When Steinbrenner wanted baseball in Washington
The outpouring of George Steinbrenner obituaries will naturally focus on his contributions to baseball in New York. Me, I was curious about his thoughts on baseball in D.C.
I didn't live here during the dark years without a team, so I don't know the full history of Steinbrenner's role. I'm sure Thomas Boswell will chime in on this matter at some point. But it didn't take much looking to find a strong endorsement from Steinbrenner for baseball in the District.
This quote came from a Post story in 1978, just seven years after the Senators left, and nearly three
two decades before the Nats arrived. The story painted a rosy picture of the emerging D.C. market, writing that:
Since that last [Senators] game, Washington and its image have changed. Club owners and executives seem to be aware of the changing - from the new subway to the spiraling affluence reflected in the real estate and retail markets. No long do they talk about crime, as many did a few years ago. But, there still are reservations about what kind of a baseball town Washington is.
Many of the reservations focused around finding an ownership group, which Steinbrenner also mentioned. But he was still in favor.
George M. Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees, said "economic feasibility" is the key to another club in Washington.
"To my knowledge, I don't know of any group which is ready with the money and prepared to live through the building years which are required, and the losses which are inherent in those year," Steinbrenner said. "No other reasons [for not having a team in D.C.] make sense.
"I've been for having a franchise in Washington since I've been in baseball. I told (AL President) Lee MacPhail I'd be ready to bring the Yankees down there for some games - to test the waters if some people weren't sure how it would go."
Steinbrenner thinks the RFK Stadium-area and the city have been, unfairly labeled as crime-ridden. "The New York Yankees play in the Bronx and they say the same things about us and we don't have any incidents. I'd put our record up against any major city in the nation."
Of course, D.C. was in consideration for a team in 1994, when MLB was again considering expansion. Tom Davis, the future congressman who was then chairman of Fairfax County's Board of Supervisors, and George Barton, then Loudoun's board chairman, touted the possibility of a stadium near Dulles to a group of baseball execs. Then there was silence, as The Post reported:
"George Steinbrenner decided to fill the void," Barton said. The Yankees owner "looked Tom and me in the eye and said, 'Why don't you just build a stadium and give it to us? That's what everybody else does.' "So Washington didn't get a team that time around.
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