They came to see history, and that's exactly what those in the big crowd at Nationals Park saw Monday night.
Almost eight years to the day that Major League Baseball announced the Montreal Expos would move to the District for the 2005 season, the Nationals secured the organization's first National League East title. It was cause for much celebration in large part because few local sports fans are left who remember the last time a Washington baseball team had a similar accomplishment. That happened when the original Senators won the 1933 American League pennant.
There were no divisions in those days, of course, so that advanced Washington directly to the World Series, where it lost to the New York Giants. That began an unending stretch of misery for baseball in the city. After years of losing, that Senators team moved to Minnesota in 1961, and within five years a promising young team was in the World Series, losing in seven games to the powerhouse Los Angeles Dodgers, and twice more (1969, 1970) won the American League West. An expansion team replaced the departed original Senators in 1961, but that franchise, too, left town in 1971 for Texas.
It would be 34 more years before another team called the District home, and even then the losing continued. Washington finished 81-81 in a memorable debut season in 2005, falling out of the playoff chase in late September. But the Nats lost 91 games in 2006 and 89 the next year before finally bottoming out in 2008 (102 losses) and 2009 (103 losses).
Those struggles, however, set the stage for the current revitalization as homegrown players, including No. 1 overall draft picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, have bolstered the talent base and electrified the fanbase. The 2012 Nats (96-64) already have set a franchise record for wins dating to the first year in 1969 in Montreal. The 1979 Expos held the previous mark with 95 wins. The record for victories by a Washington club -- set by those same 1933 Senators -- is 99.