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The Nats are honoring a former Expo. Should they?

Aug 10, 2010, 9:19 AM EDT

Personally, I like that the Nationals are honoring Andre Dawson tonight. The Expos are the Nats’ direct ancestor, and there’s no one else left around to honor the old warriors of Montreal.

But not everyone feels this way. Nats’ fan/blogger Chris Needham thinks that, with all due respect to the Expos’ legacy, the Nats need to embrace Washington baseball, not Montreal baseball:

Should the Nats honor their direct lineage? Or should they honor
their figurative fathers? Is Steve Rogers the greatest pitcher in
Washington Nationals history? Yes. At least if you’re a literalist.

There are no Montreal Expos anymore. Kaput. Neither are there
Seattle Pilots. Or St. Louis Browns. Or Boston Bees. Or Cleveland
Infants. Or any of about a bazillion-and-one former baseball teams.

Off to the dustbin of history they should go. Lets read about ’em in
books. The Nationals aren’t the Expos. The Orioles aren’t the Browns.
The Brewers aren’t the Pilots. Even if they’re all related.

Chris’ point is not to hate on the Expos, but to note that — as far as the fans are concerned — the local is what really matters. The Senators that became the Twins and the Rangers mean more to Washington baseball fans than they do to those in Minnesota and Dallas. By the same token, how are Nats’ fans supposed to react to a celebration of an Expos team that doesn’t mean all that much to them from a baseball perspective?

I’ll note that on some level this is a false dichotomy — with 81 home games a year and virtually unlimited ballpark space for plaques and flags and stuff, the Nats can easily honor both the Expos and the old Senators — but Chris’ overall point is a good one.

Baseball historians and Expos geeks will be happy to see Andre Dawson at Nats Park tonight. The common Washington baseball fan, however, will feel a greater connection to the Nats if they make a point to honor and promote the legacies of Frank Howard and Walter Johnson than those of Les Expos.

Because at the end of the day, all politics is local.

  1. adam - Aug 10, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    Guess that means any team that moves should forget about the past.
    So the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Milwaukee Braves all should never be recognized by their current teams.

  2. Craig Calcaterra - Aug 10, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    There’s certainly a division on Braves/Dodgers/Giants stuff from a local perspective. It’s harder because the nicknames and ownership remained the same, but the Braves make a note of Atlanta record holders vs. Milwaukee record holders vs. overall franchise record holders. The Brooklyn Dodgers mean far less to Los Angeles baseball fans than they do to the general nostalgia factory that supports their legacy. I can bet you that no San Francisco fan feels like their team has a championship simply because the Giants won the 1954 World Series.

  3. Detroit Michael - Aug 10, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    Without any data to refute your point, I’ll disagree with the penultimate sentence. The common Washington baseball fan probably feels a greater connection to Andre Dawson than to Walter Johnson because Dawson is much more “local” in terms of chronology.

  4. tjwilliams - Aug 10, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    This is really dumb. It’s not about the city, it’s about the franchise. You think that Braves fans care that Hank Aaron played 12 years in Milwaukee before he ever set foot in Atlanta? How many MVPs did Willie Mays win with the Giants? After all, one of them was in New York. Did Harmon Killebrew hit 559 homers with the Twins organization or only 475.
    Or better yet, the Dodgers are hereby banned from honoring Jackie Robinson in any way, shape, or form. After all, despite spending his entire career with the Dodgers, he never played a game in LA.

  5. YankeesfanLen - Aug 10, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Or, you could be like the Metropolitans and build a whole new field around a team with which there is no connection whatsoever .

  6. Bill@TDS - Aug 10, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    No, sorry, THIS is really dumb. Braves fans don’t care that Hank Aaron played in Milwaukee for 12 years, because he also played in Atlanta for nine. But how much do they really care about Rabbit Maranville (who had most of his HOF career with the BOSTON Braves), or even Eddie Mathews (who was only in Atlanta for his one last, washed-up year as a Brave)?
    Dawson left the Expos nearly 20 years before the Expos left Montreal, and it’s not like he’s anywhere near the class of player Aaron was, either (and bringing Jackie Robinson up is just bizarre).. If you’re going to make an analogy to Atlanta fans, he’s a heck of a lot more like Rabbit than Hank. Nats fans have no reason to care at all. I’m a lifelong Twins fan, and I’ve never seen them do anything celebrating Goose Goslin or Walter Johnson. The Dodgers have all kinds of reasons to celebrate Jackie, but I doubt you see much about Zack Wheat.
    All that said, I agree with Craig that it’s kind of neat that they’re doing it. But “It’s not about the city, it’s about the franchise” is just plainly, absurdly wrong.

  7. Simon DelMonte - Aug 10, 2010 at 10:33 AM

    I would add that the Mets’ efforts to tie their history to the Brooklyn Dodgers (and the perceived failure to promote the history of the current franchise) remains a sore spot. I think a lot of fans here would be glad to let LA have it all. So it’s hard to win one way or the other.
    That said, the fans in Washington end up with either nostalgia for something that happened elsewhere (and that wasn’t very memorable that often) or nostalgia for two teams that left long ago and that were rarely a factor in baseball history. Mets fans at least can choose between honoring Seaver and the ’86 team and Piazza and a few other cherished memories, or honoring players of the caliber of Jackie Robinson. (As much as I agree that Fred Wilpon has been living in Ebbets Field, the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is impossible for me to fault.)

  8. Simon DelMonte - Aug 10, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    There is a connection: the blue in the uniform.
    And, as I note above, I think that honoring Jackie Robinson is fine. He transcends team affiliation and is being honored as a great New Yorker.
    But you never see the Yankees paying tribute to members of the 1901-1902 Baltimore Orioles. It’s time this was rectified.

  9. tjwilliams - Aug 10, 2010 at 11:15 AM

    I see your point. I mistook Craig’s post as being a critique on the obligations of a team to its franchise as opposed to the obligation a team has to its fans. In that point, you are correct. But it still doesn’t get to the selective nature of such a view. Should the Giants have not retired the jerseys of Christy Mathewson or Mel Ott just because they never played in San Francisco? Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, and Jackie Robinson have all been honored by the Los Angeles Dodgers despite spending a combined ONE season with the team in LA. It’s probably easier to reconcile those teams because when they moved they had the same owners, same logos, same colors. The Expos were, for all intents and purposes, contracted and a new team constructed in Washington with new honors, new colors, and new logos, but with the old team.
    I guess I just have a hard time believing that Washington fans really care that much about the history of other franchises. DC hadn’t had a baseball team in 35 years. Are Nationals fans really sitting around saying, “Andre Dawson’s a bum. He was never one ours. Now that Walter Johnson…National through and through.” Give me a break. Now, Chris’s idea that the Nationals should create some kind of monument honoring Washington baseball…that I can get behind. But the idea that they shouldn’t honor Andre Dawson because he never played in Washington is ridiculous.

  10. Jonny5 - Aug 10, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    Andre Dawson must be doing a HOF tour, as i saw him at another game this season. Anyway Andre Dawson works for the Feesh, The Nats fans should Boo him outta town!!! Smelly Feesh!!!

  11. The Common Man - Aug 10, 2010 at 11:56 AM

    That said, the last fans who watched the original Senators live would be at least 50 years old now. And those who watched the second incarnation are probably at least in their 40s. I just wonder how much nostalgia there is for franchises that no one has gotten to see play. How often do the Pirates honor Fred Clarke or Paul Waner? When was the last time the Phillies hyped Chuck Klein? Is there likely to be a Three Finger Brown day at Wrigley anytime soon? The Nationals don’t have any recent history of their own to honor, so they’re taking advantage of what they can. And I don’t have a problem with that.

  12. Chipmaker - Aug 10, 2010 at 1:20 PM

    So who has the 1924 World Series trophy (or would, if there was not one)?

  13. RichardInBigD - Aug 10, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    Thing about it is, if Dawson isn’t honored by the franchise that he played for, then who? Is there even minor league ball in Montreal now that they kicked the Expos out of town? I can see the points about the Muts and Dodgers and Giants, and the Twins and Senators and Rangers, but in those cases, there is a team present in the city where the old guys played. Not the case for Dawson. Luckily, most of the rest of the good players that went through Montreal had or have other homes south of the border (Manny and Guerrero come to mind immediately)…

  14. RichardInBigD - Aug 10, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    Any Twinkies fans know of the whereabouts? It’s not in Arlington!

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