- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 3, 2004

Baseball fans in the District got their team, but they may not get Washington Senators gear.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams started a frenzy of interest in Senators apparel when he donned a replica of the team’s 1969 cap during a press conference last week to announce Major League Baseball’s (MLB) decision to move the Montreal Expos here.

Good luck finding a hat like the one he wore.

Not much Senators gear has been made since the name went into hibernation after the 1971 season, when the club’s owner moved the team to Texas and renamed it the Rangers.

“They kind of caught us by surprise. When the mayor put that cap on, it was kind of a sleepy seller,” said Peter Capolino, president of Mitchell and Ness Nostalgia Co., a company in Philadelphia that is one of the few licensed by the MLB to make Senators apparel.

New Era also makes Senators caps.

Since the announcement that the Expos will emigrate from Canada, Mr. Capolino has begun production of 9,000 Senators caps. Half of them will be shipped to retail stores in metropolitan Washington when they are ready in about four weeks.

“Now people are asking for [Senators hats]. A lot of people saw the mayor with that hat on,” said Antoine Russell, store manager at Total Sport, a retailer on Georgia Avenue in Northwest.

Despite interest in Senators apparel, the Expos haven’t been renamed. The club’s owner, who hasn’t been selected by the league, will pick a team name. The Senators and the Nationals are among the likely names for the transplanted club.

“My guess is they will call them the Senators to create a link to the past,” Mr. Capolino said.

The MLB bought all the Senators apparel that Mitchell and Ness had once the decision to move the Expos became official, then sold it on its Web site (www.mlb.com).

“It wasn’t a lot,” Mr. Capolino said.

Mr. Russell said he has been sold out of Senators hats for months.

Jerry Sachs, head of business development and marketing at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where a baseball exhibit ended yesterday, said the museum’s retail store sold all its Senators apparel before the news that the Expos were coming.

Because the retail pipeline of Senators apparel was empty, D.C. officials turned to the Web for caps for last week’s press conference. The District bought 250 Senators hats from Distant Reply, based in Georgia, said Chris Bender, spokesman for the District’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

“I think we cleaned them out,” he said.

Others are scouring the Web, too.

Internet auctioneer EBay has had more Senators merchandise listed since early last week. On Tuesday, prior to the official announcement, EBay received 63 new listings of Washington Senators memorabilia, said spokesman Hani Durzy.

“EBay is often a barometer of what’s on the minds of people and what’s in the headlines,” Mr. Durzy said. “The capital getting baseball back is big news.”

A souvenir vintage Senators pennant, which began its listing on Tuesday, sold for $50 Friday.

Karen Kudrick of Frostburg, Md., listed a separate vintage team pennant on the site. She found the red and white 30-inch pennant in a neighbor’s garbage several months ago and hadn’t taken the time to list it.

“When I heard about D.C. getting a team, I thought now would be a prime time to sell it,” she said.

She started the bidding on Thursday at $9.99. The highest bid as of yesterday was $32. The auction ends Wednesday.

Senators caps aren’t the only apparel in demand.

Fans also are clamoring for the “D.C. ‘05” T-shirts they saw on the televised press conference last week.

The District’s planning and economic development office had the shirts made during their intensive lobbying to attract the Expos. They initially used the shirts during a rally downtown in 2003.

Back then, the shirts read “D.C. ‘04.” Mike Gallagher, Rebecca Mabie and Matt Stevenson at public relations firm Porter Novelli designed the logo. The District dusted it off this year and changed the date.

“Our thinking was you needed something to identify with D.C. baseball. We were very big on having a brand,” Mr. Bender said.

Like Senators apparel, the “D.C. ‘05” shirts are hard to find. The District had only 500 shirts made and hasn’t decided to make more.

“There’s more of a demand than we anticipated,” Mr. Bender said. “I’ve had as many people call me about hats and T-shirts as I’ve had about the financing.”

Staff writer Donna De Marco contributed to this report.

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