Thom Loverro: Nationals are failing history

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Sports,MLB,Nationals,Thom Loverro
Bryce Harper appreciates baseball history. The 19-year-old's idol was Mickey Mantle, and he has been well-versed in the accomplishments of such greats as Al Kaline, who won a batting title at the age of 20.

The Washington Nationals could learn from their young phenom.

Up in Baltimore, the Orioles are embracing history -- possibly to divert attention from 14 straight losing seasons.

No matter the reason, the Orioles are saluting six of their greatest players by dedicating statues to them in Camden Yards' center-field picnic grove as part of the Orioles Legends Celebration Series.

The first came Saturday, when Frank Robinson, who led the Orioles to four pennants and two World Series championships in the six years he played in Baltimore, was honored.

There isn't much rich history for the Nationals, who have been in the District only since moving from Montreal after the 2004 season. It's a confusing history, one that the team has whiffed on with its ring of honor that embraces former Expos players and three unrecognizable statues in center field attempting to pay tribute to D.C. baseball history -- Walter Johnson, Josh Gibson and Frank Howard.

Yet Howard couldn't get hired by this organization. And the only real piece of history this Washington baseball team could call its own in the short time it has been in town is nowhere to be found at Nationals Park.

Robinson is a Hall of Famer. He was one of the biggest stars in the generation of black players that followed Jackie Robinson. He was named MVP in both the National League with the Cincinnati Reds and American League with the Orioles. He was the first black manager in the history of the game with the Cleveland Indians in 1975.

And he managed the Nationals upon their arrival in Washington in 2005 for two seasons. You would think they would jump at the chance to reconnect with him.

Yet there is nothing to tell Harper -- save for the No. 20 Ian Desmond wears to honor Robinson -- that this legend was here at the rebirth of baseball in Washington.

"That time in Washington was special for me," Robinson said. "We were embraced by people there."

The Nationals talked about honoring Robinson with a bobblehead night, team sources said. Robinson said they talked about doing something in May 2007 for an Orioles series, but he felt it was too close to Manny Acta starting as the new manager and didn't want to overshadow that. He is still hoping for some sort of welcome back event.

"It would be nice," he said.

Harper surely would enjoy it.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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