One of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen on a baseball field is that of the Nationals, clad in their white jerseys, emblazoned with the block print, arched “Nationals” in red, with gold trim, as they took the field at RFK Stadium on April 14, 2005. Seeing those jerseys, after being without baseball since 1971, is etched into my memory and a reason I will always have replicas of the original home and away jerseys, and the warmup jacked I like to call the “Frank Robinson Autograph Model” in my collection.
But those are not my favorites.
It wasn’t by accident that former Mayor Anthony Williams and the others responsible for bringing baseball back to Washington after the long drought donned red “Curly W” hats when announcing the relocation of the Montreal Expos.
That logo, which the expansion Senators sported for most of their existence, is what sparked the real nostalgia for baseball in the nation’s capital.
So when the team adopted the jerseys with the “Curly W” on the left chest, I felt as if I’d found a long-lost friend. The expansion Senators never used that design, but the look of the logo on the upper left and the uniform number midway down on the right just seems so classic. It does not have as much tradition as the interlocking NY (which was adapted from an NYPD medal for valor) or the “Old English D.” But seeing that design just takes me to the ballpark on a warm, sunny day, hot dog and cold beverage in hand, scorecard on my lap.
I like every variation of those jerseys I’ve seen. My favorite is the red one, but I like them all, even the “patriotic” versions. Maybe it’s the aesthetic, or maybe it was the fact that the Nats became a perennial contending team while wearing those uniforms, but they will likely always be my favorite.
I know the team will make more use of the “Nationals” script jerseys, since they wore them while winning the World Series, and I get that. To me, though, the angle on the script is too sharp. Is it the same angle as the expansion “Senators” script? Maybe it’s the font. I just can’t fall in love with them. Sorry.
Same goes for the “Block W” alternate caps. I’m not old enough to remember the original Senators, so it really does nothing for me, but I can understand the attachment for fans who remember those days. It would, however, be good in a “turn-back-the-clock” one-off, like the uniforms worn on July 6, 2012.
The Nats are also apparently unveiling another alternate cap that brings back another expansion Senators logo, that of a pitcher delivering the ball with the Capitol dome in the background. That’s one I wish the expansion team had never adopted. Why? Just Google “Don Newcombe,” and one of the images you’ll come across is one of the Dodgers’ great in exactly the same position, delivering a pitch. The delivery, arm position, the angle of the glove in front of the face — all are the same as an action photo of Newcombe.
Normally, I think it would be great to pay tribute to a Hall of Famer and one of the first African-Americans to play in the major leagues. But to my knowledge, Newcombe was never compensated for the use of his likeness, and that’s wrong, especially for one of the true heroes of the game, who struggled with alcoholism and financial difficulties after his career. It’s also more than a little tone deaf in the city whose professional sports franchises were among the last to integrate.
One more thing: I do not support the Texas Rangers or the Minnesota Twins wearing Senators “turn-back-the-clock” uniforms. I know those teams once played in Washington and probably own the trademarks and wordmarks, but it just rubs salt in the wounds of the fans who watched those teams move away. I’m neutral on the Nats wearing Montreal throwback uniforms, but I would sympathize with fans north of the border who find them offensive.