Patriots’ Day, Morning Baseball and the Senators

Photo courtesy of
‘[Nick Altrock, Washington AL (baseball)] (LOC)’
courtesy of ‘The Library of Congress’

Someone will point out after this is posted that the Washington Senators – whether the Twins or Rangers versions – are not the same club as the existing team that plays in the National League down by the Navy Yard. Regardless, they are a still chapter of Washington’s turbulent baseball history, and I found a cool tidbit worth sharing in relation to the Senators and the unique Boston Red Sox tradition surrounding Patriots’ Day.

In the state of Massachusetts (as well as Maine and, for some reason, Wisconsin), today is a civic holiday by the name of Patriots’ Day. The day recognizes the start of the Revolutionary War, which started in the Boston suburbs of Concord and Lexington a few centuries ago. As part of the celebration, the city of Boston completely shuts down for two events: the running of the Boston Marathon (this year is the 115th) and the only MLB game of the year that is scheduled to start before noon.

Photo courtesy of
‘CITGO Sign’
courtesy of ‘mkream’

Baseball before noon? It works out perfectly, actually: the Red Sox’ home in Kenmore Square is right near the finish line in Copley (it is just about mile 25 on the course). Annually, the Sox host a squad from their own league – this year’s opponent is the Blue Jays – and as the game ends, fans spill out onto the street to cheer on the runners on their final push to the finish line just a little more than a mile up the street. It’s kind of awesome.

Looking over the history of the Patriots’ Day game in a post from Fire Brand of the American League, there is a point worth exploring related to DC. While the Red Sox have played the Yankees more than any other team (it makes sense to schedule the rival and other longstanding northeastern club from the AL), the Senators (the team itself, not a combined across the franchises) are tied for second with 20 games played as guests in Boston on the third Monday in April.

Photo courtesy of
‘[Clyde Milan, Washington AL (baseball)] (LOC)’
courtesy of ‘The Library of Congress’

The back-of-the-napkin math: the Sox first played on Patriots’ Day in 1903, and the last time the Sox played the Senators on the holiday was in 1953. This means that the first, Minnesota Twins iteration of the team that existed from 1901-1960 squeezed in 20 Patriots’ Day games in 40 years. A statistical jump, perhaps? Why so many? Well, for one thing, between 1903-1966, the  Sox played not just one game, but in fact scheduled doubleheaders in about 40 percent of the years. That probably is what directly leads to so many appearances by the Senators, especially when you factor the somewhat regional AL team existed only in that era of double-dip in games to work their way up the Patriots’ Day fixtures.

I think there’s a second part of this story that is probably more in my head/message points than reality, but I could see a bit of a charm/publicity move for the league and these two clubs: I love the idea that the team from the Washington was featured in a game on a holiday that invokes a patriotic and American moment. It’s at least a move that would be something you’d expect out of the current league that has stars-and-stripes caps for Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

Photo courtesy of
‘Japanese Reporters There to See Daisuke – Red Sox at Nationals (EXHIBITION) 3 April 2010’
courtesy of ‘ElCapitanBSC’

The question is: could it happen again with a Washington franchise? A National League Team has never made an appearance in the game, meaning it’d be tough to add more dimensions to the tradition.

Being in opposite leagues, The Nationals get the Red Sox on the schedule every three years in interleague play, alternating between Boston and Washington. In 2009, the Sox visited DC, so there should be an away series in Fenway Park next spring. Scheduling the series over Patriots’ Day weekend? Incredibly unlikely. Interleague play was introduced in 1997, slotted for late-May/mid-June dates and involves every franchise at the same time to keep the pairings in sync for scheduling purposes.

There are only two ways to move the Nats/Sox series to the third weekend of April that I can see, based on pure logistics of scheduling:

  1. Shift the league-wide schedule to move one of the six interleague series into the first month of the season. In a young season where teams are trying to get momentum against their more regular competition, the last thing many clubs will want to do is throw a wrench in with an unfamiliar team. Money is also a factor here: when it’s later in the spring but before pennant races heat up, the appeal of an interleague opponent can sell tickets in even middle and smaller markets. Early in the season, when a young club may make a run and get some excitement going, there’s still a chance to move plenty of April tickets in comparison to late-spring games where interleague gets plugged into the schedule and those young teams fade back into the pack.
  2. Many teams take Mondays off throughout the season, and there may be a way to do some creative scheduling around off-days to make it happen. Try this on for size: slot the first game of the season’s Sox-Nats series on the Patriots’ Day time, and then move the remaining two games to a midweek series in June when it normally would be schedule. It’s just moving the off-day, and if the Sox stay at home and the Nats follow-up their one days trip before or after a Mets series, it wouldn’t be too taxing.

At best, you can say that the second one is relatively more likely, yet still unlikely. Again, I’m in no way affiliated with MLB or either club and just throwing ideas around, but it would be fun to see a new tradition start between the two clubs around that game. For now, it’ll be an occasional June series every few years, but it’d be really cool if there was some underpinnings of American Revolutionary history between the District’s team and the Sawks.

Dave Levy is a PR guy by day, a media researcher on the side and a self-proclaimed geek. He blogs often about how traditional media adapts – or tries to adapt – to the growing digital media world at State of the Fourth Estate. You can follow Dave on Twitter for various updates about everything from sports from his previous home in Boston to eccentric and obscure pop culture references. Read why Dave loves D.C.

6 thoughts on “Patriots’ Day, Morning Baseball and the Senators

  1. Cool idea. Also, for most of the time frame in question, the official legal name of the Washington ball club was the Nationals. Senators was an unofficial nickname until the 1950s, I believe. So the connection between then and now is even stronger. Sort of.

  2. Keep the baseball stuff coming Dave!

    It’s hard for some to believe, but an amateur baseball team formed in Washington in 1859. They were called the Nationals and earned fame by touring the west (as it was back then), in 1867, winning all but one game, and helping to spread the growing popularity of the game.

    Frank Ceresi researched it.

  3. Dave – they’d probably run into trouble with Players’ Association. I know there are restrictions on the preceding Sunday game with the early start time. For instance, the Red Sox are required to play a day game on Sunday to have the early start on Monday. It wouldn’t surprise me if there was a travel restriction as well – it seems like the Patriots’ Day game is always the last game of a wrap-around series (which are pretty rare) instead of the first game of a new series.

  4. Eric, that’s really a great point. The Sox never get the Sunday Night Baseball game and it is almost always a part of a four-game series. The only only way to maybe work it is if you have the Nats in Citi Field that Sunday with an afternoon restriction so they can get up to Boston by the evening, then give them a night game on the Tuesday with Philly or back at home – and you’re right that the PA would probably still have an issue with that.

    Also interesting the Sox get shipped west immediately after, usually, where the early game affords some extra time to get out to California. Almost 36 hours between yesterday’s 1105a ET start and tonight’s 1005p ET start.

    Hypothetical exercise, I still file this entire scenario in a sub-2% chance of ever happening.

  5. Yeah. It’d definitely be fun – the Patriots’s Day game was one of my favorite events before moving down here. The whole concept of 11 AM baseball sets the tone for the day, for better or for worse.