Rule #22 - Question everything
Rule #40 Be grateful
It’s time for some inter-league play. You know, the stuff that the World Series is made of…
I checked the team website today to see for myself what my mind has a hard time comprehending. Yes, the Orioles are tied for first place. We are about a quarter of the way through the season and, as of this writing, Buck’s Boys have won 29 games. They’ve beaten up on some old adversaries. They’ve taken their share of licks and come out still tickin’.
Whodathunk? If you asked me last year if this was possible, I’d say no. Many here in Bird Land still are in disbelief. The team is now really putting butts in the seats at Camden Yards. There was a large sea of orange to compete with the Red Sox fans in a recent series. There’s almost as much orange in the stands when the Yankees come to town too. Serious fan frenzy exists here in Baltimore, to the extent that the Ravens can hold their off season practices without too much fanfare.
This fan frenzy was really visible in a recent inter-league series between the Orioles and the Washington Nationals. The really crazy thing was that it was a battle of 2 first place Eastern division teams that were last year’s cellar dwellers. Again with the “whodathunk?”
For those of you unfamiliar with this area, there are about 40 miles or so between Baltimore and Washington. It’s a relatively straight shot down I-95 from Camden Yards until you get lost finding Nationals Stadium in D.C. It really is easier to take public transportation to Nats Park. Many media pundits tend to blend Baltimore and Washington together like it’s one big mega-city. Both have similar crime statistics. Both cities have lots of auto traffic. Both have culturally diverse populations. But both also have unique identities. Baltimore - to me - has an old city feel with neighborhoods that reflect the original immigrants who settled there. Washington is more cosmopolitan, more transient. There’s lots more history honored in DC, but people visit that city and sometimes only stay for 4 years. (ask any presidential candidate or staff member)
Washington did have its own baseball team for years - the Washington Senators. They played in DC from 1901 until 1960, mostly under the name of the Senators. In 1960, Major League Baseball expanded teams and the Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. The city held the rights to the names “Senators” and “Nationals” (another of their team names from 1905 - 1955). The team records were less than stellar. Oh, there was the World Series win in 1924 and their last World Series appearance in 1933. After those glory days, not so much in the win column. But the location made for great photo ops for politicians who dream of baseball stardom.
Moving the team to the twin cities area of Minneapolis-St. Paul in Minnesota (AHA! Now you know where the moniker “Twins” comes from) left baseball fans in DC without a team. Another Senators franchise surfaced after 1960, but left town to become the Texas Rangers in 1972. Most people who live in DC are from somewhere else, so those fans kept their home town loyalty. But those native to DC migrated north and supported the Baltimore Orioles. It was a marriage of necessity for DC residents. There was no other major league team closer to DC than Baltimore.
Before the 2005 season, many wondered if this area could support two Major League Baseball franchises. In 2005, the Orioles were in the middle of a “fight for last place in the AL East” With either Toronto or the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (that’s what they were called, folks). The Montreal Expos were in serious trouble financially at that time. Dozens of people showed up to the games (not thousands). So that franchise moved to DC and became the current Washington Nationals. The first few years they played like a bunch of transplanted Expos. But last year they started a winning “Natitude” and were putting more butts in the seats of the stadium. Things were looking up for DC and baseball.
And last year things started looking up for the Orioles. They started the season well, then spent most of the rest of the season in their usual funk. They just couldn’t pull it together. They either had pitching or they had hitting, but never the two together. The bull pen was bull, too. But something gelled at the end of last season. They went on a “If-we-aren’t-going-to-the-playoffs-you-aren’t-either” win streak. If you played the O’s, your ranking in the division wasn’t safe. Ask the Red Sox and Terry Francona (now of ESPN because he didn’t get the Sox to the series). Baltimore played like they had nothing to lose – because they were in the basement of the division – again.
Two teams in the same general neighborhood playing great, always broadcast on TV – is this a great place for baseball nut or what? So what happens when they play each other? Lots of just plain fun, that’s what.
This past series was in DC and so many O’s fans went down for the game, it was fantastic. You could watch and see O’s orange and Nats red all over a packed house. Colors were interspersed in the crowd. Families had divided team loyalties, but still had a great time. There was even a “Let’s go O’s” and “Let’s go Nats” chant smack down during the games. It had the atmosphere of 2 high school rivals playing football – without the required fight after the game.
Refreshing? You bet. I’ve heard stories about other parks, like Yankee Stadium. Not sure if they are true or not, but I’m not about to find out. That’s my last ball park in my bucket list quest to see them all.
Makes you wonder too… If two fan bases could sit next to each other during a game without hostilities, why can’t the bigger nations do the same? Or maybe we should scrap wars altogether and settle things on the ball field… Hmmmm….
At any rate, in this tale of two cities, both towns had a boat load of fun, both in the park and in the media. The Orioles took two and the Nationals won the Sunday game. Oh, and Teddy didn’t win the Presidents race… again…still. But if the Nats get to the Series….? And if the O’s get to the Series…? Don’t know if some of our hearts can handle that one.
Oh, and I am using Rule # 40 and am very grateful for this season so far. I just hope I didn’t jinx either team.
If you are into a bit of baseball history, check out these websites. You all know that Wikipedia is not 100% authoritative, but the Sports Encyclopedia is. Enjoy your searching.