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ON the Big Screen, Washington
In "Damn Yankees," a Senators fan sells his soul to the Devil to win a pennant. And in "Angels in the Outfield," though it's the Pittsburgh Pirates who get help from the Man Upstairs, the pitcher who wins the flag resembles the aging Senators hurler Walter Johnson. Having lost two 1924 World Series games, Johnson, his best days behind him, came out in relief in Game 7 with one day's rest. He proceeded to blank the New York Giants in extra innings for the Senators' first and only world title.
None of the 2 million-plus fans who have watched Washington's newest baseball franchise play at Nationals Park this season have reported the aroma of brimstone, just hot dogs and peanuts. Nor have any angelic feathers wafted down from the sky. Something better did--the trailings of fireworks, when, on Sept. 20, the Nats beat the Dodgers 4-1 to reach the postseason for the first time in 79 years.
As we write, the East Division-leading Nats are tied with the Central Division's Reds for the best winning percentage in Major League Baseball. Washington is assured of at least a wild-card berth in the five-game Division Series that starts Oct. 5. This season marks not only the Nats' first foray into the playoffs, but also the first year they've posted a winning record.
Hope began to glimmer last year when, under new manager Davey Johnson, the team missed the .500 mark by a single game, and stars such as Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, and Adam LaRoche started to come together into a constellation as discernible as anything the Babylonians imagined in the night sky.
With any emerging great team there comes a Sign. The Nats' occurred May 6 against Philadelphia, when touted rookie outfielder Bryce Harper, 19 and eight days in the majors, was welcomed to the big leagues with a Cole Hamels fast ball that drilled him in the back. Mr. Harper responded by taking his base and then stealing home. This was the Nats' Pinocchio Moment, when the good fairy of baseball made a promising ball club into something magically alive.
It is almost too wonderful to contemplate, but a "parkway series" featuring Washington and Baltimore for the world championship is, near the regular season's last gleaming, still a possibility. The Orioles today are a single game behind the Yankees in the AL East and a very good bet to be involved in at least wild-care action. Unlike the callow Nats, the O's would be making their 12th postseason appearance.
Somewhere in our area are probably a few readers who remember, back when they were 6, 7, or 8, being led hand-in-hand by a dad or mom or older sibling to Griffith Stadium to see the Washington Senators play the Giants in the 1933 World Series. We hope they make it to a Nats game next month. Another postseason has been a long time coming. Has it been worth the wait? That's a clown question, bro.