When the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup title, they ended a 14-year dry spell since the last time a D.C. team won a major league championship, dating from when United won the MLS Cup in 2004.
Droughts and floods have characterized the District’s sports history.
• It began with the Senators, who made three World Series appearances — winning one — in the 1920s and early ’30s. No Washington baseball team has played in a World Series since.
• The Redskins were a success as soon as they arrived from Boston, winning an NFL championship in 1937 and appearing in four more title games in the next eight years. It took nearly three decades before they would play for a title again. They returned to dominance in the 1980s and early ’90s but have been dormant since.
• The Red Auerbach-coached Washington Capitols fell to the Minneapolis Lakers in the 1949 BAA (Basketball Association of America) Finals before folding during the 1951 season. The NBA’s Bullets moved from Baltimore to D.C. in 1973 and soon found success, playing for three championships in five seasons from 1975 to 1979, winning their only title in the 1977-78 campaign. Now named the Wizards, the team has won only five playoff series since, never advancing past the second round.
• D.C. United was the premier team in the MLS’s early years, winning the league’s inaugural championship in 1996 and appearing in a total of five MLS Cup matches over eight years, winning four.
• That brings us to the Caps. Founded in 1974, it took the team 24 years to reach its first Stanley Cup finals. Twenty years later they earned their first Stanley Cup title, and ended the District’s most recent dry spell.
Regular season: 92-62 record, won the American League, finishing two games ahead of the New York Yankees.
With both the series and Game 7 tied at 3, Walter Johnson pitched four scoreless innings in relief to lead the Senators to victory in 12 innings. As Post columnist Shirley Povich wrote in 1987 on the 100th anniversary of Johnson’s birth: “Other baseball greats were justly famed and much admired, but of all the game’s heroes, Walter Johnson may have been the most beloved. It may be accurate to say he was more taken to heart, perhaps as a recognition that so much of his career was tied to the misfortunes of second division and last place Washington Senators teams for whom he toiled 21 years (1907-27). As an instance, in his five starts during the month of July in 1909, the feeble Senators didn’t get him a single run. . . . At the same time he was in a class by himself as a pitcher, Johnson was also a sympathy figure. An entire nation prayed for the Senators to win the 1924 pennant and thus give Johnson a World Series role at last. When they did, and when Johnson lost his first two starts against the Giants, there was a national sadness. When he ambled into the seventh game as a relief pitcher with the score tied in the ninth and reached back to deliver four shutout innings and clinch the world championship for the Senators, America celebrated.”
Regular season: 90-61, won the American League, finishing 8 1/2
games ahead of the Philadelphia Athletics.
The Senators led 4-0 after the first inning of Game 7 and 6-3 after four innings, but the Pirates rallied to tie the game at 6 after seven innings. American League MVP Roger Peckinpaugh hit a solo homer in the top of the eighth, again giving the Senators the advantage, 7-6. Senators starter Walter Johnson, who had dominated Games 1 and 4, got two quick outs in the bottom of the inning. But Pittsburgh’s No. 8 hitter, Earl Smith, doubled and pinch hitter Carson Bigbee did the same, scoring pinch runner Emil Yde. A walk and an error loaded the bases for Pirates star Kiki Cuyler, who hit a ground-rule double to deep right, scoring two runs and giving the Pirates their first lead of the game, 9-7. Pittsburgh reliever Red Oldham retired the top of the Senators’ lineup — Hall of Famers Sam Rice, Bucky Harris and Goose Goslin — in order in the top of the ninth to finish the Series.
Regular season: 99-53, won the American League, finishing seven games ahead of the New York Yankees.
Unlike Washington’s two previous World Series appearances, which each went seven games, this one ended quickly, with the Senators only managing a victory in Game 3. The last two games of the series were close, however, with each going extra innings. Hall of Famer Mel Ott homered in the top of the 10th inning of Game 5 to give New York a 4-3 lead. The Senators put runners on first and second in the bottom of the inning, but Dolf Luque struck out Joe Kuhel to end the threat.
Regular season: 8-3, won the East Division, finishing 1 1/2 games ahead of the New York Giants.
Rookie Sammy Baugh completed 18 of 33 passes for 335 yards and three touchdowns as the Redskins rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit to win a championship in their first season in Washington. The Post’s Shirley Povich wrote from Wrigley Field: “At the end of the half the game belonged to the Bears by a score of 14 to 7, with the Redskins seemingly in rout as Nagurski and Manders and Nolting and Masterson poured through the Washington line and bulled their way into the lead.
“And then, in the third quarter, Sammy Baugh began to strike. Once, twice three times he uncoiled the deadliest of all throwing arms and each time he found a receiver for touchdown passes. Into that third period Baugh and the Redskins packed a 21-point uprising, dashed away with the ballgame as a gang of bewildered Bears had no reply.”
Regular season: 9-2, won the East Division, finishing one game ahead of the Brooklyn Dodgers
After defeating the Bears during the regular season, Redskins owner George Preston Marshall commented: “The Bears are front-runners, quitters. They’re a bunch of crybabies. They fold up when the going gets tough.” On Dec. 8, Washington suffered the most lopsided loss in NFL history. In the title game, at home, to boot. Wrote The Post’s Al Hailey: “Unbelievable as it may seem, that’s the tale the scoreboard told when the Chicagoans finished making shambles out of the Redskins in the playoff for the championship of the National Professional Football League.
“It was the worst beating suffered by a team in the annals of the National League. Playing before a sold-out crowd in Griffith Stadium, the Bears shocked 36,034 fans until the final gun with the most spectacular type of football ever seen in the District.”
Regular season: 10-1, won the East Division, finishing three games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Wrote The Post’s Bob Considine: “Just two years after absorbing the most humiliating defeat in professional grid history, the aroused Washington Redskins yesterday defeated their old conquerors, the Chicago Bears, 14-6, in the playoff game for the championship of the National Football League at Griffith Stadium.
“A brilliant 50-yard touchdown pass by the great Sammy Baugh, and a grueling 44-yard advance through the rock-ribbed Bear line, with Andy Farkas plunging most of the way, gave the Redskins their victory over a Chicago team that had not tasted defeat in 24 straight games, 18 of them in league competition.”
Regular season: 6-3-1, tied for first in the East Division with the New York Giants.
Postseason: Defeated the Giants, 28-0, in a divisional playoff game to advance to the championship.
Wrote The Post’s Merrill W. Whittlesey: “The Merchant Marine gets Sid Luckman after today, and as far as the Redskins are concerned the seamen can have him.
“The Chicago Bears’ quarterback celebrated what was unquestionably his greatest day in football with one of the truly great individual performances of all time as the Bears won the National Football League championship by routing the Redskins, 41 to 21, in the ideal setting of Wrigley Field.”
Regular season: 8-2, won the East Division, finishing one game ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wrote The Post’s Al Costello: “Twice the football hit the goal posts and twice it bounced the wrong way for the Redskins here today as the Cleveland Rams won the National Football League championship by nosing out the Washingtonians, 15-14, in huge Municipal Stadium before 32,178 practically frozen spectators.
“It was a galling pill for the Redskins to swallow as the Rams walked off the field with the lion’s share of the richest spoils in playoff history — $164,542.80. They went down trying to the very last and barely missed pulling victory out of the fire twice in the final four minutes when two desperate field goal attempts [by] Joe Aguirre went awry.
“The first of the two unique goal post incidents came early in the first period when Sammy Baugh, behind his own goal line and trying to pass the Redskins out of a deep hole, saw the ball slip off his fingers and strike the posts, bouncing back into the end zone for an automatic safety and two points for the Rams.
“Those two points were to be the difference between victory and defeat for the Rams.”
Regular season: 38-22, won the Eastern Division, finishing six games ahead of the New York Knicks.
Postseason: Defeated the Philadelphia Warriors, 2-0, in the division semifinals and the Knicks, 2-1, in the division finals to advance.
Before he led the Boston Celtics to 16 NBA titles as a coach and executive, Red Auerbach took the Washington Capitols to the BAA finals — the Basketball Association of America, which after the season merged with the National Basketball League to form the NBA. Washington ultimately fell in six games as Hall of Fame center George Mikan averaged 27.5 points per game for Minneapolis.
Regular season: 11-3, won the NFC East, finishing one game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys.
Postseason: Defeated the Green Bay Packers, 16-3, in the first round and the Cowboys, 26-3, in the NFC championship game to advance.
Wrote The Post’s Richard Harwood: “The bubble burst and the illusions evaporated — officially — at 6:31 p.m. yesterday when a little gun was fired and the Miami Dolphins went off the field to collect their Super Bowl rings and the Redskins went off to weep over a 14-to-7 loss. The future was ‘now’ but it was a future that neither Coach George Allen nor the 40 athletes of his team nor their millions of passionate admirers had wanted.
“It had been a season better by far than this city had dared hope. But all of it turned to ashes in three hours in Los Angeles because, as Allen himself had said, losing is like death.”
Regular season: 60-22, won the Central Division, finishing 19 games ahead of the Houston Rockets.
Postseason: Defeated the Buffalo Braves, 4-3, in the conference semifinals and the Boston Celtics, 4-2, in the conference finals to advance.
Despite the sweep, each game in the series was competitive and wasn’t decided by more than eight points — including two one-point games. Rick Barry averaged 29.5 points per game for the Warriors.
Regular season: 44-38, second in the Central Division, finishing eight games behind the San Antonio Spurs.
Postseason: Defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 2-0, in the first round, the San Antonio Spurs, 4-2, in the conference semifinals and the Philadelphia 76ers, 4-2, in the conference finals to advance.
From The Post’s Paul Attner: “Wes Unseld ended a 10-year quest for the National Basketball Association title last night when he sank two free throws with 12 seconds remaining to give the Washington Bullets a heart-pounding 105-99 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.
“Unseld’s dramatic foul shots, which came 14 seconds after he had missed two attempts, wrapped up the best-of-seven series, 4-3, and ensured Washington’s first professional major sports championship since 1942, when the Redskins won the National Football League title.
“Unseld, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, was named the series’ most valuable player by writers. Ironically, the Bullets tried to get him out of the game just before he was fouled, but the team failed to call timeout and Seattle immediately smacked him.”
Regular season: 54-28, won the Atlantic Division, finishing seven games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Postseason: Defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 4-3, in the conference semifinals and the San Antonio Spurs, 4-3, in the conference finals to advance.
The Bullets won the opener, 99-97 but then lost four straight. The SuperSonics limited the Bullets, who had shot 48.5 percent from the field during the regular season, to just 41.2 percent in the series.
Regular season: 8-1, won the NFC East, finishing two games ahead of the Dallas Cowboys in a strike-shortened season.
Postseason: Defeated the Detroit Lions, 31-7, in the first round, the Minnesota Vikings, 21-7, in the second round and the Cowboys, 31-17, in the NFC championship game to advance.
Wrote The Post’s Paul Attner: “The Washington Redskins rode John Riggins’s record-breaking 166 yards rushing today to their first National Football League championship in 40 years, finishing off this magical season by overpowering the Miami Dolphins, 27-17, in Super Bowl XVII.
“Moving behind the Hogs, his surging offensive linemen, Riggins was magnificent, scoring the winning touchdown on a 43-yard run in the fourth quarter. Carrying a Super Bowl record 38 times, he disrupted Miami’s No. 1-rated defense with his relentless runs, rallying the Redskins from a 17-10 halftime deficit to only their third NFL title in history.”
Regular season: 14-2, won the NFC East, finishing two games ahead of the Dallas Cowboys.
Postseason: After a first-round bye, defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 51-7, in the second round and the San Francisco 49ers, 24-21, in the NFC championship game to advance.
Wrote The Post’s Gary Pomerantz: “The Washington Redskins’ season of bold conquest ended today with the burgundy and gold battered and blue.
“In the most one-sided game in 18 years of Super Bowls, the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Redskins, 38-9, before 72,790 at Tampa Stadium, denying the Redskins’ bid to win a second consecutive National Football League championship.
“Many heroes created this domination by the Raiders (15-4), but the greatest hero of all was running back Marcus Allen. He ran for a Super Bowl record 191 yards on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns against the league’s top-rated run defense. This included a Super Bowl record 74-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter that increased the lead to 35-9, finishing the Redskins.
“How strange it all seemed. The Redskins (16-3) had won 31 of their last 34 games, 11 straight before reaching what might have been their greatest moment. Instead of becoming the fifth defending champion to repeat, they suffered their worst defeat since a 38-7 regular-season loss to Pittsburgh in 1979.”
Regular season: 11-4, won the NFC East, finishing four games ahead of the Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles in a strike-shortened season.
Postseason: After a first-round bye, defeated the Chicago Bears, 21-17, in the second round and the Minnesota Vikings, 17-10, in the NFC championship game to advance.
Wrote The Post’s William Gildea and Leonard Shapiro: “It was athletic drama at its best: an injured quarterback returning to the lineup to make history, a team about to be blown away rallying like none ever had before in National Football League postseason play. It was wacky and wild and, for the Washington Redskins, perfectly wonderful.
“On the powerful and unerring arm of quarterback Doug Williams, who culminated a storybook season with four touchdown passes in the second period, the Redskins rallied from a 10-0 deficit to trample the Denver Broncos and win Super Bowl XXII, 42-10.
“No team had ever scored 35 points in a quarter in NFL playoff games, and the onslaught produced Washington’s second Super Bowl championship in six years and ignited a coast-to-coast Redskins celebration.
“In a game that focused on the quarterbacks — Williams because he was the first black to play the position in the Super Bowl, and Denver’s John Elway because of his overall brilliance — Williams staged one of pro football’s greatest big-game performances.”
Regular season: 14-2, won the NFC East, finishing three games ahead of the Dallas Cowboys.
Postseason: After a first-round bye, defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 24-7, in the second round and the Detroit Lions, 41-10, in the NFC championship game to advance.
Wrote The Post’s William Gildea: “Artificial turf or grass, indoors or outdoors, no huddle or huddle, the Washington Redskins proved conclusively this evening that they are the champions of football no matter how it’s played.
“Similar to their Super Bowl victory four years ago, the Redskins used a second-quarter blitz to take control, this time scoring 17 consecutive points in a span of 5 minutes 45 seconds to breeze past the supposedly faster Buffalo Bills, 37-24, to capture Super Bowl XXVI at the Metrodome.
“Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, in accepting the Vincent T. Lombardi Trophy for the third time in 10 years, hailed Gibbs, everyone associated with the team and ‘the best bloody fans on the face of the earth.’ As his record of achievement soared still higher with a third National Football League title, Gibbs said quietly, ‘I feel humble. The Lord’s blessed me with a great situation. The players have really responded.’ ”
Regular season: 16-16, 46 points, second in the Eastern Conference, 12 points behind the Tampa Bay Mutiny.
Postseason: Defeated the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, 2-1, in the conference semifinals and the Tampa Bay Mutiny, 2-0, in the conference finals to advance.
Wrote The Post’s William Gildea: “Major League Soccer’s sunny inaugural season concluded this afternoon with a title game played in 30- to 50-mile-per-hour winds and cold, torrential rain at Foxboro Stadium. It was the most beautiful day in the brief history of D.C. United, Washington’s newest championship team.
“Washington’s lads didn’t merely win MLS Cup ’96. Down 2-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy with 17 minutes to play and bitter darkness settled in, they defiantly continued splashing and slogging across a water-soaked field. Stunningly, they tied the game with two goals in a span of 10 minutes in regulation, then won the title, 3-2, in the fourth minute of sudden-death overtime on a masterful, multicultural play — a long, lovely pass from Bolivia’s Marco Etcheverry to American Eddie Pope, who powerfully headed the ball into the upper left corner of the goal.”
Regular season: 17-11, 55 points, won the Eastern Conference, 10 points ahead of the Tampa Bay Mutiny.
Postseason: Defeated the New England Revolution, 2-0, in the conference semifinals and the Columbus Crew, 2-0, in the conference finals to advance.
Wrote the Post’s Steven Goff: “The rain was pounding RFK Stadium. The temperature had dipped into the low forties. A desperate opponent was scrambling to get just one shot on net.
“But after the final seconds had ticked away on a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer’s championship game yesterday, D.C. United’s players and a sellout crowd of 57,318 forgot all about the bone-chilling elements and late-game anxieties.
Regular season: 40-30-12, 92 points, third in the Atlantic Division, finishing 15 points behind the New Jersey Devils.
Postseason: Defeated the Boston Bruins, 4-2, in the conference quarterfinals, the Ottawa Senators, 4-1, in the conference semifinals and the Buffalo Sabres, 4-2, in the conference finals to advance.
Wrote The Post’s Rachel Alexander: “The Stanley Cup was wheeled onto Washington ice for the first time in NHL history last night, tauntingly close to the Capitals but too far away to touch. It had been like this throughout the Stanley Cup finals, so close in front of them but still so far away, and in the end the Capitals discovered they simply couldn’t make up the distance in between.
“The Detroit Red Wings, champions for a second consecutive season, celebrated wildly as they wrapped up a 4-1 victory and a four-game sweep, and the sellout crowd of 19,740 at MCI Center gave them a polite ovation. But though the Red Wings led throughout the game and finished with a three-goal advantage, the loudest cheers were for the home team, the Capitals squad that engineered this surprisingly sweet and successful postseason.
“Almost no one in the crowd left early, waiting patiently to give tribute to a team that didn’t play to its potential in this series but still managed to awaken a city to the sport of hockey and a franchise to the possibility of greatness.”
Regular season: 24-8, won the Eastern Conference, finishing 13 points ahead of the Columbus Crew.
Postseason: Defeated the Miami Fusion, 2-0, in the conference semifinals and the Columbus Crew, 2-1, in the conference finals to advance.
Wrote The Post’s William Gildea: “D.C. United set out for the Rose Bowl today, confident that its third Major League Soccer season would conclude as perfectly as the first two, and that Coach Bruce Arena would depart for his expected appointment as the U.S. national team’s coach in the manner he arrived — as the maestro of a dynasty.
“But by the score of 2-0, the Chicago Fire, an upstart expansion team, unseated the only champion the nascent league has known, winning MLS Cup ’98 before 51,350 fans both sun-drenched and surprised.”
Regular season: 23-9, 57 points, won the Eastern Conference, finishing 12 points ahead of the Columbus Crew.
Postseason: Defeated the Miami Fusion, 2-0, in the conference semifinals and the Columbus Crew, 2-1, in the conference finals to advance.
Wrote The Post’s Steven Goff: “When referee Tim Weyland’s whistle sounded for a final time today, D.C. United’s players and coaches raced around Foxboro Stadium as if they had won a championship for the first time. It was actually their third title in Major League Soccer’s four-year existence, but this one seemed to mean so much more because of last year’s disappointment in the title game.
“United’s eight-month quest to regain the trophy came to a gratifying end with a 2-0 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy before 44,910 spectators, including several thousand clad in D.C.’s red and black colors who made the trip from the Washington area.”
Regular season: 11-10-9, 42 points, second in the Eastern Conference, finishing seven points behind the Columbus Crew.
Postseason: Defeated the New York/New Jersey MetroStars, 4-0, on aggregate in the conference semifinals and the New England Revolution, 4-3, on penalties (3-3 after full time) in the conference final to advance.
Wrote The Post’s Mike Wise: “Four seasons of frustration for the most decorated franchise in the history of Major League Soccer evaporated on a manicured pitch of grass this afternoon. Four seasons of failing to recapture the dominance D.C. United displayed during the league’s infancy ended in unbridled celebration, champagne and the stench of victory cigars.
“United claimed its fourth championship in the league’s nine years with a 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Wizards on Sunday. In front of their shirtless, painted and howling fan clubs, including the Barra Brava — loosely translated as “the Crazy Ones” — United’s players erased their four straight losing seasons and raised the championship trophy, returning it to Washington for the first time since 1999.”
Regular season: 49-26-7, 105 points, first in the Metropolitan Division, finishing five points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Postseason: Defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets, 4-2, in the first round; the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, in the conference semifinals; and the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, in the conference finals to advance.
From The Post’s Rick Maese: When time expired and the helmets and sticks were tossed into the air, the Washington Capitals poured onto the ice, and a celebration decades in the making ensued. The players hugged each other in joy and shook each other in disbelief.
Team captain Alex Ovechkin was on the edge of the scrum, bouncing and screaming, trying to make sure his voice could be heard from Las Vegas to Washington to Moscow.
As the trophy made its way onto the ice, some 2,400 miles away, a sea of red — jubilant Capitals fans who filled the streets in downtown Washington — erupted, too. The win was a season in the making for many on the ice and a lifetime in the making for so many fans back home.
The Stanley Cup, the most storied trophy in sports, is coming to Washington, courtesy of a pair of Russian scoring machines, a journeyman-turned-hero, an unflappable goaltender and a supporting cast that confronted a season’s worth of challenges with careers’ worth of determination.
The Capitals topped the final foe, the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3, in exciting fashion Thursday night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals. The comeback victory gave the Capitals a four-games-to-one series victory and secured the first National Hockey League championship in the franchise’s 44-year history — and the city’s first title in any of the four major American sports in more than a quarter-century.