Continued from page 2

But by 1961, they wouldn’t be. Future Hall-of-Famer Harmon Killebrew and the Senators were moving to Minneapolis, a move Mr. Gray described as “kind of sudden.”

The District quickly received a new franchise, but the love affair was short-lived. By 1971, after Griffith Stadium was razed to build the hospital and the team moved to D.C. Stadium, later to be renamed RFK Stadium, the team was leaving for Arlington, Texas.

“They were mad,” Mr. Gray said of local fans. “The city felt like it had been disrespected once again. That was it for the next 33 years.”

A D.C. sports obsession

The Nationals’ rise to prominence over the past six months has many wondering whether a sea change is on the horizon in Near Southeast, from long-awaited amenities in the Navy Yard to challenging the notion that the District can never be a true baseball town as long as transient newcomers hold on to their beloved Cubs, Mets and so forth.

But the debate about whether the District should even have a baseball franchise took a tortured route. Much of the angst funneled through the D.C. Council, where lawmakers weighed the potential payoff of baseball in the nation’s capital versus millions of dollars in public financing for a new stadium.

“Some days you look at the deal and you wonder,” Mr. Gray said. “But overall I think those who made the decision to bring baseball here really have been vindicated.”

Progress has not come easily. A recent standoff over who should pay for late-night Metro service in the event of a game lasting after midnight — the city or the team’s owners — prompted some residents to wonder, once again, why taxpayers and businesses paid so much for the team in the first place.

But political tensions can be overshadowed as long as families cheer on Tom, George, Abe and Teddy alongside Jayson and Gio and the rest of the Nats, and as long as record crowds flood the city’s coffers from a 10 percent sales tax on parking, merchandise and $8 Miller Lites at the ballpark.

“No matter how the Nationals wind up, there’s no question that they’ve got a bigger fan base now,” Mr. Gray said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to think that they won’t be just as good next year.”

Tim Devaney contributed to this report.