I didn’t hear about any effigies or giant “Short Stinks” banners at Nationals Park this weekend, but for longtime D.C. baseball fans, games against the Texas Rangers might evoke memories of the Senators’s departure more than 40 years ago.
In May 1972, several months after Senators owner Bob Short successfully petitioned Major League Baseball to move his Washington franchise to Arlington, Tex., legendary Senators fan Bill Holdforth drove to Baltimore with three friends to see the Orioles play the Rangers. Holdforth’s goal was to annoy Short, who was making his first return to the area with his new team.
Holdforth was a 21-year-old clerk at the Library of Congress at the time. He had lost his ushering job at RFK the year before, after he and a friend paraded through the aisles carrying a Short dummy they found in right field. “I saw it hanging there, and we had just enough beers in us to make it sound like a good idea,” he recalled.
That night in Baltimore, Holdforth and his friends wanted to irritate Short, and they brought their own dummy this time. They stuffed some old copies of the Sporting News into a pair of pants and a white shirt with a tie and wrote “Short stinks” on a small sign.
They were sitting about 20 rows behind Short near the Texas dugout in Section 39, when Holdforth walked over to Short holding the broom-handle effigy. He waved it over Short’s head as his friend held up the sign. “We had to do something,” Holdforth said. “We couldn’t let him get into town without doing something.”
Fred Frommer has more details about the incident in his history of Washington baseball, “You Gotta Have Heart.”
“Holdforth and his buddies got tickets in Short’s section and laid the effigy under their seats,” Frommer writes. “Then Holdforth approached an usher he knew and said: I don’t know when, but sometime during the game, we’re going to take the dummy down and stand right by Short. We’re just going down to taunt him. We don’t want to get thrown out, and we don’t want to get you in trouble, so when you want us to leave, we’ll make you look good, we’ll go right back.”
Fans in the bleachers in Baltimore held signs that proclaimed “Tex Short is Full of Bull” and “Short Still Stinks,” a reference to the “Short Stinks” vertical banners unfurled from the second deck at RFK Stadium during the Senators’s final home game in 1971. The Post reported that after Holdforth’s stunt, “a young lady doused Short’s raincoat with beer.” She was escorted out.