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Dick Heller: Rangers deserve boos

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If you haven't visited Nationals Park yet, this is the perfect weekend. Walk through the turnstiles, scarf a chili dog and try not to spill it all over yourself.

Then boo.

Boo your fool head off.

Boo until it hurts.

I don't mean boo the Nationals, NL East cellar-dwellers though they are.

Boo the party of the other part, the dratted Texas Rangers, who will venture into the nation's capital for the first time Friday night.

If you're old enough to remember Watergate, you know why. The Rangers used to be our ballclub, the expansion Senators, until the American League foolishly allowed carpetbag owner Bob Short to steal off with them to Arlington, Texas, in the fall of 1971.

This scurrilous departure resulted, of course, in our enduring 33 years without baseball until the former Montreal Expos arrived in 2005. It remains one of the biggest stains on Major League Baseball's recent record, that our national pastime could be absent from our nation's capital for more than three decades.

Perhaps you prefer to forgive and forget. I can't.

So head for Southeast D.C. and bring a pair of leather lungs.

True, none of the current Rangers players or front-office personnel was involved in The Move. In fact, reliever Eddie Guardado is the team's only active player alive when the Senators died on Sept. 30, 1971. And principal owner Tom Hicks is the fifth person to run the club since Short, including the one who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

But boo anyway, on general principles. Boo your fool head off. Boo until it hurts.

Imagine that a mean-looking blond man is sitting behind the Rangers' dugout and unfurl a banner reading "Short stinks!" Imagine that you're pouring a cup of warm beer over his head, as a Capitol Hill bartender called Baseball Bill did when Short turned up at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium with the Rangers in 1972. The man who Short-changed us died in 1982. No matter, he deserves our everlasting wrath.

And as long as you're imagining ...

That isn't career minor leaguer Manny Acta managing the home team. It's Ted Williams, aka Teddy Ballgame, no worse than the second greatest hitter of all time,

That isn't Tim Redding on the mound with a curly "W" on his red cap. It's Dick Bosman, the gritty right-hander who was the Senators ace in their final years.

And the slugger waving his bat menacingly at the plate isn't Wily Mo Pena. It's Frank Howard, the towering Capital Crusher who used to hit home runs halfway to the moon on behalf of usually bad Washington teams.

Maybe you were one of the fans who overran the field at RFK Stadium in the ninth inning that gloomy September night in 1971, causing the team to forfeit a rare victory over the Yankees. Maybe you, like so many others in the crowd of 14,460, did so with tears in your eyes.

I was there as a reporter, and during the game I invaded the Yankees' unguarded clubhouse and asked pitcher Mike Kekich whether he had grooved the sixth-inning pitch Howard hit for his 237th home run as a Senator.

"Let's just say I didn't try too hard to get him out," replied Kekich, a sheepish smile on his face.

Back then, most of us thought we'd get another team in a year or two. Little did we know.

How long ago was 1971? Well, Richard Nixon was in his first term as president, Barack Obama was a 10-year-old student at Hawaii's Punahou Academy. John McCain was a 35-year-old POW in North Vietnam. Perhaps you and I were young.

Longtime baseball fans hereabouts will never get those 33 years back. Some of us ignored the game during that drought; some of us dressed in orange and black and became Orioles fans; some of us turned to the Redskins, Capitals or Bullets/Wizards for our sporting jollies.

Whatever, we had our baseball birthright swiped from under our noses. And so you should take a trip to Anacostia this weekend and boo as if your life depended on it.

Boo your fool head off.

Boo until it hurts.

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