Rain started during the game and continues as this article is being written. Maybe it is an sign sent to wash away the many years of setback and angst. If so that might be a good thing.
For baseball fans in the District these are great times indeed. The 2012 Nationals have weathered injuries and adversity that might have derailed many a team. Today they stand atop the National League east and with a young roster and with talent on the farm they seem primed for a long stay on the mountain top.
Since baseball was first played here and local clubs organized prior to the start of the Civil War Washington has seen its association with baseball experience ups and downs, with the downs far outnumbering the ups.
The few periods of success only seem to heighten the periods of grief when generation upon generation has had to live with a team that has carried the tag, tail-ender.
The great 1867 club dramatically changed baseball from a game played in New York and Brooklyn to a national game. The 1880 club proved that Washington could challenge the great League that had held it in bondage. The success of the 1885 club set the stage for the cities first venture into the National League. The great runs of the 1920s an 1930s still captivate and who can forget the youth who was called “The Weiser Wonder.”
In the 1940s the Grays found a home here. In 1954 Washington signed another player from out west but never did get to see him blossom into a star, oh would could have been. And finally the 1969 club that gave us a summer of fun.
For all this there were the years of defeat. Defeat became so pronounced that some writers speculated that Washington fans were uniquely able to deal with a losing club. The 1904 club lost 113 games. The previous year the rooters and witnessed the passing of two players and the suicide of the beloved Mercer. The 1909 team lost 110. Look up misery and you might see the 2008 and 2009 teams listed.
As if losing was not enough the fans have had to endure some of the worst owners ever to own a baseball club. The Wagner’s who made a fortune selling off players, and then there are Calvin Griffith and the unloved Bob Short.
Has if this was not enough the city and by extension the fans were branded as unfit for baseball. This was written in 1899 but could easily have been written at almost any time.
“Despite the multiplicity of deals that have taken favorite after favorite away from Washington there is no chorus of fans heard crying upon Mike Scanlon for deliverance. Washington looks on baseball purely as an amusement. The population is cosmopolitan and sentiment divided. The Ohio men root for Cincinnati; New Yorkers divide their affections between New York and Brooklyn… and everybody goes to National Park for the love of the game than intense affection for the Senators.”
A new day dawns even if the sky is overcast, there is reason to hope. Like the song said, “Happy Days are Here Again.” But expectations like the team’s fortunes will chang and the next chapter of baseball in the District has yet to be written.