April 12, 2011
The Phillies are in the midst of a series with the Nationals this week. There is no city with a stranger or more confusing baseball history than Washington, D.C. It was the home of three teams called the Senators. (Though to save newspaper headline space, the latter two teams were commonly referred to as the “Nats”.) The first team known as the Senators began play in 1891. Initially named the Statesmen, they changed their name when they moved from the American Association to the National League in 1892. The team had little success, never finishing .500, and was contracted after the 1899 season.
Two years later, a new team began play in DC. Called the Senators, they had great success in the 1920s, then moved to Minnesota in 1960 and became the Twins. Immediately a new team sprang up called the Washington Senators, also unofficially known as the Nats. They stayed in town for 10 miserable years, then moved to Arlington and became the Rangers. There was a popular joke during their time in the nation’s capital. “Washington: first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.” The moved to Texas in 1971, where their futility as a franchise would continue for 25 more years, finally appearing in the franchise’s first ever postseason in 1996.
So this is the third team called the Nationals, though the first one officially. The original Senators are considered members of the Twins franchise. Thus Walter Johnson holds most of the Twins’ pitching records, though he had been dead 15 years before there was a team known as the Twins. The second team known as the Senators are considered as part of the Rangers franchise. The Nationals are considered to be the same franchise as the Expos franchise, and thus no one on the Nats can ever wear number 8, because it was retired for Gary Carter. Like I told you, there are few cities with a stranger baseball history than DC.