My paternal grandfather, (Jesse Burton Boling: 1902-1978), was more or less a loner and lived much of his adult life with his children in their homes. As a boy he was raised on a farm in Fredericksburg next to the Chancellorsville Battlefield. There, he helped his family with their crops and chores–hence, his second grade only education. He loved food, movies, and later TV, but his primary hobby throughout his life was keeping up with baseball, the games, and the players. If he wasn’t at home listening to the games by the radio, he was inbound to the District of Columbia by walking several miles from Capitol Heights, Maryland, to the nearest metro transit bus stop and then riding on to the old Griffith Stadium, named after the team’s manager, Clark Griffith. The Griffith organization had operated the team in our nation’s capital ever since Clark Griffith took over as manager of the club in 1912 (11 years after the team was originally formed). And I remember all too well during the 1950’s and into the 1970’s that granddad didn’t miss an opportunity to spend his weekends at the ballpark with his favorite team regardless of their standings in the league. In fact, my children’s fondest memory of “fat granddaddy,” (as they called him) was when he came to dinner after a Saturday afternoon game with official baseball balls and bats in hand for them. He had gotten them from a team-sponsored event.
Yes, The Washington Senators were DC’s major league baseball team from 1901-1960. In 1905, the team’s name was actually changed from the Senators to the Nationals, but both names were used interchangeably, along with “The Nats.” However, the name change didn’t help their beleaguered league standings. As the Senators, the team went without a winning record in its first 11 years. If fact, the media jokingly paraphrased and published a eulogy written for George Washington: “First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.”
On October 26, 1960, Calvin Griffith, then president of the team, made his historic decision to move the club to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, thereby giving birth to the “Minnesota Twins,” named after the two Upper Midwest cities.
Team personalities like Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Camilo Pascual and Jim Lemon were commonplace in discussions in and around our families households.
And due to the league’s expansion in 1960 another Senators team was started to replace DC’s team. This franchise continues as today’s Texas Rangers. Notably, “The Homestead Grays,” a Negro League team in DC shared with Pittsburgh, was the most successful baseball team in the city’s history.
As the Washington Senators, the team played in three world series championships: in the 1924 World Series they won over the New York Giants (4-3), in 1925, they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1924 (4-3), and in the most recent World Series played in DC 86 years ago, the team played against and lost to the New York Giants in 1933, (4-1). It’s now 2005 in the timeline of the city’s history of baseball and the Montreal Expos become the Washington Nationals–baseball’s 34 year absence from DC
If granddad was still with us, he would be right there in Nationals Park among the thousands of eternal and overjoyed fans rocking that stadium! I’m hoping he has the best seat in the house looking down from above. And, whether the Nationals win or lose this series, it’s an exceptional team and season of baseball in the District of Columbia to be remembered!