- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

They stormed the baseball playpen on East Capitol in frustration 33 years ago to the day, specifically on the night of Sept. 30, 1971, and staged a final protest against Bob Short and baseball and all the money-grubbing souls who conspired against our beloved Senators and the city.

Several hundred of the 14,460 in attendance tore out tufts of sod and stole first base and let the powers that be know that this was a gross insult to their many years of patronage.

It was the last night of the Senators, the last moment in their 71-year existence, the last of our innocence.

The umpires called the game with two outs in the top of the ninth, with the Senators leading the Yankees 7-5, in what later would be recorded in the books as a 9-0 forfeit in favor of the visitors.

The carpetbaggers then took our Frank Howard and all the rest and moved them to a suburb of Dallas, while baseball indicated that all would be atoned for in a few years.

Baseball lied in 1971, and baseball lied in subsequent years, and then baseball took to using our demographically robust city to get what it wanted elsewhere. Baseball played this cruel game seemingly forever, and baseball lost a lot of genuine fans in the process, plus a whole generation of potential new fans.

Baseball played us like cheap hussies, almost to the end, squeezing every last concession out of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, while pitting our city against the modest likes of Norfolk, Las Vegas and either Portland, Ore., or Portland, Maine, not sure which.

That is the abbreviated history lesson as baseball announced yesterday that it finally was returning to the city that for so long was part of its rich lore. Baseball came armed with broad smiles and hopeful words, and we lapped it up, like affection-starved puppies in desperate search of a pat on the head.

Not to be a party pooper, but it is about time, baseball, if you want to be perfectly honest about it.

This was a pretty good baseball town at one time, believe it or not.

We supported crummy owners and crummy teams, with barely a peep of dissent.

We adopted Ted Williams as our own long before he was put on ice and that other Ted Williams became one of the regularly featured lawyers on Greta Van Susteren’s nightly cable-TV gabfest.

We came to appreciate the work of all-glove, no-hit Eddie Brinkman.

We still swear to this day that Hondo Howard hit a line drive that eluded the outstretched glove of a leaping shortstop and kept climbing until it cleared the fence in left-center field.

Local commentators sometimes discuss the meaning of the Redskins to the region in quasi-religious tones. You should know that there was a time, back when the Redskins were merely Sonny Jurgensen’s right arm, that the Senators penetrated the populace in a way that is hard to imagine today.

The Senators were with us so much of the year, 162 times a season, and their history far exceeded the football team’s, dating to their World Series triumph in 1924. In the ‘60s, baseball and football had not completed their change in the pecking order on the sports landscape.

So, baseball, warts and all, welcome back to our environs.

We promise to do our best to let bygones be bygones, even if the 33-year wait was incredibly unfair and unreasonable, not to mention absurd.

We also appeal to the mayor to put politics aside and reconsider his opposition to the nickname Senators. That is what our baseball team is — the Senators. First in war, first in peace, and now last in the National League East.

There is something about a last-place baseball team that works in this case.

We have had lots of practice supporting last-place baseball teams, and we undoubtedly will be up to the challenge again.

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