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Know Your History
The Washington Nationals made their debut in 2005 but the franchise dates back to 1969 and the first Montreal Expos team, and baseball in D.C. has a much longer, and complicated, past. It all started more than a century ago with the Washington Senators, who began play in 1901 and later boasted one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Walter Johnson.
The Senators won one World Series, in 1924, and moved to Minnesota in 1960 to become the Twins. Anticipating the move, MLB awarded D.C. an expansion franchise, and the new Senators began play in the spring of 1961, with President John Kennedy throwing out the first pitch at their inaugural game. But this version of the Senators moved, too, becoming the Texas Rangers in 1972.
The capitol was then without baseball for more than 30 years until the Nationals arrived. The franchise got its start 40 years ago with the expansion Expos, who were named for Expo 67, the World’s Fair held in Montreal two years earlier. The team had about as much success as those Senators’ squads, although the Nats record book is peppered with famous names like Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Gary Carter, who is the only player in Cooperstown wearing an Expos hat.
All those guys were long gone by the beginning of the new millennium and so were most of the fans. Montreal couldn’t draw crowds and MLB finally stepped in and took over the team. The franchise was then awarded to D.C.