Washington Nationals (NA)
Ballparks: Nationals Grounds (April 20-May 25, 1872), Virginia State Fair Grounds (April 29 & May 1, 1875); American Association: Athletic Park (May 1-Aug. 2, 1884); Union Association: Capital Grounds (Apr. 18-Sept. 25, 1884); National League: Swampoodle Grounds (Apr. 29, 1886-Sept. 21, 1889)
Washington Nationals: The Early Years
The Washington Nationals were one of several clubs using that name in the 19th century. The Nationals name dates back to when the club was first formed in November of 1859. The Nationals, along with the rival Potomac Club, were mostly made up of government clerks. Both teams were often found practicing on the grounds of the White House. When the Civil War broke out, the Potomacs closed up shop, while the Nationals kept going, and by the end of the war, had managed to become a local powerhouse team. One of its players Arthur P. Gorman would rise through the ranks to become a local celebrity, and then would go on to serve as President of the Club, and then president of the National Association of Base Ball Players before becoming a US Senator.
The Nationals joined the original National Association, the first national baseball organization, on December 12, 1860. Early on, the team played an average of only 5 games a season, including a combined 121-31 loss to the Philadelphia Athletics and the Brooklyn Atlantics in 1865. Two years later, the team embarked on a tour of the United States, becoming the first team to travel East of the Allegheny Mountains. They posted a 29-7 record including a 53-10 win over the Cincinnati Red Stockings. It has been said that the Nationals might deserve more credit for the creation of what is now Major League Baseball as opposed to the Cincinnati Red Stockings, because of this national tour. Along with the Red Stockings, the Nationals were one of the first teams to turn professional for the 1869 season, but unfortunately posted a 4-12 record. The team joined the second National Association in 1872, but lasted only 11 games, all losses, before dropping out after a 9-1 loss to the Baltimore Canaries on June 26th.
A second Nationals team joined the National Association for the 1875 season. That team managed to win 5 games, but they also dropped out of the league, this time on July 7th. It is not known whether this Nationals team is the same as the previous Nationals team or whether not the Nationals have any ties to the 1873 Washington Blue Legs, who also played in the NA. It would be nine years before Washington would have another professional baseball club and the name the Nationals would return.
Washington Nationals 1880s
The 1884 season saw the appearance of two Washington teams with the Nationals nickname, though in reality the Nationals of the American Association were also called the Statesmen. By August, the Statesmen had dropped out after posting a 12-51 record. The Union Association Nationals lasted only one season as a major league team, as the league folded after a single season. The name Nationals survived the 1880s, with the Nationals playing in the Eastern League in 1885, before joining the National League for the rest of the decade (those would be the Washington Nationals (1886-1889). All three Nationals teams were managed by Mike Scanlon, providing some continuity.
Washington Nationals 1905-1956
The Nationals name returned in 1905, when the Washington Senators officially changed their name to the Nationals. They even used the name on their uniforms certain years. Despite this, however, both the fans and press continued to refer to the team as the Senators, and often times both names were used interchangeably. The team officially went back to the Senators nickname for the 1956 season and it was 50 years before the Nationals name would be used again.
About 145 years after the first Nationals team was formed, Major League Baseball announced in December of 2004 that the Montreal Expos, that it had owned since 2002 and had decided to relocate to Washington for the 2005 season, would be known as the Washington Nationals. After playing in RFK Stadium for three years, since 2008 the Nationals have called Nationals Park home, an unintended nod to one of the original Nationals ballparks, the National Grounds.
- Brett L. Abrams: Capital Sporting Grounds: A History of Stadium and Ballpark Construction in Washington, D.C., McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2009.
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.
- Frederic J. Frommer: The Washington Nationals 1859 to Today: The Story of Baseball in the Nation's Capital, Taylor Trade Publishing, Lanham, MD, 2006. Re-edited in 2013 as You Gotta Have Heart: A History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions. ISBN 978-1589798434
- Norman L. Macht: "Washington Nicknames", in Bob Brown, ed.: Monumental Baseball: The National Pastime in the National Capital Region, The National Pastime, SABR, Number 39, 2009, pp. 93-94.
- Peter Morris: But Didn't We Have Fun?: An Informal History of Baseball's Pioneer Era, 1843-1870, Ivan R. Dee Publishers, Chicago, IL, 2008, p. 138.
- Shirley Povich, The Washington Senators, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1954, pp. 3-4
- James C. Roberts: The Nationals past times: the history and new beginning of baseball in Washington, D.C, Triumph Books, Chicago, IL, 2005.
- Arthur Gorman
- Washington Post on the history of the Nationals name
- 1867 tour
- Washington Post