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Monday, September 22, 2014
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Published: Monday, 10/4/2004

In D.C., the game is back

Congressional leaders will have a tough time getting a quorum together next April 15. Most of the senators and representatives will be off on a field trip to RFK Stadium.

That will be Opening Day, when the now defunct Montreal Expos first take the field and bring major league baseball back to the nation s capital for the first time in 33 years.

Still to be determined is what the team will be called. The Washington Senators played in the capital for 60 years before moving to Minnesota. A year later, in 1961, the expansion Senators were born, but that team also moved on, becoming the Texas Rangers after just 10 years.

Some D.C. officials do not want to see a third incarnation of the Senators because the District does not have voting status on Capitol Hill. They are pushing for the Washington Grays, in honor of the legendary Homestead Grays, a team which won 10 Negro League titles decades ago playing in Washington and Pittsburgh.

By whatever name, these will still be the old Expos, so fan excitement could be tempered by a mediocre first season. That will be in keeping with baseball tradition in Washington, where the Senators futility prompted the famous expression: First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League.

At least the new team will play in the National League.

The loss of the Expos is not an issue that fires resentment and gloom across Quebec. Despite strong attendance in the franchise s early days, and a team some considered the best in baseball during the strike-shortened 1994 season, public interest had virtually evaporated in recent years. Attendance at Expo games was abysmal sometimes just 4,000 or 5,000 fans showed up, and that was often a generous count.

It s fitting perhaps that major league baseball will return to the nation s capital on April 15 Tax Day because the mayor of Washington says that a new $400 million ballpark for the team will be financed largely through a tax on the city s largest businesses.

That doesn t sit well with some in the District, who worry that businesses will just pass the tax along to consumers, and that ticket prices and concessions at the new stadium will make a trip to the ballpark unaffordable for many D.C. residents.

It certainly won t be unaffordable for Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who will reap substantial financial concessions from Major League Baseball for having a new team just 40 miles away, even though the District is not considered part of the Orioles territory by MLB.

But those are issues for another day.

For now the capital is buzzing with excitement.

Thirty-three years after the old Senators forfeited their final game in the 9th inning because fans stormed the field in search of souvenirs, baseball is back.



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