Mug Shots: Drinking Games

Posted June 2, 2004 at 3:27pm

With the Congressional softball season well under way, the cracking of bats and the cracking of beers are once again combining to make beautiful music all across Capitol Hill.

And with the post- and sometimes pre-game drinking action often as important to Hillites as the on-the-field action, what better way to kick off Roll Call’s new happy hour column than by discussing two of Congressional softball players’ favorite watering holes?

It’s important to note, however, that these two bars are by no means the only places softball players are known to frequent. With 161 teams in the Congressional Softball League this year, most squads have their own preferred places to drink and some simply head to the closest pubs with cold beer.

As one local bartender bluntly put it, “Softball is only a prelude to the binge drinking.”

And he seems to be a man who knows what his customers want.

“Everyone has their place on the team, and I’m here to drink,” claimed one softball player who was already looking for a beer as she was warming up with the Department of Transportation’s team last week.

So we’ll start with two favorites.

My Brother’s Place, tucked behind the Labor Department and literally just a stone’s throw away from the Capitol, has long been a draw for thirsty softball players after games on the National Mall. But with the recent addition of The Flying Scotsman next door, this short strip along Second Street Northwest has become a main corridor of post-game revelry.

My Brother’s Place has been an institution on the Hill since two siblings first opened the establishment 24 years ago. The restaurant’s outdoor seating, with enough room to comfortably fit a pair of teams, is perhaps one of the biggest draws for patrons looking to relax on a cool summer night. For those looking to catch a late-night ballgame, the indoor televisions are usually tuned to one sporting event or another.

Although manager Mike Guarino admitted that his restaurant has seen fewer teams lately with preparations for the World War II memorial celebration taking up large amounts of Mall space normally used for softball, business has not suffered too much. Guarino said one strategy the bar employs is to instruct staff to hit the Mall and distribute flyers advertising their $5.95 pitcher specials for kickball and softball teams who come to the bar wearing their uniforms.

On Wednesday, two members of the Flying Scots, a team sponsored by the bar next door, warmed up for their contest against Joe-mentum, the team sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), by tipping a few back on the benches outside My Brother’s Place.

“Actually we were hoping the game got rained out so we could stay there,” one player said sheepishly.

With 15 beers on tap and nightly drink specials, Guarino said teams also enjoy My Brother’s Place because the kitchen stays open late, usually until 11 p.m. or later.

The $6.25 “My Brother’s Burger” and $6.75 classic steak and cheese sandwich are two of the bar’s most popular items, but the watering hole also offers your typical bar munchies, including buffalo wings and nachos.

Drink specials include $2 Sam Adams Light and Coronas on Wednesdays, a Thursday $1.50 domestic bottle special from 6 to 9 p.m. and “beat the clock” Friday’s, which offers 25 cent drafts beginning at 6 p.m. and going up 50 cents every hour.

“The camaraderie of softball and drinking goes together,” Guarino said. “We see a lot of pre-game drinking — I think that’s where they discuss their strategies. Also a lot of teams end up coming in with the teams they play against and there’s flip cup tournaments and pitcher races.”

The Flying Scotsman, which sponsors numerous softball teams, presents a bit of a different setting than the blinking lights and noticeably aging interior of My Brother’s Place. With a Scottish motif (suits of armor and histories of Scottish clans adorn the walls) and a large upstairs bar area with a pool table in the back, the Flying Scotsman allows for lots of post-game mingling as well as easy access to a bartender. The bar area, along with its large downstairs dining area, can be rented out and already has been the location for a few local lobbyists’ private parties since the place opened in December.

The Flying Scotsman features 12 beers on tap including a very smooth Belhaven Scottish Ale. The all-organic menu offers a mix of typical bar fare and Scottish specialties, including Mini Bridies (a puff pastry snack filled with seasoned Angus beef, peas, chopped onions and potatoes for $6). For a different but extremely tasty dessert, try the Highland Banofee Pie ($6) a graham cracker crust topped with bananas, sweet Highland toffee and whipped cream.

In an effort to pull in crowds during its first Congressional softball season, the Flying Scotsman also features a separate softball menu featuring Fenway Dogs (a hot dog topped with relish and chopped raw onions), a Diamond Burger (vegetarian), a beer-battered halibut sandwich and more.

Drink specials include Thursday’s $5 pitchers of Bud, Bud Light and Michelob and $8 pitchers of Yuengling, Flying Scotsman Amber and Red Hook IPA until 10 p.m. Wednesday features half-priced glasses of wine all night. And every weekday from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. pre-gamers can enjoy $2 Bud Light and Michelob draughts and $3 house cocktails.

At the end of May, the Flying Scotsman also began holding Quizzo games every Monday at 7 p.m.; prizes include free bar tabs for the winners.

According to the Scotsman’s manager, the appropriately named Scott Fournier, the softball crowd usually comes in around 8:30 p.m. “They come in thick and stay all night.”

“They’re all in good spirits,” said Fournier, a native Bostonian who will often tune the televisions above the bar to a Red Sox game. “Its just a lot of young, well-educated people binge drinking.”

And according to Gary Caruso, the commissioner of the Congressional Softball League, playing softball and drinking have long been two traditions that have gone hand- in-hand.

“Most teams have a cooler with them, but look forward to socializing and grabbing a sandwich after the game,” Caruso said in an e-mail. “Some teams send out solicitations saying that they are an easy win … as one team wrote, ‘come out and kick our butts, we are there for the fun and beer anyways.’”

“The softball/bar culture is one of the last throwbacks to the days of Bob Dole, Jerry Ford, Tip O’Neill and George Mitchell who fought during business hours but socialized after-hours as friends,” he wrote. “It would greatly improve the atmosphere of the Hill if at least once a week everyone could compete in a competitive activity like softball and afterwards socialize with their opponents.”