Perhaps the most lasting image to come out of the Nationals’ rowdy, boozy locker-room celebration after their division-clinching win over the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night was outfielder Bryce Harper sporting a firefighter’s helmet. But just how did an authentic piece of DC Fire Department equipment wind up in a Turner Field locker room, getting doused with beer and Champagne for nearly an hour after the game?
It started last Friday, when John Landi, a firefighter at Engine Company 17 at 49th and East Capitol streets, Northeast, heard from a friend that Harper sent out a tweet (since deleted), saying he was looking for a special favor.
“I got a hold of his representatives, and they told me he wanted a helmet for when they clinched,” Landi tells Washingtonian. “I did what I could. I had a helmet lying around from my collection.”
Harper’s spoken in the past about his admiration for emergency responders. During his rookie season in 2012, he said in response to a fan’s question about what he’d do if he wasn’t a baseball player that he’d “probably be a firefighter.”
The Nationals’ burning through the New York Mets before moving on to Atlanta and closing in on the division title didn’t leave Landi with much turnaround time to get Harper his helmet. Landi says he asked some of his colleagues to make a customized front piece for the helmet, a leather patch reading “DCFD 34 Harper.”
“All our front pieces are custom-made,” says Landi. “A lot of guys have their engine number or truck number. Some guys put their neighborhood, some people use their names. We just used his uniform number.”
The helmet and front piece were ready by Sunday, and Landi dropped it off with Harper’s assistant, who took it down to Atlanta, where it waited alongside the Nationals’ cases of celebratory beer and bubbly for the team to clinch.
“It was pretty cool knowing that I had a part in that,” Landi says. “All the DC firefighters were going nuts on Twitter and Facebook that he was wearing it.”
Harper doesn’t drink, but the helmet got plenty wet last night when the Nationals started pouring booze all over each other to mark their second division title in three years.
“It can hold up under fire so I’m sure the beer and Champagne didn’t do much,” says Landi.
Yes, Bryce Harper did wear a firefighter helmet to celebrate Washington’s division title and it is AWESOME! pic.twitter.com/f61YHWaVtk
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 17, 2014
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.