WASHINGTON — May 17, 2012 will live as a day of infamy for Washington area baseball fans.
A below-the-fold headline in The Washington Post (which must prefer football to baseball) read, “Nationals Come Up Short, Tumble Out of First Place.”
Been there, done that.
I quickly began to rethink my plan to try to get playoff and World Series tickets. For the eighth decade in a row, we ain’t going no place.
The Nationals lost a game they should have won. The Pirates beat them (us?) 5-3. But for longtime fans, and for those of us who go back to the days of the Washington Senators, it was all-too-familiar.
We hope, we dream … then our hopes and dreams are dashed.
A well-known Washington baseball writer, who like me grew up in D.C., said that as a child and young man he thought “Hapless” was a D.C. suburb.
I thought the same thing. Maybe it was where the Senators trained?
At any rate, they were always called the “Hapless Washington Senators” … mainly because they were. And maybe still are.
Growing up a baseball fan in D.C. means you know how to accept (actually, expect) the agony of defeat … year after year. Winning is not an option. Your goal is simply not to lose all that badly.
Your team wins a World Series in the 1920s, then a pennant in the 1930s, and that’s pretty much it. We had some great players over the years, but we’ve been in a dry spell for the last 80 years or so.
Sure, when the team got good, the owners moved it. First to the Twin Cities, then to Texas.
Old Senators or the new Nationals, same thing. High hopes in the spring, in a funk by the fall when the team always falls apart.
As kids, we would walk across the Calvert (now Duke Ellington) Bridge on weekends and sneak into the Shoreham Hotel. That’s where the out-of-town ballplayers stayed. We didn’t know them by sight (no TV), but when we saw an athletic man in a nice suit, we surrounded him.
I got Joe Dimaggio’s autograph like that. Also Connie Mack’s, the not-so-athletic owner of the Philadelphia Athletics who was about 100 years old at the time.
We never saw the Senators, of course, because they didn’t need to stay at a hotel. They were home, probably dreaming of ways to lose.
When we got our new Washington team, finally, the politically correct folks said we couldn’t call them the Senators because D.C. doesn’t have senators. So we got the Nationals, which is fine by me. Although, come to think of it, Cleveland is not exactly a center of Native American culture, nor is Chicago the home to any native Cubs outside the zoo.
The PC people will get to them someday.
We do have great pitching and hitting this year. But we also have the injuries. But that’s baseball. Still, it hurt last week when a pop fly to the short outfield landed for a single as three normally very good players stood there assuming the others would catch it.