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Linda Cropp: The Woman Who Almost Kept The Nats Out Of D.C.

Former Councilwoman almost let the Nats stay away

WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- If you remember correctly, the Nationals move to Washington D.C. almost didn't happen.

On September 29, 2004, Major League Baseball announced that the Montreal Expos would be moving to Washington D.C. beginning in the 2005 season. The anticipation and buzz in the metro area reached a fever pitch; local baseball fans were getting rewarded with the ultimate prize.

But the good vibes soon turned into a political ensemble. Former Mayor Anthony Williams' plan for a potential publicly funded baseball stadium was foiled when three council members who supported his idea were voted out of office.

As the fall turned into winter, D.C.'s chances of landing America's past time became slimmer by the day. At the forefront of the opposition was Linda Cropp, the D.C. Council Chair at the time.

On December 14, 2004, Cropp amended a proposal to include that the city's stadium must have had 50 percent private financing -- a seemingly impossible task, considering the timing. Upon hearing the council's decison, Major League Baseball started to look towards other cities to adopt the orphaned Expos franchise.

Luckily, later that month, a deal was agreed upon by the council, the MLB and Mayor Williams.

But for many sports enthusiasts around the D.C. area, Cropp remained a villain, who in their minds tried to prevent baseball from coming back to the city -- this scathing Thomas Boswell article is a must read.

Now that the eight-year-dust has settled, I caught up with Cropp over the phone. The former council chair is still satisfied with her decisions back in 2004.

"I have no regrets about the way things were handled," Cropp said. "Most of the people who were very much in favor of the team coming werepeople who lived outside of the District, and who wouldn't put one pennyinto their coming. It was the citizens of D.C. who had to put up themoney, so I had to take a hard stance."

Though she has zero regrets, the Nationals, and specifically Nationals Park, have lured Cropp into a believer.

"Baseball is working out. I think it seems to have passed it's curve of success," said the retired politician, who admittedly said she hasn't looked at the financial numbers. " Obviously now that the Nationals are the number one team, it's working out even better."

Cropp wanted to send a reminder during the interview that if it wasn't for her, baseball wouldn't be back in this town at all.

"People tend to forget that. They get selective amnesia. The votes werenot there to have a team. I had to work to put the votes there by makinga better agreement for the citizens of D.C," she said about the final 7-to-6 vote in December of 2004.

Still, the near loss of the franchise (because of her plan) caused some harm to her reputation, and unimaginative resentment. A website entitled "LindaCroppIsUnAmerican.com" was even created.

"I received an awful lot of backlash. It was unbelievable," said a weary Cropp. "I don'twant to go back into that, but it was pretty horrendous. It was a lot ofstuff."

As for this year's Nats? She's all in for the team.

"I follow to see how they are doing. I am thrilled they are number one in the country."

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