It only happens about once a century: A Washington baseball team representing the Nation’s Capital playing in the postseason! Last time was in 1933, when each league had eight teams, and the Washington Senators played in the World Series. Now baseball has expanded to many more cities, and two rounds of postseason playoffs lead up to the World Series.
A sea of happy Nats fans, wearing the team’s red shirts and waving red kitchen towels, fills the stands for the fourth game of the playoffs on a sunny Wednesday afternoon with temperatures in the low 70s.
The Washington Nationals, latest in a long line of Washington baseball teams, line up along the first-base line, and the St. Louis Cardinals along the third-base line, before the third game of the first round of National League playoffs. At the moment this photo was taken, the playoffs were tied, 1-1.
A view of the playing field and the stands at the beautiful new Nationals Park on the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington, D.C. Our tour guide is Tom Hayden, a leading authority on Washington Nationals baseball, and a fan of the National League team since it moved to Washington from Montreal in 2005. The team moved into the new ballpark in 2008.
The high-tech outfield scoreboard at Nationals Park, beneath a blue sky decorated with fluffy white clouds. It’s a far cry from old Griffith Stadium, where the American League Washington Senators played before relocating to Minnesota. Also a big improvement over the “new” ballpark, RFK Stadium, where the expansion Senators, also in the American League, left for Texas in 1971. Both those teams could usually be found in the cellar of the American League, far removed from the New York Yankees, who were more often than not in first place. Hence the saying of local fans: “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.”
Chicago Cubs fans usually are recognized as the most loyal and long-suffering fans of a hapless baseball franchise. I humbly suggest that Washington fans deserve equal credit.
View of the sell-out crowd of 47,017, largest yet in the new stadium, from the upper deck, left-field side. (For historical comparison, Griffith Stadium had a capacity of less than 30,000, and sold out once a season, on Opening Day. Typical attendance for a Washington Senators game in the 1950s was about 3,000 diehard fans.) A two-game winning streak was a big deal in those days.
Nationals batting, Cardinals in the field, as afternoon shadows lengthen in Nationals Park. Cardinals won the game, 8-0, to take a 2-1 lead in the playoffs. But the Nationals came back on Thursday with a 2-1 victory to even the series at 2-2. The fifth and deciding game of the series will be played on Friday.
After all these years, you might think a postseason appearance by a Washington baseball team is a big deal for long-suffering fans. And you’d be right.
A pre-game closeup of “Natitude” sign on the dugout roof at Nationals Park.
Fans wearing red shirts fill the concourse at Nationals Park.
St. Louis Cardinals take batting practice on the baseball diamond at Nationals Park before the game.
Many more photos from Nationals park coming tomorrow. Watch this space.
Photos and story by John Hayden
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