The batter connects with a mighty swing. The crack of the bat turns heads. Fans leap to their feet. "This one's high, this one's deep," shouts the announcer.
And so the story goes in our nation’s capital. Although it’s not a done deal, big league baseball is on its way back to Washington. The Nationals are still without owners and funding for a new ballpark but the transfer of the franchise proceeds. With the first wave of season ticket buyers, more than 810,000 seats are already taken.
The latest news is yesterday’s unveiling of the team logo, official website and nickname. The media coverage of the history of the Nationals nickname, including this article at their official site, touches on previous Washington National teams and reaches as far back as the early days of the National Association.
Not mentioned is the first baseball team in Washington known as the Nationals. Formed in 1859, when baseball was still an amateur game, the Nationals' “grand tour of the west” in 1867 played a significant role in helping to popularize baseball in the 1860s.
In this morning’s Washington Post, writer Barry Svrluga did include this Nationals team in his article, but his take – “In 1859, Washington had two teams -- the Nationals and the Potomacs. Play was suspended for the Civil War…” is puzzling. The Nationals did play during the Civil War.
Well, not to blame Svrulga. When historians have written about pioneering baseball teams, they focused on the New York Knickerbockers, America’s first baseball club, and the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first professional team. The Nationals can be found in brief mentions in books such Charles Alexander’s, Baseball: A History and probably somewhere at a google search.
The definitve article on the Nationals is in an article entitled, The Washington Nationals and the Development of America’s National Pastime. Written by two local baseball fans and museum consultants, Frank Ceresi and Carol McMains, and published in Washington History magazine, this fully-documented piece tells the story of this team.
E.F. French (2B), a Treasury Department employee, helped found the team. His collection of documents, known as the French Collection, was a great source of information for Ceresi and McMains.
In 1865, the Nationals hosted the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Philadelphia Athletic, two of the best teams in the country, for a tournament in the capital. The games were a sensation and played at the White Lot, where the Ellipse is now located.
The tour of the west began on July 11, 1867. Henry Chadwick reported on the team. Articles were written for The Washington Star and The New York Post. The Nationals won 9 of 10 against teams in Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, St Louis and Chicago. The players included George Wright, one of the greatest baseballers of the time.
The National's 53-10 spanking of the Cincinnati Red Stockings "ignited the Red Stockings into immediate action."
In closing, let me say I wish that Montreal could have kept the Expos. The greater Washington area deserves a team, but it should have been through expansion. And I wish at least 50%, if not more of the funding could be done privately.
One of the things I love about the probable return of major league baseball to Washington is the powerful way it has transported me back into the past. My first big league game was at RFK in 1966. Frank Howard crushed one and the home team won. Senators would have been a great sentimental choice for this new team but Nationals works too. If and when that ball lands in the bleachers, another set of baseball dots will be connected.
The superstats for 2004, at least the unofficial ones, are in.
According to Bill Rubenstein, who has access to Pete Palmer’s calculations, Barry Bonds posted a 258 figure for OPS+ in 2004, giving him the three highest in major league history.(BR.com has him at 260).
(Bill’s note:These are based on the revised linear weight system employed in The Baseball Encyclopedia (2004), not those in Total Baseball VIII, which he didn’t calculate. The printout I have is ratherdifficult to work from, and I may have to revise these figures).
I was kind of surprised that Bonds didn’t have a higher OPS+ this year.I’m assuming it is due to SBC’s park factor, that was down, evidently, from the previous four years. Oh well, I guess the debate will continue.It seemed like Barry’s 2004 season was the greatest, but maybe not.
Have you ever heard of Henry and Holly Stephenson?
The mom and pop team had an important job with Major League Baseball. For the last 24 years, they wrote up the schedule.
Several weeks ago I made some observations on the Giants' 2005 schedule.One thing that stood out was that the Giants would play the A’s in May. Previously, I think, they started in June. The reason for this is partly explained by a change in who prepares the schedule. MLB has hired a new team out of Butler, Pennsylvania.
Congratulations to Barry. Seven MVP awards, four in a row. Wow.
Bonds is also knocking on Babe Ruth’s door in terms of Total Player Wins.The league leader the last five seasons, Bonds now ranks second behind the Bambino (Ruth has 133.6, a figure that include his pitching).I’m not sure what Bonds’s 2005 TPW is, but let’s say it is 10.That would give him 121.1, about 20 more than third place Honus Wagner (102.7).
Apologies for the lack of posting. This 48-year old body takes longer these days to recover from the Red Eye games. Great to see the BoSox win it all. I know a couple of Red Sox fans and they can’t get the smiles off their faces. Enjoy the feeling!!
Although it has been unseasonably warm here lately, the Hot Stove is getting ready for action. You know you are a baseball nut when you keep going to your favorite baseball sites, well knowing the same stories and pictures are likely to still be on the home page. Compared to having just the newspaper when I was a kid, there’s tons more information nowadays. But we baseball junkies never seem to get enough.
Ok, I do have a life outside baseball. The dirty dishes are leaning, the cat wants out and the lovely wife needs kissing...