You cannot imagine how excited Washington, D.C., Nationals fans are about the team making it to the World Series for the first time since 1933, when the capital’s baseball team was called the Senators. Sadly, the Giants beat us then in five games.
The story of how the Nats won the 2019 National League pennant title has the makings of a heartwarming Hollywood movie. Imagine a baseball team that begins the season with a failing record only to come from behind and ace an exciting wild-card game, and battle on to beat the higher-ranked Dodgers and Cardinals.
The Nats consist of old and young players bonded over winning a pennant. The ace veteran, Ryan Zimmerman, age 35, had key hits during the playoffs. Rising star Juan Soto is only 20, and couldn’t legally drink booze during the locker-room celebrations. Soto turns 21 on October 25, so hopefully he will have something to celebrate.
The drama of this World Series will center on who dominates on the mound as both the Nats and the Houston Astros have commanding starters. The Nats’ pitcher is veteran Max Scherzer, also 35. He faces Astros best pitcher Gerrit Cole in a duel reminiscent of the Western classic “High Noon.”
Throw into the mix a great musical score as the Venezuelan players Gerardo Perra and Anibal Sanchez play catchy Spanish tunes in the locker room. Parra introduces the practice of congo dancing in the dugout after every home run. This line dance has become the Nats’ trademark, teaching some of the gringo players to loosen up. Fans, meanwhile, have adopted the kids’ song “Baby Shark,” making a shark hand motion for every hit in accordance with how far the ball travels..
The theme of the team’s unlikely rise is only topped by the backstory of its return to the capital in 2005 after sadly leaving the city in 1961. The saga involved enlightened Mayor Tony Williams and many local fans advocating for the return of professional baseball to Washington despite the opposition of Peter Angelos, owner of the nearby Baltimore Orioles.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig wisely awarded the team to real estate mogul Ted Lerner, who grew up in D.C. during the Depression. In his youth, Lerner went door to door selling magazines to scrape together 25 cents for a bleacher seat to watch his beloved Senators. Lerner now runs the team with his family members. To top off the feel-good family story is the fact the Nationals clinched the pennant on the exact date that Ted Lerner turned 94.
Credit for the Nats’ success goes largely to GM Mike Rizzo, who started out as scout and has traded for players based on the old-fashioned use of scouting reports rather than analytics.
There are many key scenes for any Hollywood version of the 2019 Nats, from relief pitcher Daniel Hudson leaving the playoffs to attend to the birth of his third child to team manager Dave Martinez leaving a late-season game in the sixth inning to rush to the hospital with chest pains. (He made a grand return to guide the team to their pennant victory.) As Martinez told the press earlier this month, “The running joke now is I had to take a stress test and I told the doctors, I said, ‘You don’t see me every day? I take a stress test every day and I think I’m passing.'”
A crafty screenwriter would doubtless include flashbacks to the last time the Washington Senators played in the World Series. The most colorful player on taht roster was the brilliant Moe Berg, who knew many languages and would go on to risk his life as a spy for the pre-CIA Office of Strategic Services during World War II.
The costume designer would have to depict 1930s male fans dressed in suits and fedoras and the women wrapped in furs in contrast to today’s fans sporting very casual clothes and wearing and waving either red or orange colors. Players back then were clean-shaven, while today’s players have beards that make them look like 1880s settlers.
Washington’s World Series drought ends tonight after 86 years in the winless desert. I have won a bottle of champagne from both my nephews, who are Cards and Yankee fans. Here is hoping I drink the bubbly in honor of many Nats runs and a bona fide uplifting Hollywood ending.