The Washington Padres?

WashPadsDaveFreischelbenNow that our nation’s capital has a ballclub again (and a pretty good one), it’s interesting to look back at the very long period between the city losing the Senators for the second time in 1971, and the arrival of the former Expos in 2005. In 1973 the San Diego Padres, around for barely five seasons, announced they were giving up the ghost as well as changing coasts. Owner C. Arnholt Smith was being sued for $23 million by the IRS and wanted out (Smith was later convicted of tax fraud and embezzlement). The Washington Post confirmed the rumors on May 28th by trumpeting “Baseball Returns To D.C.”. Numerous problems quickly arose, among them concern for what was euphemistically called the “security” situation in D.C., the Padres existing stadium lease (which had 15 years to go), and the fact that in the previous decade and a half, not one, but two Washington Senators clubs had abandoned the capital for friendlier locales. Opposition also came from two influential National League owners, Walter O’Malley (yes, that Walter O’Malley) and the Cubs’ Phil Wrigley. Nevertheless, on December 21, 1973 the league unanimously voted to allow the Padres to do a sort of reverse Brooklyn Dodgers and move from West to East, provided certain “conditions” were met. Baseball cards were duly printed for the 1974 season denoting the team as “Washington National League”, and uniforms were designed and a publicity shot of Padre rookie pitcher Dave Freisleben in the new duds was published. The National League schedule for 1974 was printed showing Philadelphia opening at Washington on April 4th. (Not sure if the plan was to switch D.C. to the Eastern Division and which East team would have been moved West to compensate). As we all know, the move never happened. The city of San Diego threatened a $72 million lawsuit, and the whole thing began to unravel. The Washington “Stars” (see cap below), rather than taking up residence in RFK Stadium, became a curious “what if” footnote in baseball history.

5 thoughts on “The Washington Padres?

  1. Great story! Well-written and informative. I was a teenager in the 70’s and didn’t remember any of this. Think of all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth that must have accompanied the move and it never even happened! Thanks for the throwback Tuesday!

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  2. I remember digging into a fistful of Topps wax packs that spring and seeing those ridiculous Washington National League cards. As an eight year old, I couldn’t figure out how owners could be so stupid as to move the team WITHOUT HAVING YOUR UNIFORM, FIRST! I was an emerging A’s fan at the time and quickly learned that, well…owners…Rest in peace, Charlie O. Finley.

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  3. I remember VERY well of my Padres almost going to Washington D.C. and then ( it seems like out of nowhere ) Ray Kroc came in and saved not only the day but, the Padres. I still have all of those Washington Nat’L Lea cards and will not EVER sell them or part with them. My only wish is that the Friars go back to “Brown and Gold”. That IS their identity.

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