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Is it time for Washington baseball fans to 'forgive' the Texas Rangers?

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010; 11:56 PM

Good for the Texas Rangers. They suffered long enough. At last, they've won their first postseason series. It took 39 seasons. Personally, I think 40 years would have been a little too long, despite the undeniable resonance of "40 years in the wilderness."

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To me, 39 seasons is just about right for stealing my childhood team and damaging Washington's reputation so much the town did not get a club for decades. See, I'm not the type to hold a grudge.

Washington baseball fans have had prickly Ranger feelings for ages. They, and especially under-financed, incompetent owner Bob Short, who moved the Senators to Texas after the '71 season, are a primary reason the town went without a team for so long.

The man who slipped the black spot to Washington when it came to baseball was not Calvin Griffith, the owner of the original Senators who skipped town for Minnesota after the '60 season. That problem was solved instantly. The sport was so worried Congress would repeal its antitrust exemption that D.C. got an expansion team the next season.

Back then a city could be forgiven for misplacing a team. Hadn't it happened to New York - with both the Dodgers and Giants? There was a gold rush to new markets and Griffith was part of it.

Short was so precariously and highly leveraged that the late Post columnist Shirley Povich thought his total out-of-pocket cash to buy the expansion Nats was a few thousand dollars. He ran a lousy, cheap operation and probably got better attendance than his product deserved. But, when he fled to greener pastures, the town's reputation paid the price for Short's ineptness as a businessman.

As usual, there are variations of this history. Washington wasn't blameless. But for decades, every time the nation's capital was close to getting a team, which happened a half-dozen times, the same argument bludgeoned the town: You lost two teams.

One could be forgiven, but two seemed like carelessness.

So, for those fans who lived without a team for all or part of those 33 years, it's often hard to feel sorry for a Rangers franchise, which has had Nolan Ryan no-hitters and 17 winning seasons, just because it never won a postseason series until Tuesday night.

I wonder how Povich would feel. I'm ready to pull for the Rangers starting Friday in the ALCS, especially in a series against the New York Yankees. Is it too soon to go from a lifetime of mature indifference toward the Rangers to outright approval? If my home computer should spontaneously combust and an old Remington typewriter is found nearby, take that as "Shirley disagrees."

Such feelings aren't unique to Washington. Lucky is the fan that hasn't cried, not over a team's loss, but over the loss of a team.

Whether you are an 80-year-old from Brooklyn who lost the Dodgers as a boy, or a girl in Seattle who just lost the SuperSonics two years ago to Oklahoma City, you are part of a continuum of anger, sorrow and finally, if you're sane, acceptance. You wait, like football fans in Baltimore for 13 years, to get "your" team back.


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