by Ed Lonsinger
on Friday, October 25th, 2019 at 12:46pm.
What a great time to be a baseball fan in DC. The Washington Nationals are on track to win their first World Series title in franchise history. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a casual observer, it’s hard to deny there’s a palpable electricity in the crisp October air. So let’s ignite that spark and start with taking a quick look at the history of baseball in Washington, DC.
Professional baseball began in the Nation’s Capital beginning in the early 1870s with franchises playing their games in smaller ballparks known as Swampoodle Grounds, Capitol Grounds, and Boundary Field. The Washington Senators are the most well-known team to emerge from this era, organized in 1901 when former Western League President Ban Johnson formally organizes the American League. They played most of their games at Griffith Stadium, sharing their home with another DC baseball team, the Homestead Grays of the Negro National League. Though technically based in Pennsylvania, the Grays played half of their seasons in DC, while the Senators were out of town. Winning nine Negro League Championships, the Grays were home to some of the most revered players in baseball history, including Josh Gibson, Ray Brown, Buck Leonard, Cumberland Posey, Cool Papa Bell, and Jud Wilson.
Following the 1904 season, Washington’s team name officially changes to the Washington Nationals. Newspapers and popular culture use the names Senators, Nationals, and Nats interchangeably for the next 5 decades. The team is moved to Minneapolis in 1960, becoming the Minnesota Twins. A new DC expansion team is immediately formed called the Washington Senators. The former Senators (now the Twins) and the new expansion Senators play against each other in the final game at Griffith Stadium on September 21, 1961. The Senators beat the Senators, wink. This new expansion team remained in DC until they were moved to Arlington, TX in 1971, becoming the Texas Rangers.
Washington remained without a professional baseball team for 33 years, until the Montreal Expos were relocated to DC in 2004. Among the finalists for a new team name were Senators, Grays, and the eventual selection, Nationals. The new Washington Nationals play their first game as a DC-based team on April, 4 2005 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Nationals spend years growing and developing a respectable team, yet the honor of a World Series berth eluded them for over a decade. Despite winning the NL East division title in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2017, the Nationals were unable to move past the NLDS, falling short each year to the heartbreak of Washington fans. However, DC would not have to wait long to find something to cheer about.
Following the success of other DC teams, Stanley Cup Champions Washington Capitals and WNBA Champions Washington Mystics, the Washington Nationals found themselves in an all-too-familiar position in late 2019: a potential run into baseball post-season. After clinching the wildcard slot over a win against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Nationals eventually beat the LA Dodgers in the NLDS, and swept the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 to become National League Champions and give the franchise their first ever World Series appearance.
Regardless of the outcome, one thing is clear. It is a great time to be a sports fan in DC. So throw on your red shirts and help our boys Finish the Fight! The Nationals host the Houston Astros tonight in game 3 of the World Series. They currently lead the series 2-0. Throwing and catching the ceremonial first pitch to honor the inaugural 2005 Nationals team will be former Nationals pitcher Chad Cordero and catcher Brian Schneider.
N-A-T-S NATS, NATS, NATS, WOO!!
Juan Soto will celebrate his 21st birthday today, during the first ever Nationals World Series home game
University of Virginia infielder Ryan Zimmerman was selected as the first ever Nationals draft pick in 2005
For years the winner of the famed Presidents Race at Nationals home games was always different, but never Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy had to wait his turn, which he finally earned during the season finale on October 3, 2012, the year the Nationals won their very first NL East division title