game! What a great idea for this series.

I can't wait for the 5 year anniversary of our World Series victory or deep playoff run instead of a winning streak in June, but I will take this for now!

Mo_DC, formerly ShawNatsFan (2005)

Posted by: mo_dc | June 2, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

That was a great walk down memory lane-- the team and the writer who turned me into a die-hard Nats fan! Welcome back, Barry. :)

Posted by: JennX_ | June 2, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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