Wednesday, June 5, 2019

'56 of the month: Washington Nationals team

Hey, look, it's another one of those pesky team cards from 1956 Topps!

I've mentioned before how tricky these can be, but I recently received a nice bunch of cards from reader Jonathan again and it included three 1956 team needs, Washington, Cleveland and the Kansas City A's. Woo!

I'm down to needing five more of the team cards from this set. This also happens to be the first year that Topps included team cards in the set, which makes these extra cool.

But let's focus on the Washington team card. It is key for a couple of reasons.

First of all, if you didn't know, the first version of Nationals/Senators, which operated from 1905-60, was abysmal. "First in war, first in peace, last in the American League" and all that. This makes acquiring Washington ballplayers from the '50s exceedingly easy. They just magically find their way to me without me even knowing it. With the arrival of the team card, I just need two more Washington players to complete the '56 team set. Naturally, Harmon Killebrew is one of them. The other is Bob Wiesler, one of the post-300 numbers.

I'll probably zero in on those two cards next, just to get another team set finished other than the Dodgers. (It's possible I may have another team set complete already, some squad devoid of stars, most likely).

The second reason I find this card interesting is because it says "Washington Nationals," which matches the name of the current franchise. This is mostly because of my ignorance of Washington baseball (sorry, it was just so oooooold during my formative baseball rooting years and besides we had the Expos). I thought they were always the "Washington Senators" until they skipped town to become the Texas Rangers.

But apparently that's not the case. Although they were often called the "Senators" from their debut in the American League in 1905 until 1956, their official name was the "Nationals" during that whole time. That hasn't stopped various references to the Nationals as the Senators over the years. I saw it all the time through the years and it's probably why I never knew they were the "Nationals" prior to 2005. I thought the "Nationals" name that Topps used for each of the Washington players in the '56 set (and earlier sets) was some sort of old-school, oft-used nickname.

The confusion for the likes of me probably came in 1956 when the "Nationals" officially became the "Senators." Then, when the franchise moved to Minnesota to become the Twins, a new franchise set up came in Washington and was called the "Senators." That's how it stayed until major league baseball left the nation's capital in 1971.

There is another very interesting back of the '56 team cards. You will note from the all-time records, and also the bio, that even back in 1956, the Nationals/Senators had not been good in a very, very long time. "Washington fans still point with pride to the great pitching of Walter Johnson ..." LOL!

Jonathan sent several other cards for several of my collections and you'll see those later. Just one other thing before I go.

He placed the Washington team card in a blue-trimmed top loader. I LOVE these things! Does anybody else get a thrill over top loaders you can color-code with the card? (I mentioned this once before when I pulled a Bryce Harper SP and placed it in a red-bordered top loader). Washington's team featured mainly blue uniforms during this time. It didn't change over to red until the second version of the team starting in the '60s.

Apparently, when the new team arrived in Washington in 2005, there was thought of calling them the "Senators" again, but everything got political -- gee, what a shock -- and wasn't deemed appropriate. "Nationals" it was.

One more reason I'm posting this: my niece is currently on an internship in Washington, and works close to The Capitol. She's got quite the view and I'm quite proud of her (as I am my daughter and all my nieces and nephews).


  1. Great story and nice team card. First time I have seen color trimmed top loaders.

  2. Plus, calling the new team "The Senators" would be saddling them with a losing persona from day 1!

    The red caps didn't start appearing on Topps cards until 1969 as I recall.

  3. Love those '56 team cards. It's fun to go 'star spotting' with them.

    Oh, and I can't remember seeing a blue trimmed top loader. Seen plenty of red ones for sure.

  4. The best part of those 56 team cards are the backs with the field dimensions. Griffith's got a ton of character in those outfield dimensions.

  5. Congratulations on your niece's internship. My niece has been interning with Hillary Clinton the past six months and is having a blast. She just graduated from NYU and is wrapping things up. But it's been so cool to see her with Hillary, Bill, and some of Democratic Party 2020 candidates.

    Anyways... getting back to cards. I wish they made the thicker top loaders in different colors, because I'd totally create a color coding system.

  6. Wait, what? They were the Nationals all that time? Why would they start being referred to as the Senators?