As the Washington Senators played their farewell game at RFK Stadium on Sept. 30, 1971, fans stormed the field with two outs in the ninth inning, angered by owner Bob Short’s decision to move the team.

The riot forced the Senators to forfeit even though they led the New York Yankees 7-5.

Thirty-three years later, with the announcement last Wednesday that Washington will be the home to the Montreal Expos and that opening day set is for April 4, 2005, the city is already singing the chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

“After 30 years of waiting and waiting and waiting and lots of hard work and more than a few prayers, there will be baseball in Washington in 2005,” District mayor Anthony Williams said with enthusiasm at a news conference last week, showing off a Washington Senators cap.

Despite Williams’ hat, the new team’s name has not been chosen, though some are pushing for former Negro team name “Grays.”

The announcement from Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig that Washington would again have a baseball team came one day before the anniversary of the Senators’ final game. Their move to Texas was the last time that a major baseball franchise relocated.

The Expos have been looking for a new home since 29 major league owners bought the team in 2002.

Las Vegas, Norfolk, Va., Monterrey, Mexico, Portland, Ore., and Northern Virginia all vied for the team as well, but Washington stood out in the past few weeks, especially due to its wealthy population base and a $440 million plan for a new ballpark to be built along the Anacostia River and in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.

The location of the new stadium was selected, in part, in hopes that it would rejuvenate that area, bringing new business and tourism into D.C.

“The general consensus among Washingtonians is that the new ballpark will revitalize a decrepit section of the District in much the same way that MCI Center did,” Jonathan Evans (SFS ’06) said. “Very few Hoyas realize just how dangerous the Chinatown area of D.C. was prior to MCI Center.”

Negotiations produced a 30-page agreement that will move the Expos to Washington and includes the plan for the new stadium and a $13 million refurbishment of RFK Stadium, where the team will play for three seasons while the new ballpark is being constructed. All of this is conditioned on approval by the City Council, which Williams has asked to come to a decision by the year’s end.

The money for the stadium will come from a tax on the city’s largest businesses, pending approval of the plan by the Council.

Some residents find this contract to be inappropriate for a city that is struggling to generate money for its municipal services and schools. A rally opposing the tax plan was held this morning by taxpayers who believe that D.C.’s limited resources should be spent in areas, such as schools and public safety. The group does not oppose the stadium, but believe that the new owners should foot the entire bill.

Aside from internal negotiations for the Expos, one of the biggest challenges in scoring the team has been the objections of Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who is concerned his business will be damaged by another team just 40 miles away from Camden Yards.

“Our aim has been to protect and preserve the Orioles franchise and the economic benefits it has generated for Baltimore for the past 50 years,” Angelos told ESPN.

After talking with Angelos, baseball officials are moving towards an agreement in which an appraiser would value the Orioles franchise and the commissioner’s office would guarantee its value for a still-to-be-decided period of time

In addition, the commissioner’s office would also support Baltimore’s locally-generated money from the stadium by guaranteeing normal revenue and working to create a regional sports network.

“I would attend Orioles’ games with my family and friends, but I never felt any loyalty to the team, primarily due to geographic factors,” Evans, who grew up in Potomac, Md. said. “Now that D.C. has a team again, we are going to finally have a team to follow and root for as our own.”

While certain groups have struggled to bring the sport back to Washington, baseball in the District has not always been so treasured. The original Senators were moved to Minnesota as a part of the arrangement that gave Washington an expansion team, after owner Calvin Smith was unhappy with attendance at old Griffin Stadium. The new team didn’t fare any better, either, as attendance continually slowed at RFK Stadium, which opened for the Senators in 1962.

After the team moved away, expansion franchises were approved in 1976, 1991 and 1995, but the Washington metro area was unsuccessful each time. In the 1976 round, an agreement had been reached to move the Houston Astros to Northern Virginia, but Houston voters barely approved a referendum for a new stadium in order to keep the team.

The acquisition of the team ends a frustrating round of attempts to bring sports to Washington, D.C. – an Olympic bid, a marathon and an auto race all fell through. In addition, the city’s existing teams, the Capitals, the Redskins and the Wizards, have slipped through recent seasons with overwhelming losing streaks.

Many feel the long wait for a team to come home to Washington has finally paid off. While negotiations with Baltimore and Major League Baseball continue, the city will excitedly wait for the first pitch from the RFK Stadium next spring.

“I grew up down the street from RFK stadium,” Jack Pfeiffer (COL ’06) said. “My father and I used to walk down to the stadium together to watch Redskins and Orioles games, but both teams have moved to far off Maryland-based stadiums. I can’t tell you just how much I miss walking down the street to ball games at RFK Stadium.”

In Montreal, Expos president Tony Tavares expressed mixed emotions about the relocation.

“It’s a day when the sun is setting in Montreal, but it’s rising in Washington,” he said at a news conference at Olympic Stadium in Montreal.

At the Expos’ final game at Olympic Stadium, in front of a crowd of 31,395, one fan showed his frustrations about the announced team move by throwing a golf ball on the field, which landed near second base.

While it may not match the riot at the Senators game in 1971, it delayed the third inning by 10 minutes and forced the players to leave the field.

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