The Strange Saga of DC Baseball

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.

2 Comments on “The Strange Saga of DC Baseball”

  1. Long live the memory of Gary Carter!

  2. The name Nationals goes back to 1859. In 1867 a team named the Nationals went west and toured. The team finished with a 9-1 record.

    From 1901 to 1904 the Washington Baseball team was named the Senators. In 1905 the team changed their name to the Nationals. The name was officially the Nationals from 1905 to 1955. Unofficially the name was always the Senators. From 1956 to 1960 the team was officially the Senators again.

    You are correct the expansion Senators were always the Senators even though some of the older fans referred to them as the Nats. In the late 60’s my father would always refer to them as the Nats.

    Here is the history of names for Washington professional baseball teams.

    Washington Olympics – National Association – 1871 – 1872
    Washington Nationals – National Association – 1872
    Washington Blue Legs – National Association – 1873
    Washington Nationals – National Association – 1875 – New team
    Washington Nationals – Union Association – 1884
    Washington Nationals – American Association – 1884
    Washington Nationals – National League – 1886 – 1889
    Washington Statesmen – American Association – 1891
    1892 the Statesmen play as the Washington Senators in the National League from 1892 to 1899.
    Washington Senators – American League – 1901 – 1904
    Washington Nationals – American League – 1905 – 1955
    Washington Senators – American League – 1956 – 1960
    Washington Senators – American League – 1961 – 1971
    Washington Nationals – National League – 2005 – 2010

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