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Ninety years ago, Hall was set for District

Thousands of baseball fans gathered Sunday in Cooperstown, N.Y., to honor the latest inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo.

It's a scene that takes place every July. The idyllic town at the mouth of the Susquehanna that serves as the home of the Hall of Fame becomes the center of the baseball universe.

It's a scene that very well could have happened -- and was supposed to happen -- in the District.

Ninety years ago, the plan was to build a baseball hall of fame and a monument to baseball in East Potomac Park.

If these plans had become reality, it could have changed the future of professional baseball in Washington. The Washington Senators might not have relocated in 1960. That would have meant no expansion version of the Senators -- and, of course, no Washington Nationals.

According to a Sept. 22, 1922, Associated Press report, baseball planned on building a $100,000 monument to the game in East Potomac Park and a baseball hall of fame to go along with it.

"George H. Sisler of the St. Louis Browns, generally rated as the greatest first baseman in the major leagues, tonight was awarded the American League Trophy offered by club owners as a reward to the player who proved of greatest service to his team during the 1922 season.

"Sisler's name will be the first inscribed on the $100,000 baseball monument to be erected by the American League in East Potomac Park, Washington, D.C., and presented to the Government as a memorial to the national sport and a hall of fame for perpetuating the memory of its greatest players."

Imagine if the National Baseball Hall of Fame had been located in Washington as planned. How likely would it have been for baseball to allow the Senators to leave the District for Minnesota in 1960? It's doubtful.

Of course, the monument was never built, and neither was the Hall of Fame -- at least in East Potomac Park -- after Congress balked at the idea.

Instead, with the myth of the founding of baseball by Abner Doubleday in the small New York town being perpetuated at that time, the Clark family lobbied National League president Ford C. Frick in 1937 to establish the Hall in Cooperstown, and the place where Larkin and others have been honored since it opened its doors in 1939.

It's hard to imagine the Hall any place but Cooperstown, a great setting. But baseball in Washington could have had a far different future if the plans discussed 90 years ago had come to pass.

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