The Forgotten First

August 21, 2020

It’s a Washington Nationals world, and everyone else is just living in it. Coming hot off their 2019 World Series win, we can’t help but look back and remember the team’s infamously humble origins. Before they were the fearsome Nats, they were the Senators, and for decades, they were the joke of the Major League.

And when we say infamous, we mean infamous. Known by the old joke, “Washington, first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League,” the Senators were the only sports team to have a hit Broadway show (and a novel, and a movie) written in the ‘50s about just how bad they were. The show Damn Yankees chronicles the journey of Joe Hardy, a fan who literally makes a deal with the devil to save his perennially losing favorite team.
So, yes: they were that bad. But Damn Yankees’ popularity tells us something important about sports – that no one really cares if winners win. We want to see losers win. Which is why the Nationals’ 2019 win, while exciting, will never be as grand as their first ever World Series win, way back in 1924. It was the greatest type of win known to baseball: a popular win, celebrated by fans and rivals alike.
Even way back in 1924, the Golden Age of baseball, the Senators stank. It was said that the only fans you could spot at a Senators’ game were the politicians and the pickpockets, if you could tell the difference. But the team had a handful of earnest players – and, little did they know, future Hall of Famers – that had started to win hearts.
Most beloved was Walter “The Big Train” Johnson, a ballplayer from humble beginnings. The lanky son of a Kansas farmer, Johnson was known for his dedicated gentlemanly conduct in the heat of battle, and his blindingly fast sidearm pitch. Hence: “The Big Train”. Will Roger wrote that in the 1920s American, there was more genuine interest in Walter Johnson than there was in a presidential election.
So when the Senators began to climb the ranks in 1924, it looked like Johnson would finally get the success he deserved. America was enraptured. When they won their first American League pennant, 100,000 people jammed Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate.
But even with this win under their belt, no one ever thought they’d make it to the World Series. Shirley Povich wrote in the Post that in America’s mind, seeing the Senators in the 1924 World Series was about as unlikely as putting a man on the moon. But that unlikelihood is what drew America in, as the Senators shot like a rocket towards the impossible.
Just as America made their impossible dream of putting a man on the moon a reality, the Senators took their momentum to an unbelievable finish, taking home the World Series against the baseball Goliath the Giants. And the nation cheered themselves hoarse: even the losing team had to concede their applause. It was a win for the ages. Although 2019’s Nationals have long shed their reputation as the Major League’s patsy, they hold their humble history proudly in their hearts.

Tagged: Baseball, MLB

Shop Washington Senators

Vintage Brand offering unique vintage gear for fans

Shop Washington Senators vintage designs for apparel, clothing, gear, and merchandise for all sports fanatics at the Washington Senators Shop on Shop historic Washington Senators fan gear and vintage college apparel to give your team the ultimate homefield advantage. The vintage Washington Senators Store has throwback Washington Senators clothing and vintage sports merchandise, including old school Washington Senators mascots. Visit Vintage Brand to choose from thousands of retro sports mascots and fanatics merchandise in the Washington Senators Sports Shop, including Washington Senators t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jerseys, long sleeve shirts, hats, lids, socks, koozies, mugs, drinkware, posters, canvas, pennants and more. Vintage Brand is not affiliated with the NFL Shop, MLB Shop, NBA Store, or NCAA Shop. Find the ultimate selection of vintage Washington Senators football jerseys, baseball jerseys, and basketball jerseys for all sports fanatics. Visit the Washington Senators Sports Store on Vintage Brand today!