Washington, D.C. is an event town. That's what one of the first writers I met told me shortly after the Montreal Expos I followed as a kid relocated to the nation's capital for the 2005 season. On Opening Day in 2008, in the first game in Nationals Park I started to believe what I'd been told as I sat in a crowd of 39,389 and watched as Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run to beat the Atlanta Braves. On June 8, 2010 when 40,315 and the entire baseball world turned out to see Stephen Strasburg's MLB debut, I was sold. After Strasburg's last start in Washington this past Tuesday, in which the 24-year-old right-hander pitched in front of a crowd of 33,888, he said it reminded him of that first start.
"Pitching in front of a sellout crowd like this," Strasburg told MASN's Kristina Akra, "The electricity was in the air. It kind of reminded me of my debut." If the Nationals stick to their plan with Strasburg, and all signs point to them doing so, and they maintain their lead in the NL East, their '09 no.1 overall pick won't be available to pitch in the next big baseball-related event in D.C. There is over a month remaining in the season, but if things progress as they have thus far this season, the Nationals could bring postseason baseball back to the nation's capital for the first time since October 7, 1933 when the Washington Senators lost Game 5 of the '33 World Series to the New York Giants in front of 28,454 in Griffith Stadium.
The '33 Senators, who were led by a then 34-year-old, 24-game winner by the name of General Crowder that season, had their ace on the mound in that deciding game. The Senators were on the ropes, having dropped three of the first four in the seven-game series. Crowder lasted 5.1 innings that day, giving up seven hits and three runs, but the Senators trailed 3-0 when he left the mound after surrendering a two-run single by the opposing pitcher Hank Schumacher in the second and a solo home run by catcher Gus Mancuso in the top of the sixth. A half-inning later, however, Senators' center fielder Fred Schulte, who hit 5 HRs that season, hit his sixth that year and his first of the postseason to tie the game at 3-3 and keep hope alive amongst the D.C. Faithful.
27-year-old right-hander Jack Russell took over for Crowder and threw 4.2 scoreless, taking the game into extra inning tied at 3-3, but in the top of the tenth, Giants' right fielder Mel Ott, who was 0 for 4 with 2 Ks in the game, hit a two-run home run into Griffith Stadium's center field bleachers to make it 4-3 New York. Cuban-born Giants' right-hander Dolf Luque returned to the mound in the bottom of the tenth and put two runners on before striking Senators' first baseman Joe Kuhel out in a three-pitch at bat that ended the series.
Since that day, there has been no postseason baseball played in Washington, D.C. Not by either of the two Senators teams or the Nationals that arrived in 2005. 79 years without a postseason game. Of course, there were 30+ years in there where no team called the nation's capital home. If the Nationals can hold on and make it to the postseason, they'll reward the fan base that's followed them since baseball returned to D.C. The fans who fought to bring them back, and those who patiently waited for the Nationals to put together a roster that could do what the Nats have done so far this season. Playoff baseball in Washington, D.C.?
It could happen, though as Davey Johnson said this week, no one's taking anything for granted. The last time the team I followed as a kid looked like they were on their way to the postseason, MLB shut down. I've waited. The D.C. Faithful have waited. Washington, D.C. has waited. Can the Washington Nationals bring postseason baseball back to the nation's capital for the first time since 1933?
• 1933 World Series Footage via (historycomestolife) on the YouTube: