Everything about baseball’s return to DC seemed a little bit thrown together. The Nationals script on the uniform looked like it was taken from the bottom of the Microsoft font menu. The block letters didn’t even match the hats. The team had no owner–or even a plan to get one. A few of the players had legitimate MLB credentials, but the bulk of the roster were retreads and non-prospects. RFK Stadium was a mess. The network televising the team wasn’t even on tv in the majority of DC area homes. I traveled to Chicago that season to watch the Nats play and–I swear to God–several Cubs fans I met weren’t even aware the Nationals existed.
But we had Frank Robinson. The Hall of Famer with 586 Home Runs. The first guy to win MVPs in both leagues. The first first black manager in MLB history. A legitimate baseball and Civil Rights legend.
In April 2005, as fans wandered into a broken-down stadium to watch a team of awkwardly-dressed castoffs take the field, Frank Robinson gave Washington D.C. baseball in immediate dose of credibility.
The first half of the 2005 season is frozen in time for Washington baseball fans. On talent alone, the team had no business competing for anything, but an incredible run of close wins put them in first place at the all-star break. I wouldn’t have cared if they lost 162 games, but that squad led by Frank Robinson gave us so much more.
Frank lived an incredible life. It was really cool that we got to be a small part of it.