… and last in the American League” (an old joke about the Washington Senators).
Something happened yesterday that I’d never seen. A baseball team from Washington participated in a postseason game. Actually two things happened that I’d never seen. The second? A baseball team from Washington won a postseason game. It’s unusual to see but it’s typical for the nation’s capital. You see, they’ve generally had a woeful franchise.
The 19th Century Washington National League team never won a thing and is in the running for the worst franchise of the century. The fact that a handful of franchises didn’t survive more than one season makes it difficult to pick Washington, but they are certainly in the running (My choice is the St. Paul Apostles of the Union Association who played less than 20 games and never had a home game.)
In 1901 the American League sent a franchise to Washington. They finished sixth. They stayed awful until 1912 when a pitcher named Walter Johnson hit his stride. They finally made a postseason in 1924, winning the World Series. They got back to the Series in 1925 and in 1933. They lost both. For the rest of their time in DC they finished in the first division four times. In 1961 they left Washington for Minnesota, where they’ve had sporadic luck. Like the team in DC, they’ve been to three World Series (1967, 1987, 1991) and managed to win twice (’87 and ’91). They’ve had a handful of other playoff appearances. So the franchise has done better in Minnesota than in Washington.
Baseball thought it was a good thing to have a team in DC, so when the Senators became the Twins, the powers that be stuck a new team in Washington and cleverly named it the Senators also. Well, it worked about as well as the old team (maybe it’s just that the baseball Gods don’t like the name “Senators”). They were so awful they only lasted a little over ten years before fleeing to Texas. As the Rangers they’ve made the playoffs a handful of times and managed to lose in the World Series twice. So again they’ve done better in Dallas than DC.
And now there’s a new team in Washington and it’s done something that hasn’t been done in 79 years. Son of a gun.
And BTW Ryan Mattheus becomes the first Washington pitcher since Walter Johnson to win a postseason game on the road.