Washington Nationals: Birth Of A Franchise

Aug 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals mascot "Screech" waves a flag on the field after the Nationals
Aug 23, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals mascot "Screech" waves a flag on the field after the Nationals /
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Although the National League and others tried four times in the 1880s and 90s to establish a team in DC, it took the rebel American League and founder Ban Johnson to give the city a long-term franchise.

Started in 1901 as an original member, the team floundered from the start. In 1904, the team went 38-113. Twice more that decade, the Nationals dropped over 100 games. Not until the arrival of Walter Johnson at the end of the decade did the team compete. Second place finishes in 1912 and 1913 put the team on the map.

In war-shortened 1918, they finished four games behind the Boston Red Sox, their closest finish yet, for the AL flag. Finally, in 1924, they captured the pennant, delivering their only World Series championship to the city. A tense seven-game affair against the New York Giants. A repeat followed in 1925, but this time the Nats fell on the wrong side of a Game 7, this time to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Giants exacted revenge in 1933, knocking out the Nats in five. When they scored the winning run in the tenth on October 7, 1933, that marked the last World Series game played in Washington.

The Nats contended twice in the war years, coming within 1.5 games of the Detroit Tigers in 1945. That was the last time the Nats or Senators finished within 10 games of first.

By the mid-1950s, teams started an exodus west. The Boston Braves headed for Milwaukee. Philadelphia’s Athletics shipped off to Kansas City and the downtrodden St. Louis Browns moved east to Baltimore. By the time the Brooklyn Dodgers and Giants shifted to California, the Senators days in DC were numbered.

The Griffith family, owners of the team and stadium, first flirted with San Francisco. Opposition to the move, and eventually the Giants, killed it. With minor league rights to Minneapolis, they tried again. About to be rebuffed, a new third major league threatened to put teams in New York and Minneapolis, for starters.

This time, the Senators could go. Inner city teams and stadiums were no longer seen as money makers or safe. As Washington earned an expansion team for 1961, the Sens became the Minnesota Twins.