Story of incredible Nationals season told in Autumn Glory

Written by: Isabelle Minasian

The 2019 World Series was truly a series of firsts.

It marked the first time the Washington Nationals franchise made it to the World Series, the first time the franchise won the World Series and the first time every game of a seven-game series was won by the visiting team.

Add to that, the first time – in all likelihood – a children’s song helped to spur a team on to victory.

The Museum’s newest edition of Autumn Glory – the annual exhibit celebrating the postseason and the World Series victors – tells the story of this unprecedented Fall Classic.

This season’s Autumn Glory exhibit features the usual historic baseball paraphernalia – balls, bats, gloves, etc. – but there’s one item that really stands out: A light blue, plush cartoon shark, scarcely bigger than a baseball. This is “Baby Shark;” a children’s song-turned-cultural-phenomenon-turned-good-luck-charm, courtesy of Nationals outfielder Gerardo Parra.

Midway through the season, Parra had been mired in a slump and turned to his walkup music in an effort to shake things up. He chose “Baby Shark,” with a repetitive melody that has captivated millions of children and tortured millions of parents in equal measure. Parra got two hits that day, the Nationals swept a doubleheader, and “Baby Shark” was there to stay.

Soon, players began mimicking a shark chomp after getting a hit, including different sized chomps for singles, doubles and triples. T-shirts were made, “Baby Shark” toys – like the one on exhibit – hung from the dugout fence as good luck charms and when the Nats returned home for Game 3 of the World Series and Parra came to bat, the crowd took to their feet to sing along.

Front and center, to the right of “Baby Shark,” is a navy and red No. 37 jersey.

In the regular season, Stephen Strasburg led the National League in innings pitched but still managed to come on strong in a must-win Game 6, throwing 8 1/3 innings of five-hit, two-run ball. And, much like Strasburg anchored the Nationals in the World Series, his jersey anchors Autumn Glory.

“He was a former No. 1 pick, and here he finally gets a chance to win a World Series. The team itself had undergone any number of postseason challenges, and he had this unique opportunity in Game 6 to make sure that it didn’t end on his watch,” explained Autumn Glory curator John Odell, the Museum’s curator of history and research.

Other notable Nationals artifacts on display include the cap Max Scherzer wore when he started Game 7, a bat used by Anthony Rendon and the ball hit by Howie Kendrick which ricocheted off the Minute Maid Park right field foul pole for the go-ahead home run in Game 7. If you look closely, you can see the yellow foul pole paint that rubbed off on the ball.

Though the Nats emerged victorious, this year’s Autumn Glory also includes artifacts from the Houston Astros, who were the 2019 AL West champions for the third year in a row and the AL pennant winners for the second time in three seasons. On display from the Astros is José Altuve’s batting helmet, which the ALCS MVP wore throughout the postseason, and the glove Michael Brantley wore for the 2019 season, including when he made a dramatic diving catch and double play in Game 6 of the ALCS.

Much like the game of baseball itself, putting this exhibit together is an annual team effort at the Hall of Fame. From collecting the artifacts for donations, to curating the exhibit, to designing the displays, staff come together each year to celebrate and pay homage to another great season.

Isabelle Minasian was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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