Long-suffering US capital baseball fans are to welcome back the World Series for the first time in 86 years when the Washington Nationals play for Major League Baseball’s championship next week.
On Tuesday, the Nationals swept the St Louis Cardinals in their National League Championship Series to reach the best-of-seven World Series for the first time since the team was founded in 1969 as the Montreal Expos.
Half a century later, after moving from Canada to the US capital following the 2004 season, the team has revived the passion for the national pastime with a new “Nattitude” in Washington.
“This is huge for us and for the city and the community,” Nationals slugger Ryan Zimmerman said. “I still talk to season ticket holders now that have been here since .”
“A lot of those failures taught us and pushed us to get to where we are now,” Zimmerman added. “I feel like me, the fans, the community are kind of one, and they deserve this just as much as we do.”
It is an epic history of futility in Washington, which went 33 years without even a baseball team to call its own.
The US capital went 26 years without a title in any of the four biggest US sports leagues until the NHL Washington Capitals won last year’s Stanley Cup.
Washington celebrated its only World Series champion in 1924, cheered on by then-US president Calvin Coolidge, as the original Senators captured the crown in a seventh-game thriller.
At a time when a loaf of bread cost US$0.09 and radio was an expensive new electronic marvel, Hall of Famer Walter Johnson pitched four scoreless relief innings at age 36 to set up a 12th-inning finish considered one of the most dramatic in World Series history.
New York Giants catcher Hank Gowdy stepped on his own thrown-off mask and dropped a pop-up by Washington’s Muddy Ruel.
Given a second chance, Ruel doubled. Johnson reached first base on another error and Earl McNeely bounced a ground ball over Giants third baseman Freddie Lindstrom to score Ruel with the deciding run.
A year later, the Senators suffered the biggest collapse in a World Series Game 7, squandering a four-run lead and losing to Pittsburgh. The Senators also lost to the Giants in the 1933 World Series and would never reach such lofty levels again.
The Nationals, who saw star Bryce Harper leave for the Philadelphia Phillies in the off-season, began this year 19-31 and many fans wrote them off, only to watch them battle into the playoffs as a wildcard and stunningly into the World Series at long last.
“It was simple,” Zimmerman said. “We could either basically roll over and quit, or come in each day and try and win that game that day. We chose the second one.”
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