Announcement will come Wednesday
WASHINGTON -- Richard Nixon was president and man was still making trips to the moon the last time the word "Washington" appeared in Major League Baseball's standings.
On Opening Day, April 4, 2005, look for the nation's capital to return.
Baseball was to announce Wednesday that Washington will be the new home of the Montreal Expos, according to a city official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
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The city was to celebrate the news Wednesday afternoon with a news conference featuring people associated with the old Washington Senators, the official said.
"I think we'll be in a position where we can have a celebration tomorrow," Mayor Anthony Williams told WUSA-TV late Tuesday. Williams was noncommittal at his regular weekly news conference Wednesday, telling reporters he was still waiting for official notification from Major League Baseball officials.
The announcement comes one day before the 33rd anniversary of the Senators' final game. The team moved to Texas after the 1971 season, which was also the last time a major league team was relocated.
A crucial hurdle was cleared this week when, according to the city official, baseball reached an understanding with Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who had previously objected to having a team relocate just 40 miles from the Orioles' Camden Yards stadium.
Baseball has been looking for a new home for the Expos since the financially troubled team was bought by the other 29 major league owners in 2002.
Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, did not return telephone messages seeking comment Tuesday night. Angelos refused comment when reached at his home, and there was no confirmation by baseball of a deal between the commissioner's office and Angelos.
On Tuesday, baseball sources told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that MLB offered Angelos two incentives:
Las Vegas; Norfolk, Va.; Monterrey, Mexico; Portland, Ore.; and Northern Virginia also made bids, but Washington clearly took the lead during negotiations over recent weeks, strengthened by its wealthy population base and a financial package that would build a new stadium primarily with taxpayers' money.
The negotiations have produced a 30-page document that would conditionally award the Expos to Washington, pending approval by the City Council. The document had not yet been signed as of Tuesday night, the city source told the AP.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, reached at his Milwaukee home, declined comment.
Plans call for a $440 million package that would include a new ballpark to be built along the Anacostia River about a dozen blocks south of the U.S. Capitol. The package also includes a $13 million refurbishment of RFK Stadium, where the team would play for three seasons while the new facility is being built.
Some fans interviewed Wednesday in the district's downtown were wary of the financial implications for the cash-strapped city government.
"It's probably money that could be better spent elsewhere," said John Beckley, a Virginia resident who routinely treks to Baltimore to see the Orioles play.
"I guess the nation's capital deserves to have a representative in baseball, but obviously it's going to cost a lot of money," said Stephen Thomas, a district resident.
Others, liked retired district resident Bob Ryan, were clearly elated.
"I've lived here all my life. I was a Washington Senators fan in the old days," Ryan said. "It's good to have it back."
"It's been way too long without a team down here," said Erin Dieterich, of suburban Silver Spring, Md. "It's a national pastime and this is the nation's capital."
Washington needed an answer from Major League Baseball this week because the ballpark legislation had to be introduced in the City Council by Friday in order for it to be passed by Dec. 31, when terms expire for several pro-baseball council members.
Even now, some members of the council think the deal might not pass because it is perceived as too generous to baseball in a city that struggles to fund adequate schools and city services.
"I think everybody is excited about baseball coming to the District," Councilman Adrian Fenty said. "Very few District residents are excited about a full subsidy to pay for this stadium. ... At the end of the day, you're not going to have seven council members support it."
The move also must be approved by three-quarters of major league owners and survive legal challenges by the Expos' former limited partners.
After the announcement, the process of selling the Expos will start. A group that includes former Rangers partner Fred Malek has been seeking a Washington franchise for five years. In addition, several baseball officials have said in the past week that Stan Kasten, former president of the Atlanta Braves, Hawks and Thrashers, might be trying to assemble a group.
The original Senators played in Washington from 1901-60 before moving to Minnesota to become the Twins. The expansion Senators called Washington home from 1961-71 before moving to Texas and becoming the Rangers.
Montreal's last home game is scheduled for Wednesday night against Florida. Tuesday night's game, which the Expos lost 5-2, attracted 5,416 fans.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press