Senators Move To Texas Still Stinging These Many Years Later

Farid RushdiAnalyst IJanuary 1, 2009

During the last game the Washington Senators would ever play at RFK Stadium, a banner was unfurled in the left field corner of RFK Stadium. It began in the upper deck and ended pretty close to the playing field level in two very long strips.

It said simply, "Short Stinks."

The next day, moving vans showed up at the team's Spartan offices and packed up all the balls and bats and bunting for their trip to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Although we all saw it coming, we were still stunned by when it happened.

Owner Robert Short had done this sort of thing before. He over borrowed to purchase the Minneapolis Lakers, signed Hot Rod Hundley to bring in the fans, and then left for "greener pastures" when the creditors started making noise.

What? You thought the Lakers originated in Los Angeles? Lakers—Minnesota—10,000 lakes? Aah. Beginning to make sense now, isn't it?

Fast forward 11 years to 1968. Bob Short buys the team for—if I remember—nine million dollars, outbidding entertainer Bob Hope a far too high a price for the moribund Senators.

Again, he borrowed heavily to come up with the down payment, leaving little cash reserves to run the team. To help create that cash flow, the Senators had the highest ticket prices in the American League during Short's three year run in D.C.

Is there any wonder, then why the Senators had attendance problems?

Following that magical 86-76 1969 season, Bob Short appeared on a WTOP-9 baseball special a few days before spring training began. I'll never forget what he said: "I see no reason why the Senators can't have a Mets type season here in Washington in 1970." (The Mets had come from nowhere to win the World Series in 1969.)

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It wasn't to happen. Short traded third baseman Kenny McMullen to the Angels very early in the season and it was all down hill from there.

Denny McLain was the top pitcher in the American League during the latter half of the 1960s. He was the first pitcher to win 30 games since Dizzy Dean, and won the Cy Young award in 1968, and shared it with Baltimore's Mike Cuellar in 1969.

He was a twenty game winner the next year, but by 1970 he became a latter day Milton Bradley. He was suspended during the 1970 season. There were whispers about gamblers and alcoholism. The Tigers tried to trade him to anyone who would have him, but no one was willing to take a chance.

No one, that is, except Bob Short.

Bob Short traded the entire left side of his infield (Aurelio Rodriguez, Eddie Brinkman), and one of his best pitchers (Joe Coleman) for McLain and a bunch of guys named Joe.

Just after the trade, Johnny Holiday interviewed him on WWDC radio, and the issue of his mental health came up. McLain said, "Johnny, I've been given a certificate from two different shrinks that says I'm not crazy. Do you have a certificate like that Johnny?"

I knew we were in trouble. 1971 had that same feel of all of those early 1960 Senators' teams: no wins and no hope. Our best players were in Detroit. Joe Coleman won 20 games for the Tigers, 10 more than Denny McLain won for the Senators

I still think that Bob Short made that trade to gut his team so fans wouldn't come to the stadium, enabling him to whine to Bowie Kuhn that he had to, he just had to, move to Turnpike Stadium (later enlarged and renamed) and become the Rangers.

So arrogant was Short that the new Rangers logo had the first letter "R" and the last letter "S" capitalized. Those letters just happened to be his initials. Typical.

Today, baseball fans watch the movie "Major League," a story of a greedy owner that gets rid of all of her good players so she could move the team, and everyone probably says, "Man, that could never happen."

Truth is stranger than fiction.