ANNAPOLIS – If the three-strikes rule applied to baseball team names the way it does to the game itself, then “Washington Senators” would have one more chance before it’s out.
Now that Major League Baseball has decided to relocate the Montreal Expos to Washington at the end of the season, the naming process will begin – and most people have an opinion on the matter.
Some critics of naming the team the Senators say the club should look elsewhere because that title already failed twice in Washington. Others believe “old school” is in.
The first time the city lost the Senators was after the 1960 season, when the franchise became the Minnesota Twins. The new Washington Senators, which entered the league in 1961, stayed for 10 years before becoming the Texas Rangers.
The arguments for and against the name Senators might turn out to be futile in the end. After all, the Rangers franchise owns the rights to the name.
Maryland Delegate William A. Bronrott, D-Montgomery, said he “lived and breathed” the Senators the last time they were in Washington and said he would have no problem if they were called that again.
At the news conference Wednesday announcing MLB’s decision, Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams said he supports naming the team the Grays after the Negro League club from Homestead, Pa., which played some of its home games in the District.
Williams said he opposes naming the team the Senators because Washington has no senators. It does, however, have Shadow Senators, who hold no voting power and act more like lobbyists.
“I’m not prepared to call them the Shadow Senators,” Bronrott said.
Even though Bronrott said he doesn’t mind the name Senators, he favors calling the team the “Metros” because it could “unite the Washington, D.C.-area and encourage fans to ride the Metro.”
Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch says, “Senators,” without hesitation, but the Anne Arundel County Democrat said he’s not really ceding anything to anyone’s upper chamber.
“The way (U.S. House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay is running the House these days . . .” Busch trailed off, but it was clear he thought immortalizing that Republican-controlled federal chamber would be a mistake.
And just for fun he joked that the team could always be called the Washington Lobbyists because it’s so apt, but dismissed the Filibusters as “too insider.”
The other side of Maryland’s legislative divide agrees with Mr. Speaker: Senators.
Maryland Republican Party Chairman John Kane said, through a spokeswoman, “They left Washington as the Senators, they should come back as the Senators.”
And he said the new owners should buy the rights to the name.
Members of the St. Mary’s High School junior varsity football team in Annapolis voiced their opinions while enjoying milkshakes at nearby Chick and Ruth’s Delly on Friday.
Some threw out their own last names as suggestions, while another recommended the Washington Forshizzle Nizzles in honor of rap icon Snoop Dogg’s famous saying.
Matt Sanders said the team should go with Senators, while Mark Donahue proposed the Saints in recognition of his school’s football team.
Vikki Fretwell, public information officer for Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, said that while her children attended St. Mary’s, she thinks the name Saints is ridiculous for the new baseball team.
“The Washington Saints . . . if there’s anything they’re not,” she said.
Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said the name should be something new because the name Senators isn’t exciting.
“It’s not very personable saying, ‘I’m a Senator,'” he said.
White added that the name should reflect the Washington area and be decided by people who live in the District.
The Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association changed their name from the Bullets before the 1997-98 season. They based their decision on results of a telephone poll, which allowed callers to pick among: Wizards, Sea Dogs, Dragons, Express and Stallions.
The Expos, which joined the National League as an expansion team in 1969, were named after Expo 67, the short name for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition held in Montreal.
Deborah Martinez, communications director for the Maryland Republican Party, said she thinks the team should stick with the name Expos.
John Dever, a spokesman for the Expos, said former Baltimore Oriole and current Montreal manager Frank Robinson doesn’t want to suggest a team nickname and then have Major League Baseball decide on something different.
Most people believe it’s a forgone conclusion that the team will use Washington as the first part of its name, as the Redskins, Capitals and Wizards do.
The area’s soccer team is called D.C. United.
If the first name Washington is chosen, the Expos franchise would remain one of the 25 Major League Baseball clubs that use the city they play in as the first part of their name.
Five baseball teams use their home state’s name, including the Texas Rangers.
The baseball franchise whose name has undergone the most construction is the Braves, which changed six times throughout the team’s years in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
The franchise used the Braves on two occasions, the first from 1912 to 1936 and then from 1940 to the present. The team was called the Boston Bees for the four years in between.