Washington not exactly the capital of baseball

April 14, 2005|By DAN RODRICKS

I THINK I speak for all Baltimoreans, except maybe Peter Angelos, when I say it's nice that Washington has a baseball team again. I just want to know something: Is there a federal three-time loser law for baseball cities?

If not, can we get one?

Somebody call Sarbanes.

That way, if this experiment fails and big-league baseball leaves the District of Columbia for the third time - actually, the fourth, if you go back to the time of McKinley - then we can with statutory force tell all those whiny sentimentalists longing for the days of Walter Johnson and Early Wynn and Eddie Brinkman to be gone and be done.

It's not for us so much as for our children.

We wish that future generations be spared from hearing about what a great baseball town Washington was - it wasn't - and how the national pastime belongs in the nation's capital. The Washington teams were crummy for a long, long time. ("Washington: First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.")

There's no there there in the way of a storied baseball past.

The Nationals constitute a baseball franchise built on schmooze.

The only reason there's a team there again is because it's Washington.

Washington is ... Washington.

They know how to lobby for things down there. That's what they do. The professional class that rules the city and its 'burbs has been groaning for years about not having a baseball team and having to drive to Baltimore, of all places, to watch a game.

When the Orioles played at Memorial Stadium, they really hated it. Don't let them tell you any differently.

The crowd that came here from Chevy Chase and Georgetown and Alexandria - oh, my, they were just so inconvenienced by that drive to 33rd Street, on the north side of town.

The late Edward Bennett Williams, the Washington attorney who bought the Orioles for a song in 1979, used to complain about "egress" at Memorial Stadium. As soon as then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer realized "egress" did not refer to a kind of long-necked bird, he started talking about building a new stadium downtown.

The new stadium would be more accessible to the baseball-starved suits from Washington.

The Washington crowd might have been charmed by Camden Yards, and they might have felt they were getting in touch with blue-collar America by coming up the B-W Parkway now and then, but that got old.

It must have galled them that Baltimore was a big-league baseball town and Washington wasn't.

Well, you've got what you've lobbied for, my fair District of Columbians.

Have a nice life down there.

Most of us won't be going to the home opener tonight, and we won't be getting the T-shirt.

Personally, if I were any more apathetic about this, they'd be making an appointment for me at Duda-Ruck.

What is the payoff for driving through the Capital-area highway mess to RFK Stadium to watch the Washington Nationals, besides the opportunity to maybe - maybe - see Cokie Roberts knocking back a Bud?

If we want to see baseball, we can go to Camden Yards. If I want to see George Stephanopoulos, I turn on the television on Sunday.

Camden Yards is looking better all the time.

You know that old maxim, "When one door closes, another opens"?

Well, in this case, when one door opens - to dumpy, old RFK Stadium, for the Nationals - another one opens - to Camden Yards, for an Orioles game.

I know what a lot of people around here have been thinking ever since the announced return of Major League Baseball to D.C.: fewer corporate attorneys, trade representatives and Washington correspondents driving up from D.C. to schmooze with clients at Oriole Park.

Angelos worries about losing this crowd?

Please.

That's a festivus for the rest of us. That's fewer tickets for the suits and conceivably more for longtime Orioles fans from Norrisville, Dickeyville, Davidsonville, Cockeysville and all the other 'villes. I know guys who've said they would consider buying O's tickets again, now that there might be room for them.

In that sense, Washington's gain is Baltimore's gain.

So, of course, we wish the Nationals well.

It's the magnanimous thing to do on this historic occasion.

I just can't help thinking what this could look like five years from now:

Imagine late summer, 2010. Imagine 95 degrees and 98 percent humidity along the fetid Anacostia, and the Nationals' record is 41-88, and the scheduled starting pitcher has an ERA of 11.78. How many D.C. lobbyists and lawyers are going to be letting their starched shirts wilt in the box seats then?

Peace, out.

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