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Nationals' Victories Give D.C.'s Image a Boost

Kevin Dietsch/UPI
The success of Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and the rest of the bullpen has helped turn around the fortunes of the hometown team.

Kurkjian was writing about not just the Nationals, but also the less-expected turnaround up I-95 by the Baltimore Orioles.

But while Baltimore has had its share of winning baseball - with World Series victories within living memory, its crown jewel stadium Oriole Park at Camden Yards and superstar players including the now-retired Cal Ripken Jr. - Washington has not had that kind of good feeling attached to it for decades.

The NFL's Washington Redskins had a string of Super Bowl success in the 1980s and '90s, when they played at Capitol Hill's RFK Stadium. But those days are gone, and the Redskins have decamped for FedEx Field in suburban Landover, Md.

"The fact of the matter is that, back in the heyday of the Redskins, it was a less partisan town. You didn't have Congressmen rushing home on the weekends and sleeping in their offices," Mirijanian said.

'Teddy'

It's not just the players who are attracting attention to the Nationals and their host city. A long-developing drama over the in-house entertainment has also captured public interest, even moving America's best known documentarian to put his stamp on things.

Ken Burns, the man behind "The Civil War," "Prohibition" and, yes, "Baseball," has produced a mini-documentary on the Nationals' presidential racing figure of Teddy Roosevelt, titled "Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Ride."

Despite cries of "Let Teddy Win" during the foot race in the middle of each home game's fourth inning, Teddy always fell short to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln - until Wednesday's game, when something resembling the Philadelphia Phillies' mascot, the Phanatic, knocked out Teddy's rivals and allowed him to cross the finish line first.

"He is Mount Rushmore's Rodney Dangerfield," Burns says of Teddy in the film's narration.

Even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), as famous a scold of Washington's ways as any, got into the act, vowing in Burns' film, tongue firmly in cheek, to pursue action if Teddy's fortunes did not change.

For the Nationals' Monday night game, McCain cut a short film in which he gave Teddy a pep talk. And after Wednesday's race, McCain was ecstatic, tweeting: "#Teddy won! #Teddy won! #Teddy won! We've defeated the massive left-wing conspiracy!"

Losers No More

Washington baseball, despite a World Series win in 1924 and famous talent including Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson, has long been associated with losing.

"First in war, first in peace and last in the American League," was a popular enough view of Washington baseball that it figured in the Broadway musical "Damn Yankees," which posited that the only way the Washington Senators could edge out the New York Yankees was by making a deal with the devil.

Two Senators teams moved away. The first left for Minnesota to become the Twins, who have won two World Series titles there. The second departed for Texas, where the Rangers have been in the past two Fall Classics. A World Series matchup between the Nationals and Rangers remains a possibility this fall.

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