Art Silber, Owner of the Potomac Nationals, Has Been a Fan of the Game for 77 Years
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke barriers and stepped up to home plate for the first time. Art Silber, age 6 ½, witnessed this momentous event. It was also his first baseball game. The passion from that game instilled a love for the sport that Silber has never lost in 77 years. That passion led him to become the owner of the Potomac Nationals and earn the title of “Oldest First Base Coach in Minor League Baseball.”
Silber grew up just half a block from Ebbets Field where the old Brooklyn Dodgers used to play. It was a poor neighborhood, but that never stopped the kids from playing baseball on the streets. All they needed was a broomstick, a rubber ball and a little creativity.
“Home plate was the sewer, second base was another sewer, first base was the left rear tire of the Chevy on one side of the street, and third base was the right front tire of the Ford on the other side of the street,” he says.
They played all year long and sometimes would get lucky enough to hear the National Anthem drifting on the breeze from the stadium down the street. When they heard those opening notes, the kids would stop the game, take off their baseball caps and lay the caps over their hearts.
“I didn’t really play on grass until I made my high school team,” Silber says.
He played baseball throughout high school and at Franklin & Marshall College. He even had the opportunity to play professionally but had to turn it down.
“My father was an immigrant, who actually loved baseball, but would have literally killed me if dropped out of college to play baseball,” Silber says with a laugh.
After college, Silber began a long path that would lead to a successful career in the world of banking. He started in the mailroom, making only $60 a week after college, but then made his way up through every level of management in banking, until he became president and CEO of Sterling Bank & Trust in Baltimore.
This path eventually led him back to the world of baseball when he was presented with the opportunity to buy a minor league team called the Potomac Nationals. He bought the team 28 years ago and has never looked back.
“It’s been, frankly, the best thing I ever did for myself,” he says.
He has a unique perspective on the team, too, since he wasn’t just the owner; he coached first base for 22 years. He’s been able to work with players like Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Bryce Harper. The team’s work with these players has yielded some amazing results: more than 20 percent of Potomac Nationals’ players have gone on to the major leagues.
He’s even grown old with many of the fans.
“We have fans that have come to every game for 30 years,” Silber says. “We’ve watched each other grow old.”
Since he no longer coaches first base, Silber is now able to move through the ballpark to socialize and sit with the fans. He says that “it’s a very homelike environment.”
Now comes the burning question: who is Art Silber’s major league baseball team? “Well obviously it has to be the Washington Nationals,” he says. “Almost half the players there have played for us. The fact that we’re so close is wonderful.”
For more information on the Potomac Nationals, visit PotomacNationals.com.