Washington D.C.: Where Baseball Always Returns

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It is hard to find a baseball franchise without a storied history. Through race and greed, franchises jumped cities quicker than an injured pitcher’s career. The period of 1953 to 1972 shaped baseball franchises into what we know today. Washington was no exception as it fell victim to not one, not two, but three franchise changes in this short period.

Washington Senators Move to Minnesota (1960)

Washington had been supportive of baseball for more than five decades. The Washington Senators franchise, founded in 1901, was just a piece of the baseball scene in Washington.

Starting in 1943, the Homestead Grays of the Negro National League began to play some home games in Washington. In the 1940s, the Black population in Washington was approx. 28% of the total population. The Grays played their games in Griffith Stadium, the home of the Senators. At this time, Washington and Baseball were relatively integrated. The Black population would often attend Senators games, filling the stands of a successful team.

Griffith Clark

Clark Calvin Griffith, nicknamed “The Old Fox”, was an American Major League Baseball pitcher, manager and Washington Senators team owner.

Calvin Clark

Calvin Griffith took over majority ownership in the Senators when Calvin Griffith died.

Griffith Stadium

Griffith Stadium opened in 1911 and closed in 1965, The stadium is on the same ground as a previous stadium, Boundary Field, built in 1891.

After the death of the majority owner of the senators, Clark Griffith, his nephew Calvin Griffith took over majority ownership in the Senators. His views for the franchise were different than his loyal uncle. In 1960, the Senators relocated to the Twin Cities and became the Minnesota Twins. The reason cited for leaving, poor attendance. 

However, a look at comments made by Calvin Griffith paints a different picture. “I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,” Griffith said. “It was when we found out you only had 15,000 blacks here. Black people don’t go to ballgames, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking white people here.” By 1960, the Black population in Washington rose to 54%. His comments and actual crime data branded Washington as an unfavourable location for baseball.

Washington Senators 2.0 Move to Texas (1961-1972)

The following year, the American League voted to add two teams, Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators. This move was questionably received by the Washington supporters which led to a league-low attendance. The new ownership group saw huge deficits in the first year. Optimistic, the Senators moved into the new D.C. Stadium with the Washington Redskins. This saw increased attendance, but poor performance still plagued the team.

1962 WS Pitchers

Carl Bouldin and Don Rudolph, pitchers for the 1962 Washington Senators

DC Stadium

D.C. Stadium or more commonly known as RFK Stadium. The stadium played host to the Washing Senators baseball team and the Washington (previously the Redskins) football team.

The only winning season the Senators endured was the 1969 season. Hall of Famer Ted Williams managed to get the team to fourth place in the AL East. After years of minimal success, poor attendance, and financial deficits, majority owner Robert Short was poised to sell the team. An opportunity arose in 1972 when Dallas and Fort Worth Mayors came together to convince the franchise to come to Texas. This was successful and once again, Washington was without a Major League Baseball franchise.

Washington Nationals Created (2005-Present)

After a 33 year drought of a Major League team, the MLB purchased the Montreal Expos and voted Washington to be their new home. The team was destined for success early on. Washington embraced the resurgence with the support of a new stadium, ample attendance, and vocal support.

Ted Lehner

Theodore N. Lerner former managing principal owner of the Washington Nationals baseball team, responsible for bring baseball back to Washington.

Washington Wins WS

The Washington Nationals win the 2019 World Series, beating the Houston Astros 4-3.

Nationals Park

The home of the Washington Nationals, National Park. The stadium sits along the Anacostia River in the neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

Above all, the new ownership has been confident in a long stay in Washington. Ted Lehner, a managing principal owner, stated, “It has long been my dream to bring the national pastime back to my hometown, the nation’s capital. Now that it has been realized, I plan on doing everything I can to make sure that this franchise becomes an international jewel for MLB, D.C., and the nation.” It appears the new ownership group, supporters, and the city all are betting on the Washington Nationals.

Washington Baseball Timeline

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