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A Trip Beyond Memory Lane

"No, I'm going to wear this when we come down to Washington to see a game," Street replied. They talked shop until Evans cut in to tell Street he would bet 50 chili dogs from Ben's Chili Bowl in Northwest Washington for 50 Philly cheese steaks.

Someone called out that the Phillies had just taken a 2-1 lead.

Anthony Williams, Nationals
Anthony Williams, Nationals
Mayor Anthony Williams and about 200 fans headed by bus to Philadelphia to watch the Nationals play in the season opener. (James A. Parcell - The Washington Post)

_____ Opening Day _____
 Cordero
The Nationals and Manager Frank Robinson, pictured, lose to the Phillies, 8-4, on Monday.
Thomas Boswell: The first bit of reality sinks in and grounds the Nationals.
Mike Wise: Like old times, Washington loses a baseball game.
Terrmel Sledge's home run ball is headed for Cooperstown.
Montreal barely notices the Expos and baseball are gone.
Mayor Anthony Williams and some fans travel to Philadelphia.
Nationals boosters around town stopped to catch the first game.
More milestones for the Nats.
Nationals' 76 Game TV Schedule.

_____ On Our Site _____
Box score
Video of fans following the team to the first game vs. the Phillies.
More Opening Day photos from the game in Philadelphia.
Photos from the Nationals' first exhibition contest at RFK Stadium.

_____ Baseball Preview _____
 baseball
It will be tough for the Orioles- Nationals matchup to join the ranks of great baseball rivalries.
A closer look at the Nationals' rivals in the NL East.
Thomas Boswell: The old rivalry between Washington and Baltimore should not take long to heat up.
Baseball Preview Section

_____ Nationals Basics _____
Player Capsules
Roster
Schedule

_____E-mail Newsletter_____
Newsletter

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"Uh, can we make that 25?" Evans said.

"No matter what happens in this game," Street said, "there are no losers in this room. This is a big win."

There were, however, a few signs of vintage Philadelphia: As Williams was speaking to a crowd, Phillies fans on a higher deck called out "Expos [stink]" -- a reference to when the Nationals played in Montreal.

"Man, we waited 34 years for baseball, and it takes just 34 minutes and they're all over us," said Matt Winkler, who owns a D.C.-based communications business.

Across the park from the mayor were members of the Nats Fan Club, who got off the bus and climbed up to Section 208 on an upper deck.

On the way to Philadelphia, they had been talking about Washington's near misses: the time the San Diego Padres were so close to moving that "Washington" baseball cards were printed up for them, and another time when D.C. baseball boosters solicited seat deposits for an expansion team that never came.

"I don't think I ever got the money back," said John Sweet of Laytonsville.

And they had wondered what they would feel when the first batter came up: Some thought they'd feel like adolescents again; others wondered whether they would cry.

Then it finally came: Wilkerson singled to right.

In the mayor's section, Williams gave Orange a high-five, then called out to Evans: "Jack, that's it -- the first hit!"

And, in Section 208, Dave Lanham turned and remarked that Wilkerson seemed to be working out well in place of Endy Chavez in the leadoff spot.

That was it. He didn't cry tears of pent-up emotion at the historic moment. He was just being a fan again.

"Once the hoopla's over, it's kind of back to a baseball groove," said Lanham, of Prince Frederick. "Just worrying about what happens between the lines, instead of what's going on outside the lines."


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