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Nationals hold true to color code11/23/2004 8:59 PM ET
By Dan Holmes / National Baseball Hall of Fame
While some Major League teams may have to hold special "throwback" days to dust off a vintage uniform, the 2005 Washington Nationals might consider every day a throwback day.
Each incarnation of the Senators, dating back to 1901, shares a common bond: the red, white and blue. Each team has featured the patriotic theme of colors on their uniforms.
On Monday, the new Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, unveiled their new threads; the uniforms incorporate red, white and blue and acknowledge the heritage of Major League Baseball in the nation's capital. Fans will have the chance to see Vinny Castilla, Jose Guillen, Cristian Guzman and other Nationals wear that new uniform in 2005, as Washington competes in the National League for the first time since 1899.
Washington was a charter member of the American League in 1901. Four years later, it became the first Major League club in the 20th century to spell out its team nickname on its uniforms. The name spelled out across the front of the jersey wasn't "Senators," however; rather, it was "Nationals," the nickname the club officially kept until 1957. After the 1906 season, the team removed "Nationals" from its jerseys and went without any mention of a nickname on its uniforms for more than five decades. Not until 1959 did the uniforms display "Senators," the name most commonly used by the press and fans. Perhaps suffering from that identity crisis, the team won three pennants in the 60-year history of the original AL franchise.
Like most teams, the original Washington Nationals went through many uniform modifications. First it was white with black, then a dash of blue, followed by red with gray, blue tops and bottoms (on the road from 1906-1909), black pinstripes on white, navy pinstripes on cream, and eventually, in 1926, after two straight pennants, red, white and blue trim on white. At almost all times, a "W" appeared on the cap, usually in white, though also in red occasionally.
In the late 1950s, the name "Senators" appeared in script across the jersey. Before fans could grow attached to it, however, the team moved to Minnesota and became the Twins (who, incidentally, utilized a red, white and blue scheme). By 1961, however, baseball was back in Washington; the American League, responding in large part to threats from the National League to expand into southern California, added two new teams for the 1961 season: the Los Angeles Angels and the Senators.
On Jan. 13, 1961, the new Senators unveiled their uniforms and, keeping with tradition, produced a color scheme of red, white and blue. At a press conference in the capital, manager Mickey Vernon modeled the pinstriped home flannels, which featured "Senators" in block blue letters across the chest with a red border. The caps were blue with a red "W" bordered in white and a red button on the top of the cap. The road uniforms were traditional gray with "Washington" across the chest in black letters. These uniforms remained largely unchanged until 1968, when the club switched to red and black as primary colors.
The current Nationals will feature a logo with the team name standing out above a baseball surrounded by nine stars. The expansion Senators who debuted in 1961 sported a logo that depicted a pitcher draped over the Capital building. The previous AL Senators never had an official logo.
Notable players to don the Washington uniform include: pitcher Walter Johnson, who hurled an incredible 110 shutouts among his 417 victories; fleet-footed outfielder Sam Rice, who retired uninterested in the 13 hits he needed to reach 3,000 for his career; boy manager Bucky Harris, who guided the Nats to their only World Series title at the age of 27 in 1924; fan favorite Goose Goslin, who enjoyed a great career despite hitting in cavernous Griffith Stadium; Fred Marberry, one of the first pitchers used exclusively as a relief pitcher; All-Star shortstop Cecil Travis, whose promising career was cut short after his feet were damaged by frostbite during World War II; slugger Harmon Killebrew, who warmed up in DC before making a name for himself in Minnesota; Ted Williams, who managed the club for three years; and big Frank Howard, the 6-foot-7 home run threat who was the best player in expansion Senators history.
After the Senators played their last game at RFK Stadium on Sept. 30, 1971, (a contest they were forced to forfeit after fans stormed the field with two outs in the ninth inning), baseball fans inside the Beltway were left without a team for more than 30 years. On Monday, the new Nationals gave a nod to the old school Senators and Nationals, and took their first step toward a promising future for DC baseball.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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