May 17

What’s in a name?

Baseball in the District, if you ask many fans it would begin and end with Walter Johnson, prior of course to the arrival of Harper and Strasburg. Oh they might throw in a couple of “No-Win’s” and “Tail-Enders” but Johnson, Harper and Strasburg are the focal points. Sad in a way because the District has a unique baseball history.

If say a baseball fan in 1860 was able to travel to 2012 and had just a few minutes he might ask about the teams of his period. The Excelsior Club of Brooklyn? The Atlantic Club of Brooklyn? The fan of today would not have a clue. But what if the fan of 1860 asked about the National Club of Washington, yes the fan of 2012 would say, they have Stephen Strasburg. Baseball has some unique names, the Cincinnati Reds, dates back to 1866 but few have had the staying power of the Nationals of Washington.

The name, Nationals, keeps coming back like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. The name, fitting for a team that plays in the Capital of the Nation. The name has a rich history. The great 1867 club. The golden age, from 1877 to 1880. The 1884 Union Association nine and the Champion 1885 Eastern League Nationals. In 1905, Thomas C Noyes tired with the Senators tag was happy to have the fans vote the Nationals back. One hundred years later baseball was back in the District and so was the name.

And the Senators, a name that has been rejected twice in one hundred years, where did that come from……In 1884 when Washington was a member of the Union Association the ballpark was located on a vacant lot just opposite the north wing, or Senate side of the Capitol, bounded by New Jersey, Indiana Ave and B Street NW. During the long sessions, US Senators would watch the game from the portico. It was so convenient that many of them often secured a pair – a parliamentary excuse for being absent – and walk over to the ballpark and watch the game. One local writer who had witnessed this referred to the Washington team as the “Senators.” The name as stuck ever since.[1]


[1] At least until 1971. Sporting Life