SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
The last time a Washington D.C. baseball team finished the season in first place was 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, World War I didn't yet need a number, and Goose Goslin and Heinie Manush were the team's best hitters. Guys had names like Goose and Heinie back then. But they lost the World Series to the New York Giants, and thereafter, Major League Baseball in Washington, D.C. became a joke - truly. Washington: First in War, First in Peace, and Last in the American League. There was even a popular 1955 musical, "Damn Yankees," to capture the frustration.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU GOTTA HAVE HEART")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) You gotta have heart. All you really need is heart.
SIMON: Two Washington Senator teams left town to win pennants - in Minnesota and Texas. But in the baseball standings this week, the new Washington Nationals, who came to town just in 2005, are tied for first in the National League. Tom Boswell, the eminent sports columnist of The Washington Post, joined us and told us there's nothing like the pain of a Washington baseball fan.
TOM BOSWELL: As bad as the afflictions of the Cubs and the Red Sox and various teams have been over the years, there's really nothing to compare with the pain and starvation for Washington fans. You either have horrible teams or you have no team at all. So, to see a team that's already good and is probably going to be good for quite a few years, it's somewhat expected, that people almost don't know how to react to it.
SIMON: Well, how are you reacting?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BOSWELL: Well, I played golf with a friend of mine who's been a fan from the same period of time. And I told him just, you know, relax. This team is not going anywhere but in a good direction, because it has the most fundamental foundation you can have, which is pitching and more pitching. And once you have it, you have a permanent edge. And over the next five years, it's going to be very difficult for the Nationals not to become a very good team.
SIMON: Do you see the Nats making it to the playoffs?
BOSWELL: At the beginning of the season, I thought it was probably no. Now, I think I've changed to feeling that, if I had to bet one of my major limbs, I would say, yes, that they probably will make the playoffs. Now, of course, a couple of weeks from now, after they have seven injuries and a losing streak, I promise to change my mind completely. Earl Weaver had my all-time favorite baseball expression. We were talking to him and he had said something in April, and now it was May and things were turning out differently. And we asked him, well, Earl, you said this six weeks ago. And he looked at us like we were idiots and said: Everything changes everything. And that's it. I mean, it's not just true of life, but it's true of baseball. Everything impacts something else. And I think part of the pleasure of sports is seeing how amazingly you can be wrong.
SIMON: Tom Boswell of The Washington Post. Have heart. Nice talking to you.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BOSWELL: It's a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.