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History lesson: Twins taking steps to recognize franchise's time in Washington

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MINNEAPOLIS — As Twins president Dave St. Peter watched the Washington Nationals beat the Houston Astros in last year’s World Series, he noticed that when there was mention of Washington’s last Series title, in 1924, it was rarely, if ever, mentioned that that club, the Senators, had become the Minnesota Twins in 1961.

There were various reasons for this, but St. Peter and team officials decided it was time to reclaim a part of a history that dated to the 1901 season, when the Senators became one of eight charters members of the American League. “I think we just felt as though it was probably high time that we reclaimed our complete franchise history and started a process to do that,” St. Peter said. “The first wave of that is what you saw both in Fort Myers this year (at spring training) as well as here in Minnesota.”

At Target Field, that process has started with the flags that now fly high above right field and celebrate the Senators/Twins American League and World Series championship teams. The six flags, left to right, include the 1924 Senators championship, the 1925 and ’33 Senators AL titles, the 1965 Twins AL title and the 1987 and 1991 Twins titles. The World Series championship flags are red, the AL champion flags are white.

So why the 60-year delay for this?

“I think you’ve got to go back and tell the story of when the Senators moved to Minnesota, MLB put an expansion team in Washington,” St. Peter said. “I wasn’t here at the time. I don’t know what led to the discussion, I don’t know what the politics were, but for some reason the history of the Senators franchise did not travel with it to Minnesota. They left it in Washington with the expansion team. All the records, everything else, by MLB rules stayed there and ultimately with the move (of the second Senators) to Texas (in 1972) for some period of time.”

St. Peter isn’t sure if then-Twins owner Calvin Griffith attempted to carry the Senators history to Minnesota when he relocated the franchise, or if he was given that option.  The American League initially opposed the move, but then decided to immediately grant Washington an expansion franchise.

The Twins have expanded the amount of information they provide on the Senators’ time in Washington in their 2020 media guide — statistics previously had been recognized — and there eventually might be more plans to make sure Minnesota fans know more about a club that was known both as the Senators and Nationals throughout their time in D.C. Not all of that history is good, considering the Senators had six last-place finishes in the 1940s and ’50s, but it’s a history that belongs to the franchise.

“I’ve never thought it made any sense, the history of our franchise is incomplete without that,” St. Peter said. “Organizationally, that was intentional to (say), ‘Let’s do a better job of celebrating the complete history … considering we’re an original American League franchise back to 1901.’ That’s why we did what we did. I expected at some point we’d get questions about it and this is the answer. ”

So what’s the next step for the Twins/Senators?

“Over time we’ll continue to find ways to expand upon that,” St. Peter said. “I think the next step for us to determine at the appropriate time is how do we continue to celebrate and recognize the great players and teams that were part of the Senators franchise? Walter Johnson, arguably one of the greatest pitchers our game has ever seen. How do you do that? We’re going to take our time, take a look at that and try to figure out what’s appropriate.”