WASHINGTON -- Richard Nixon was president and man was still
making trips to the moon the last time the word "Washington"
appeared in Major League Baseball's standings.
On Opening Day, April 4, 2005, look for the nation's capital to return.
Baseball was to announce Wednesday that Washington will be the
new home of the Montreal Expos, according to a city official who
spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The city was to celebrate the news Wednesday afternoon with a
news conference featuring people associated with the old Washington
Senators, the official said.
"I think we'll be in a position where we can have a celebration
tomorrow," Mayor Anthony Williams told WUSA-TV late Tuesday.
Williams was noncommittal at his regular weekly news conference
Wednesday, telling reporters he was still waiting for official
notification from Major League Baseball officials.
The announcement comes one day before the 33rd anniversary of
the Senators' final game. The team moved to Texas after the 1971
season, which was also the last time a major league team was
A crucial hurdle was cleared this week when, according to the
city official, baseball reached an understanding with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who had previously objected to having
a team relocate just 40 miles from the Orioles' Camden Yards stadium.
Baseball has been looking for a new home for the Expos since the
financially troubled team was bought by the other 29 major league
owners in 2002.
Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, did not return
telephone messages seeking comment Tuesday night. Angelos refused
comment when reached at his home, and there was no confirmation by
baseball of a deal between the commissioner's office and Angelos.
On Tuesday, baseball sources told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that MLB offered Angelos two incentives:
Baseball is willing to guarantee that the Orioles will earn a still-to-be-negotiated minimum in annual revenues. If their revenues fall below that figure, MLB would make up the difference.
Baseball also is willing to guarantee a minimum franchise value for the Orioles. So if Angelos attempts to sell the team and can't find a buyer willing to pay that amount, MLB also would make up that difference.
Las Vegas; Norfolk, Va.; Monterrey, Mexico; Portland, Ore.; and
Northern Virginia also made bids, but Washington clearly took the
lead during negotiations over recent weeks, strengthened by its
wealthy population base and a financial package that would build a
new stadium primarily with taxpayers' money.
The negotiations have produced a 30-page document that would
conditionally award the Expos to Washington, pending approval by
the City Council. The document had not yet been signed as of
Tuesday night, the city source told the AP.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, reached at his Milwaukee home,
Plans call for a $440 million package that would include a new
ballpark to be built along the Anacostia River about a dozen blocks
south of the U.S. Capitol. The package also includes a $13 million
refurbishment of RFK Stadium, where the team would play for three
seasons while the new facility is being built.
Some fans interviewed Wednesday in the district's downtown were
wary of the financial implications for the cash-strapped city
"It's probably money that could be better spent elsewhere,"
said John Beckley, a Virginia resident who routinely treks to
Baltimore to see the Orioles play.
"I guess the nation's capital deserves to have a representative
in baseball, but obviously it's going to cost a lot of money,"
said Stephen Thomas, a district resident.
Others, liked retired district resident Bob Ryan, were clearly elated.
"I've lived here all my life. I was a Washington Senators fan
in the old days," Ryan said. "It's good to have it back."
"It's been way too long without a team down here," said Erin
Dieterich, of suburban Silver Spring, Md. "It's a national pastime
and this is the nation's capital."
Washington needed an answer from Major League Baseball this week
because the ballpark legislation had to be introduced in the City
Council by Friday in order for it to be passed by Dec. 31, when
terms expire for several pro-baseball council members.
Even now, some members of the council think the deal might not
pass because it is perceived as too generous to baseball in a city
that struggles to fund adequate schools and city services.
"I think everybody is excited about baseball coming to the
District," Councilman Adrian Fenty said. "Very few District
residents are excited about a full subsidy to pay for this stadium.
... At the end of the day, you're not going to have seven council
members support it."
The move also must be approved by three-quarters of major league
owners and survive legal challenges by the Expos' former limited
After the announcement, the process of selling the Expos will
start. A group that includes former Rangers partner Fred Malek has
been seeking a Washington franchise for five years. In addition,
several baseball officials have said in the past week that Stan
Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and
Thrashers, might be trying to assemble a group.
The original Senators played in Washington from 1901-60 before
moving to Minnesota to become the Twins. The expansion Senators
called Washington home from 1961-71 before moving to Texas and
becoming the Rangers.
Montreal's last home game is scheduled for Wednesday night
against Florida. Tuesday night's game, which the Expos lost 5-2,
attracted 5,416 fans.