Dubbed "America's Game" by Walt Whitman, baseball has been enjoyed in our Nation's Capital by everyone from young boys playing street stickball to Presidents throwing out the inaugural first pitch of the season. Just 13 years after Alexander Cartwright codified baseball's rules, the Washington Nationals Baseball Club formed and by 1867 they toured the country spreading the "baseball gospel." By 1901 the team became one of the first eight major league teams in the newly formed American League. Players such as
Walter Johnson, probably the greatest pitcher of all time, and other future Hall of Famers under the stewardship of owner
successfully led the club in 1924 to what many consider to be the most exciting World Series in baseball history.
Washington, D.C. would see the game played professionally for well over a century. The city fans, from men and women who just loved the game to Presidents and Congressmen, would enjoy witnessing all of the greats of the game play the national pastime. What a glorious parade of major league ballplayers that honed their craft at Griffith Stadium! From
Shoeless Joe Jackson
visiting the city with their American League teams, to hometown heroes like
During the late 1930's and 40's the Homestead Grays also played baseball at Griffith Stadium on Sundays when the Senators were on the road. The Grays, of course, for years fielded teams featuring legendary Negro League greats such as Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. The powerhouse Grays, during a ten year span, won nine Negro League World Championships, a record that may never be equaled in any team sport again! Later, of course,
blossomed into one of the greatest long ball hitters of all time and, for a short period of time, even
himself would lead
Frank Howard, the "Capital Punisher," to success.
Sadly and with little warning, D.C.'s professional baseball roots were ripped from the Nation's Capital some 30 years ago. Many of us are still waiting to enjoy the crack of a bat, the smell of popcorn and to once again cheer on a major league hometown team. Others continue to play the game as it was intended . . . in a park, at a picnic or even in the streets of the city. Once again, rumors persist that D.C. may, at long last, host a new team soon. We'll see!
One thing collectors might want to think about is how, if at all, sports memorabilia collecting will be affected if Washington, D.C. gets a new team. That is not too far fetched because the "smart money" in D.C. sports talk circles is that we will have a team as early as 2003. How will the collecting world be affected? Our simple but immediate response is that memorabilia for the new club will be sought after and under the usual rules of supply and demand, vintage artifacts in nice condition will even be pricey. By and large, items from first year teams are immediately collectible. This is logical because of the excitement that will be generated by those collectors who have pined for a return of major league baseball in the Nation's Capital.
Also, we suspect that programs, cards, photos and other artifacts from Washington, D.C.'s storied baseball past will be at a premium. Even now, of course, just about anything connected to Walter Johnson from the 1920's and before or the Homestead Grays from the 1940's are almost impossible to find and, when discovered, bring a premium price. We predict that the collecting trend for any vintage Nats material will certainly be strengthened by the prospect of baseball in D.C.
We have recently completed a new book, entitled
Images of Baseball in Washington, D.C.
Published by Arcadia, this illustrated history of the national pastime in the Nation's Capital features nearly 200 interesting photos and images, many of which have never before been published.
Images of Baseball in Washington, D.C.
retails for $19.99 (although the price through Baseball Almanac links is only $13.99!) and can be purchased at D.C.-area Borders or Barnes and Noble bookstores or online at
Amazon. We hope that you have enjoyed this preview of just a few of the illustrations that you will find in our book and the great memories that these photos evoke.