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The Pining Ends On Opening Day

By the mid-1980s, Holster, like many aging baby boomers, started getting nostalgic about the Senators, he said, "to recapture that lost piece of my youth."

He satisfied his baseball craving by collecting Senators memorabilia, and he collected lots of it -- cards, programs and bats and balls. When he discovered no one had compiled a catalogue of Senators memorabilia available to collectors, he decided to do it himself.

Tom Holster photographs the infield at RFK Stadium, accompanied by Jim Hartley, head of the Washington Baseball Historical Society, and Hank Thomas, grandson of Walter Johnson, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Senators. (James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

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"I had the idea of coming up with this book that would have this checklist. I had about 250 of them printed up, and then I would go to card shows to sell them. It was about 230 pages of all the different baseball cards and things like that."

During the research for his book, Holster said he struck up friendships with other Senators collectors, such as local radio sportscaster Phil Wood and Arlington resident Hank Thomas, a grandson of Walter Johnson, a Hall of Fame pitcher for the Senators.

At a 1996 baseball card show in Baltimore featuring a reunion of Senators who had played at the old Griffith Stadium, Holster said, he and other fans got to talking about the possibility of a Senators fan club. Holster solicited interest by distributing returnable postcards at card shows.

"I probably got 150 of them back, people saying, 'Oh yes, absolutely!' " Holster said. "I put together a six-page newsletter as sort of an introductory thing, and I just mailed it to these people on the cards."

By the time he had mailed the second edition of the free newsletter, Holster said he had about 100 people willing to pay $12 a year for a subscription to future issues and membership in what would become the Washington Baseball Historical Society.

"We got a lot of good press in some of the hobby publications. The next thing you know, I'm getting stuff from people all over the country. In the heyday of it, we probably got up to about 550 members," Holster said, including people from 43 states and even some from Israel and Hong Kong.

"Only about 50 percent of our members were local," Holster said. "We had a handful of younger guys, but for the most part they were all people who grew up here . . . and had been Senators fans. We had guys who were in their eighties . . . and had gone to games in the 1920s and 1930s. It was really pretty cool."

Because the Senators had also been known as the Nationals, Holster dubbed the society's quarterly newsletter "Nats News."

"We'd get a lot of memories from people," he said. "The whole purpose of the newsletter was to highlight the history and to really try to bring that back. We'd get an amazing number of people who would write a letter about remembering games that they went to in the 1940s. We would do a lot of profiles of players and interview players on the phone."

With the success of the newsletter, Holster said he was inspired to organize a Senators baseball card and memorabilia show, complete with former players as guests of honor.

"We brought in Frank Howard, Jim Lemon, Roy Sievers and Bob Wolff, who was an early broadcaster for the team," he said.

According to Holster, between 200 and 300 people came to a downtown Washington hotel for the first "Nats Fest" to meet players, get autographs and trade memories -- and memorabilia.

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