We’re now a month into baseball-free season. The Washington Nationals were scheduled to start a three-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday which no doubt would’ve had plenty of references to the Wild Card Game and Juan Soto’s game-winning hit.
Instead, old game replays and desperately searching for any crumb of normal sports life is the order of business. Unfortunately, it’s not as fun as watching the Nats raise their World Series banner.
Once again searching for content to write about, we run with another topic suggestion...
Two weeks ago, SB Nation had a network-wide theme looking at some of the best teams to not win a championship, with many of the team sites chiming in with the best for the team they cover.
After a week off for the NFL draft, we have a new theme looking at anything jersey-related.
While there will be plenty of talk about personal favorites and iconic jerseys, the first thing that comes to my mind when talking about the Nationals and jerseys is the Natinals jerseys.
On April 17th, 2009, the Nationals, still in their infancy as the new kids on the block in baseball, were 1-7 to start the new campaign. It was the start of the second of two-straight 100-loss seasons that would signify the lowest of their lows so far in Washington.
The Nats were welcoming the 8-1 Florida Marlins to town, who, despite their hot start, weren’t really expected to be one of the better teams in baseball. In short, it wasn’t exactly a game that anyone thought would generate national attention for any reason.
But then two of the Nationals players, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn, trotted out onto the field. It’s not the kind of thing you notice right away unless you’re looking for it, but the two of them were both inexplicably missing the letter O in their red and gold Nationals.
The entire game is even on YouTube if you want to pass some time by watching the likes of Jesus Flores and Anderson Hernandez. John Lannan was actually really good in this game!
The first time the Natinals jerseys were on screen was the top of the first as the MASN broadcast took a look at the outfielders including Dunn. Yes, Big Donkey was in right field, that’s how bad it was. Anyway, it was only a quick glance, so nobody really noticed.
The vanishing O became more apparent when Zimmerman stepped to the plate in the first inning. Then even more so after Dunn walked with two outs in the inning and he got about 20 seconds of straight-on screen-time on MASN leading off from first base.
In due course, people had cottoned on and a meme was born before memes were even a thing.
A few days later, for what it was worth, the manufacturer of the jersey issued an apology...
“All of us at Majestic Athletic want to apologize to both the Washington Nationals and Major League Baseball for accidentally omitting the ‘o’ in two Nationals jerseys,” Majestic Athletic’s president at the time, Jim Pisani, said in a statement. “We take 100 percent responsibility for this event and we regret any embarrassment for the Nationals organization, players and fans.”
The damage was already done though. The Natinals were officially born, even if they’d already been in existence for the past 14 months as The Plan™ had begun and the ugly losses piled up.
It grew into a running joke among fans of the Nationals’ division rivals for whenever the Nats did something bad, it was the Natinals.
At least it was better than being called Gnats, I guess?
It was quite fitting for this to happen to the ‘09 Nationals. In the midst of their time as the dumpster fire of the major leagues, of course it was their jerseys that would be missing a letter.
This was the season that began with then-GM Jim Bowden and special assistant José Rijo being fired under the cloud of a federal investigation into the skimming of international signing bonuses, as well as the discovery of one of their international players forging their age.
It ended with the team eliminated from playoff contention on September 4th as they finished with the worst record in baseball yet again.
There were even two more spelling faux pas along the way, as they couldn’t spell Jordan Zimmermann’s name right on his first major league bat, nor could they tell the difference between patience and patients — though there’s probably a joke to be had there.
It really does sum up the season when the highlight of the year was when they officially signed their first-round draft pick. You may have heard of that guy, Stephen Strasburg.
Thankfully, it was the drafting and subsequent debut of Strasburg in 2010 that signaled a turning point for the franchise. The young talent that had been stockpiled was making its way to the majors, with 2019 completing the turnaround from laughing stock to champions.
But in 2009, just over 11 years ago to the day, the Nationals were the Natinals, both in spelling and in just about everything they did on and off the field.