Washington Senators or Washington Nationals?

So far all the cards in my Harmon Killebrew collection show him as a Minnesota Twin. I haven't been able to expand into Harmon's early Senators career. So when I saw this Harmon relic from a Senators jersey I was all over it like something that was really all over something else.

2005 Leaf Certified Materials Fabric of the Game #FG-55 Harmon Killebrew Dual Jersey Relic 07/50

Those wool uniforms must have been great in the sticky Washington summers.

As a Twins collector who's main cards are mainly from 1986-present, I have next to no Washington Senators cards. As I've investigated those 1950's and 60's cards you find an interesting thing regarding the the baseball team from Washington. Sometimes they are called the Washington Nationals, as in this 1955 Topps card:

1955 Topps #173 Bob Kline

1955 Topps #173 - Bob Kline RC (Rookie Card) - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

Later, they are called the Washington Senators. Here is a 1958 Topps example:

1958 Topps #288 Harmon Killebrew

1958 Topps #288 - Harmon Killebrew - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

So what gives?

Well, here's the back story.

The Washington Senators were one of the eight original teams when the American League was created in 1901. From 1901-1904 the teams was known as the Senators. In 1905, the team officially changed their name to the Washington Nationals. For a few years their uniforms actually read "Nationals" until it was changed to the famous "W" that would be on their uniforms for decades. Although officially the Nationals, the team was interchangeably called the Senators by the press, as well as just "The Nats."

After the team's owner Clark Griffith died in 1955, his son Calvin took control of the team and pushed the team in the direction of just being called the Senators. In 1959, for the first time, the word "Senators" was put on their jerseys.

After the 1960 season, the team moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul and became the Twins. [Interesting side note, the Senators moved to Metropolitan Stadium located in Bloomington, MN. After the Metrodome was built, Met Stadium was torn down. That poor stadium gave its life for the Mall of America which sits on the Mets Stadium location today].

When a child has lost their puppy, you get them another. The same is true for cities and baseball teams. To replace the Senators, Washington got another expansion team in 1961 which they also called the Senators. (Maybe they should have been Senators II as in Snowball II) That team was never associated with the Nationals name. This version of the Senators only lasted in Washington until 1971 when they moved to Texas and became the Rangers. They are probably most remembered for having Ted Williams as their manager:

1970 Topps #211 Ted Williams

1970 Topps #211 - Ted Williams MG UER Throwing information on back incorrect - Courtesy of CheckOutMyCards.com

In 2005, it was Washington's turn to steal a team away from another city. Although at first the Senators name was proposed for the new team they eventually became The Nationals.


Bud Selig wanted to renamed the Expos the "Senators" but was adamantally opposed by D.C. Mayor Tony Williams who spearheaded the move to get the team. What was wrong with "Senators"? Well, although there have been U.S. Senators in Washington since 1800, they've never represented the residents of Washington, D.C. Williams felt it was unconscionable to name the team "Senators" as long as D.C. voters had no voting representation in Congress.

The name Williams wanted for the team was "Grays", after the Negro League champion team that played it's games in both Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. in the 30's and 40's. Bud Selig worried that that might not be appealing for local baseball fans. "Nationals" was a compromise, and the shortened nickname for "Nationals"---"Nats"---was used for both the NATionalS and SeNATorS for many years. In my opinion, "Nats" is the real name of the ballclub.