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Thursday, March 14, 2002
Must be in the front row!

By Ben Bradlee
Special to ESPN.com

If you are an editor of a big city newspaper and your sports section is alive and well, and you know your way back to the sports section, your children are going to see a lot of ball games from really good seats.

My children and I have enjoyed the fruits of The Washington Post's sports section for more than 50 years. Our list of benefactors began with Shirley Povich, the Post's great sports columnist, in 1948, believe it or not. It's still going strong today under Sports Editor George Solomon and his collection of TV stars, newspaper columnists and shoe leather reporters.

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Ben Bradlee and his children saw many of Washington's greatest sports moments over the years.
My first memory of this great privilege came when my oldest son, Ben, was a teenager and his beloved Red Sox were in town for a set against the lowly Senators. Shirley took us out to the infield during practice, and introduced us to Curt Gowdy, the Red Sox announcer, and Ben could hardly contain himself.

And then there was Ed Williams, one of my oldest pals who effectively ran the Washington Redskins in the early '60s when absentee owner Jack Cook was living in Los Angeles. He fixed it so that my second son, Dino, sat next to Joe DiMaggio throughout one early Redskins game. DiMaggio didn't talk much, but he had his arm around Dino for most of the game. Ed also got Dino a job as a waterboy under Redskins coach George Allen. Dino was only 13, but Allen and some of his assistant coaches, like Tim Temmario, kept telling Dino that his dad's newspaper was pretty far left; they bought him some books about anti-Communism which Dino never read.

Dino's favorites -- players, not anti-Communist books -- were Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer. He regaled me with stories about Sonny and Billy kidding around during the pre-practice physical exercises, which neither of them enjoyed. Neither one of them could reach their toes, sitting or standing, and Dino still smiles at how Sonny used to flag his arms during some exercise that he didn't particularly like.

My daughter, Marina, got the same treatment. I had promised her that I would take her to a baseball game one day. She didn't really like baseball or know anything about it, but she wanted to go. All of a sudden the Senators were about to leave town, and I hadn't kept my promise.

Shirley Povich came up with two press box seats for the last regular-season Major League Baseball game ever played in Washington, and she still thinks that baseball games end when the crowd comes out of the stands in the seventh inning and starts swiping the bases, the pitchers' rubber, and anything else they can lay their hands on. She had a little trouble with figuring out how the score got to be 9-0, even though she saw big Frank Howard hit a ball way out of the park.

And my last child, Quinn, has kept me in the father-of-the-year race every year. Especially in Ed Williams' box at the Redskin games. He used to wonder why there were always some priests in the front row of the Redskin box. He thought he might like to sit there. But the priests were teachers at the parochial school which Ed's kids attended, and the seats did wonders for their grades.

When Ed sold his share of the Redskins to Jack Kent Cooke, our athletic interests switched to the Baltimore Orioles and Quinn and I both remember the crab cakes more vividly than anything else.

My most vigorous recent sports memories have to do with days in southern Maryland, where we have an old farm. Quinn and I go out in the woods, with four chain saws between us, clearing trees that have encroached on old farm land, burning enormous quantities of brush, attaching rope to the strangling vines that climb 30 and 40 feet up oak trees, and pulling them out with our Jeeps. Each of us has an old Jeep. I had one, a 1973 CJ5, and Quinn got one from his grandfather, a 1963 model that still runs like a watch.

We don't talk much in the woods, and Quinn used to wander off on exploring trips finding old trash piles, filled with broken china, a few old medicine bottles and tractor parts. It's all outdoor activity and it embraced some of the greatest times of my life.

Ben Bradlee, currently the Washington Post's vice president at-large, was the longtime executive editor of the newspaper that won the Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the Watergate scandal that led to Richard Nixon's resignation as president. A noted author of two books on John F. Kennedy, he also published his memoirs, "A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures," in 1995.