WASHINGTON - The 73-year-old former Washington Senators public address announcer was not about to let a protester ruin another big baseball day in the nation's capital. Charlie Brotman wrestled the intruder out of the way, clearing the stage for the Montreal Expos to be rechristened the Washington Nationals.
With approval by baseball owners and a ballpark funding package still pending, the franchise in flux forged ahead Monday with a splashy ceremony before hundreds of fans in the grand hall at Union Station, unveiling a new name, logo, cap and plenty of new merchandise for sale on the spot.
"Baseball is about our way of life," Mayor Anthony Williams said. "It's about opportunity. And now with the Nationals, it's about our nation's capital."
Selling his baseball plan to Washington residents has not been easy for Williams, and the opposition made itself known just before the news conference when a member of the D.C. Statehood Green Party jumped on stage with a sign reading "Stop the $614 million stadium giveaway."
The protester, Adam Eidinger, managed to say, "This is a bad deal, people" before Brotman engaged him in a tussle that nearly knocked over the lectern. Others joined the fray, and Eidinger was eventually led away by security to cheers from the crowd. He was detained for about 15 minutes and released.
Team president Tony Tavares later said Brotman "will become our head of homeland security."
Eidinger and a few other protesters scattered in the hall oppose Williams' plan for public financing to build a new ballpark, a concern that has delayed approval by the District of Columbia Council. Estimates put the cost well above the original price tag of $435 million. Recent compromises appear to have the legislation on track for city approval before the Dec. 31 deadline to set an agreement with Major League Baseball.
The team unveiled a red, white and blue logo with "Washington" on a red ribbon, "Nationals" on a blue field, and a baseball nested in a semicircle of stars. Red caps with a script "W" are nearly identical to those worn by the old Senators. There is also to be a secondary logo featuring an interlocking "DC."
Nationals was the official name of the longtime franchise popularly known as the Senators. The team played in Washington from 1901-60, with both names used for several decades. Owner Calvin Griffith officially changed the name to Senators in 1957. That team moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.
The name Senators was also used for the expansion American League team that played in Washington from 1961-71. That team moved to Texas and became the Rangers.