- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 8, 2005

The Washington Nationals will be a franchise without a past when they open the 2005 baseball season at RFK Stadium.

Most of the memorabilia from the former Expos franchise will remain in Montreal, the city where the team was founded in 1969 and played through 2004. Those artifacts will be divided among Canadian museums and halls of fame to allow fans there to retain the history of the team.

The bronze busts of each of the 27 members of the Expos Hall of Fame, for example, will remain in Canada.

Large representations of retired jersey numbers belonging to Expos greats like Gary Carter (8), Tim Raines (30) and Andre Dawson (10) once hung on the outfield walls at Olympic Stadium. Those, too, will stay in Canada, along with the home plate and pitcher’s mound from the team’s final game in Montreal in September.

Photos of every player to wear an Expos uniform, the seat on which Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates deposited a 535-foot home run in 1978, scrapbooks, press notes and other historical items won’t make the trip to the club’s new home in the District.

“We had discussions that determined the people in Washington are not as preoccupied with the Expos,” said Claude Delorme, the club’s executive vice president of business affairs. “They want to talk about the history of baseball in Washington. … Their history was the club from the two teams that were there before, and we respected that.”

However, that leaves the Nationals with a vexing problem: determining exactly what constitutes their own baseball history.

Washington has a long, if distant, tradition of major league baseball. A team called the Statesmen joined the National League in 1886 but folded in 1889. Their successors, the Senators, appeared in 1892 but were eliminated in 1900 when the league went from 12 to eight teams.

The Washington Nationals began play in the American League as a charter member in 1901. That nickname alternated unofficially with Senators until 1956, when assistant public relations man Charlie Brotman dubbed the team the Senators because that name lent itself more readily to a logo. (It pictured a fat, cigar-smoking legislator winding up to throw a pitch.)

After the club moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Twins, an expansion team also called the Senators began play in the District. That franchise was transferred to Arlington, Texas, after the 1971 season and became the Texas Rangers.

Each of the relocated Washington franchises retained many of the artifacts, club records and statistics that are a vital part of a team’s identity.

“We … have some photos from Washington — presidents throwing out the first pitch on Opening Days — displayed in the ballpark,” Twins spokesman Sean Harlin said.

Much more Senators and Nationals memorabilia are in private collections.

The Rangers and Twins maintain separate statistical records of what their players have accomplished since the franchises moved from Washington.

“We have the club’s [records] before Texas,” Rangers spokesman Greg Elkin said. “We have a roster in here of all the people who played. And then we have all-time Senators records. … It is something that is not forgotten.”

The Nationals likely will do something similar, remaining connected both to baseball’s tradition in the District and the franchise’s history in Montreal.

Thus, the Washington Nationals’ record for home runs in a season likely will be held by the Anaheim Angels’ Vladimir Guerrero, who hit 44 home runs for the Expos in 2000. Raines would hold the franchise record for runs in a season (133), and Pedro Martinez the record for the lowest earned-run average in a season (1.90).

The club likely also will recognize what are referred to as Washington baseball records. Thus, the Nationals likely will adopt statistical records that technically belong to the Twins and Rangers.

The Baltimore Ravens of the NFL do something similar. The Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984. The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996 and were renamed the Ravens. The Ravens recognize the records of the Baltimore Colts, which technically belong to the Indianapolis Colts.

“Nothing has been set in stone as of yet as far as records,” Nationals spokesman John Dever said. “The club’s inclination right now is to have Expos/Nationals records, as well as a Baseball in Washington record section, similar to what the Ravens have in their record books.”

Mr. Dever said the club will consult with Elias Sports Bureau, the recognized record-keeping body of baseball, as part of the decision-making process.

Still, the Nationals for the most part will have to create their own legacy even as they pay tribute to Washington’s baseball past.

The Nationals are considering a putting up a display at RFK Stadium and then the new ballpark that would acknowledge that, Mr. Dever said.

The Nationals also will leave behind a big, orange ball of fur in Canada. Youppi, the Expos’ mascot, will not be prowling the stands at RFK Stadium next season. But he is, at least, expected to be gainfully employed.

“Youppi will live on in Quebec,” Mr. Delorme said. “A local corporation will end up with his rights.”

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