Washington’s Postseason Baseball

Oct. 10, 2012 — This afternoon was a monumental day in the history of Washington baseball fans.  For the first time in 79 years the nation’s capital hosted a major league post season game. Now, this might not seem like a big deal in other parts of the country, but in Washington it’s one of the few times that baseball takes over the front page and all those politicians end up where they belong on the back page. The Washington Nationals have been a refreshing addition to the 2012 baseball campaign. Besides hosting a game, they come in as the top-seed in the National League after posting a league best 98-64 record. It is rare that Washington has ever enjoyed much success on the baseball diamond. Professional baseball was started in the nation’s capital in 1891 when the Washington Senators were a team in the American Association. The Senators joined the American League when it was formed in 1901. In the early years, the Senators featured the most feared pitcher in baseball, Walter Johnson. The club also had a tremendous hitter in Geroge Sisler who twice batted over .400. Yet, Washington also had one of the most tight-fisted owners in the game in Clark Griffith. It was in baseball that Griffith made his living and he made sure that his players would be paid as little as possible. As a result, even with the Big Train in Johnson on the hill and Sisler knocking the ball all over the yard the Senators always seemed confined to the bottom tier of the American League . The only degree of success took place over a ten-year period from 1924 to 1933. During that time, the Senators made it to the World Series three times. Washington won it all in their first appearance ever in the fall classic in 1924 beating the New York Giants. The next year, in 1925, the Senators had a three games to one lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Somehow, the Pirates came back with three straight win and took the World Series winning the last two games in Washington. The Senators were back in the fall classic in 1933 playing the Giants again. This time New York beat the Senators and the long wait for another chance at post season glory had begun for Washington baseball fans. During that time,  Senators’ fans had little to shout about. They did finish second In the American League three times in 1936, 1943 and 1945. After World War II, during the next fifteen years, Washington did not even finish in the top half of their league. Attendance continued to dwindle at Griffith Stadium so Clark Griffith’s son, Calvin, who now ran the team moved the club to green pastures in Minnesota following the 1960 season. The Senators became the Twins and within five years they were in the World Series. In the meantime, baseball officials felt it was vital to keep a club in the nation’s capital. So they created the expansion Washington Senators in 1961. The new club lasted ten years in Washington. Despite the likes of Hall of Famer Ted Williams leading the club as manager, the expansion Senators were like the old Senators meaning they were not very good. The club was moved to Texas in 1971 where they became the Rangers. Once the team left for the Lone Star State, Washington baseball fans had little to cheer for. They could travel up the road a short distance and see the Baltimore Orioles in action. Yet, it was not the same as having their own club. So the long wait began for Washington fans. Finally, their wishes came true in 2005 when baseball returned to their hometown. The Montreal Expos moved to city and became the Washington Nationals. The Expos had a similar past history like the old Senators. They were traditionally not very good. The Expos were a 1969 expansion team. After a few years in cozy Jarry Park, the Expos moved into Olympic Stadium following the 1976 Summer Games. The stadium was not suited to baseball and it showed both on the field with the  Expos and in the stands with a lack of fan support. Montreal, like Washington, did have a moment in the spotlight of post season play. The opportunity came in 1981 when the Expos won the Eastern Division of the National League. The Canadian club got beat in the League Championship Series by the Los Angeles Dodgers three games to two losing the final contest on a late inning home run by Rick Monday. It would be Montreal’s only post season appearance. The best team Montreal put on the field came in 1994, however, as luck would have it they never made it to post season action. That is  because the players’ union went on strike halfway through the year with the Expos holding down baseball’s best record with a 64-40 mark. When the strike ended, so did the hopes of Montreal’s plans to remain competitive in the big leagues. A new stadium deal could never be worked out so the Expos packed their bags and headed to Washington following the 2004 season. When they arrived in the nation’s capital, the newly named Washington Nationals played in the old RFK Stadium. It was the same complex that the old Washington Senators played in before leaving town in 1971. For their first six years of existence the Nationals played like the Expos barely holding their own on the diamond. The club moved into a new ballpark called Nationals’ Park last season. The result of a new ball park produced new excitement in the city. This year the excitement of the new stadium  along with loads of young talent had the Nationals shocking the baseball world. The long wait for Washington baseball fans finally ended today with a post season game against the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Even though the Nationals got beat 8-0 the long wait was worth it for Washington baseball fans. No group of fans  in America have endured more and frankly deserve more to watch playoff baseball than Washington fans.