I still remember watching my first Washington baseball game. I was 3 years old and was at Griffith Stadium with my dad. The year was 1948; the team was called the Senators. They played in the American League. They were, I later learned, really lousy.
But as a tiny baseball fan, I loved them. I followed their wins and losses; I believe I learned to read on Shirley Povich’s column on The Post’s sports page. I studied batting averages; my friends and I made hypothetical trades to improve the team. In real life, nothing improved them much. By the late 1950s, their owner was (Povich told me later), a vile racist, Calvin Griffith. When the team acquired a few good players, he moved his club to Minnesota, which paid him for the pleasure of his company.
Washington, meanwhile, was given a historically awful expansion team. No one much went to see these new Senators, but my friends and I did. You could sit in the stands at RFK Stadium with a handful of others and enjoy a game. If you called out your favorite player’s name, he might turn and look at you.
We had a great time and kept going back. We even went to doubleheaders. (They lasted about as long as one game does now.) The league moved our team again in 1971; the owner was Bob Short, a promoter with no money to speak of. Offered some dough to move to Texas, he didn’t hesitate. I was in the stands for the last game.
That was the end of baseball in Washington until 2005. And then, a new experience. Ted Lerner, an owner with even more experience as a fan than I have (Ted celebrated his 94th birthday on the day the Nationals won their first National League Championship Series), built a good team. He hired a baseball man, Mike Rizzo, and let him put together the franchise.
Now, for the first time in my life, Washington plays in the World Series. I can’t believe it. We’ll be huge underdogs, as a Washington baseball team ought to be.
The 2019 players — Anthony Rendon, Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Trea Turner, all of them — have made summer a joy for D.C. baseball fans.
But so did the players on the old Senators and the Nationals teams that didn’t go as far. I feel lucky to be a baseball fan. But then, I always have.
I have one thing to say to this year’s team, and to the old-days and more recent players I’ve watched: the good ones, Frank Howard, Roy Sievers, Camilo Pascual, Chuck Hinton, Jayson Werth and the rest of you. And the really dreadful ones, personified by Herb Plews, who once made three errors in one inning. Even to you, Bryce Harper:
We’ve had a lot of fun watching you at work. And we’ll try to have fun again this week, win or lose.
But after a lifetime of watching losers, here’s hoping the baseball gods choose to give Washington a World Series championship. This group of players seems to deserve it.
And so do we.
Donald Graham was publisher of The Washington Post from 1979 to 2000. He is chairman of Graham Holdings, formerly The Washington Post Co.