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If Charlie Brotman gets his way, the 44th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game will be played before Washington’s new major league baseball team takes the field at RFK Stadium.
Of course, the plan depends on the majors agreeing to move the sputtering Montreal Expos to the nation’s capital next season, a decision that is expected to be made in the coming weeks.
But if Washington lands a team, Brotman, 76, will lead the effort to make the annual game between Republican and Democratic lawmakers the first half of a doubleheader before the professional players play the night cap.
Brotman may be just the man to do it.
A former public address announcer and promoter for the Washington Senators, Brotman has worked for years to return major league baseball to the nation’s capital.
More importantly, it was Brotman who in the early 1960s helped revive Congressional baseball — and scheduled it before a Washington Senators game.
As a result, Brotman is this year’s inductee into Roll Call Congressional Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Charlie was our outside guy, he was a big help,” said Roll Call founder Sid Yudain, who launched the annual Congressional Baseball Game with Brotman and stamped it with Roll Call’s name. “We were kind of amateurs and he guided us along the right way to get this thing moving. We depended on him a lot for his know-how and enthusiasm.”
Though the first Congressional baseball game dates back to 1909, the “modern era” began in 1962. The revival had its origins in a home run contest that Brotman helped to stage a few years earlier featuring the New York Yankees’ Mickey Mantle and his Congressman along with the St. Louis Cardinals’ Roy Seavers and his Congressman.
Seeking to draw more fans to Senators’ games, Brotman also invented the “Bat Days” and “Hat Days” that are now ubiquitous with baseball promotions.
The home run contest, held before a Washington Senators game, was a hit.
“I must have gotten a dozen phone calls from Members’ offices who wanted their Congressmen to be involved the next year,” Brotman said.
So in 1962, Brotman and Yudain decided to expand the home run contest to a full-fledged game.
Brotman now wants to return the event to its slot before a major league game in Washington.
“The game shouldn’t be anywhere else,” Brotman said.
“That’s were it belongs — that’s where it should be,” Yudain agreed.
Brotman believes that the sources he has developed during his four-decade career in the Washington sports world will help him move the game — if Washington gets a team.
“Contacts are everything — not the most important thing — everything,” Brotman said, paraphrasing the words of legendary Green Bay Packer and Washington Redskins coach Vince Lombardi.
A native Washingtonian and diehard sports fan, Brotman has worked with nearly every professional baseball, football and basketball team in Washington since the 1950s, from the American Basketball League’s Washington Tapers to the USFL’s Washington Federalists to the Senators.
He also promoted boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.
“Charlie was Mr. Sports in Washington,” said Yudain. “He had his hands in anything that had to do with sports.”
“He’s done P.A. announcing in Washington for close to 50 years now,” said Phil Hochberg, the public address announcer who replaced Brotman with the Senators in the 1960s.
Brotman got his start in stadium announcing in the mid-1950s while working in sports broadcasting in Winter Park, Fla., where the Washington Senators held their annual spring training.
One day he was approached by the team’s owner, the late Calvin Griffith, who asked Brotman to move to Washington to serve as the public address announcer for the team at Griffith Stadium.
“I thought I’d died and gone to heaven,” Brotman said. “It’s the best job in the world — getting paid to watch sports.”
Brotman’s first day on the job was Opening Day in 1956, when he introduced President Dwight Eisenhower to throw out the first pitch before a game between the Senators and the Yankees.
Brotman remained the team’s starting announcer until 1962, though he continued to announce Opening Day games until 1971, when the team left Washington.
But it was one of the first things that Brotman did on his first day at the office that has helped to reinforce his status as the owner of one of the most recognizable voices in Washington.
After Eisenhower was elected to his second term on the White House in 1956, Brotman received a call from an aide to the president asking if he would serve as the official announcer for the Inaugural Parade.
Brotman accepted — and went on to call 11 consecutive inaugurations. In all, he has been the public address announcer for 14 presidential inaugurations.
His favorite was for President Ronald Reagan — “because he had all the movie stars” — but Brotman also was a big fan of the charismatic President John F. Kennedy.
He announced the inaugural parade on a drizzly January day in 2000 when President Bush was sworn into the Oval Office, and he expects to be back next January, whoever wins the presidency.
Today, Brotman is no longer a full-time public address announcer, though he does work the mics during the Legg Mason Tennis Classic each summer in Washington.
Instead, he works full time for his own marketing and promotions company, Brotman Winter Fried Communications, where he handles everyone from McDonalds and Starbucks to the Harlem Globetrotters and the annual Bastille Day Race at Brasserie Les Halles.
In many ways, Brotman is a throwback to the days when the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game was just a home run contest and the Senators were Washington’s team.
He refers to people in their 40s as “the younger folks” and he prefers a set of 3x5 color-coded notebooks over a Palm Pilot to keep track of his appearances and appointments.
But his advice to “the younger folks” is ageless. “If you find a job that you really enjoy,” he says, “you’ll never work a day in your life.”