Parkway World Series this fall? Step on the gas

April 18, 2005|By David Steele

TO CONTINUE yesterday's theme of lack of perspective ...

You heard it here first. Battle of the Beltways! That's right, get ready for a Parkway World Series.

Hey, if George Steinbrenner can put the entire Yankees organization on public notice two weeks into the season, we're entitled to dream about October, aren't we? Right here, in the baseball capital of America, the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, the one that could never, ever, in a million years, support two teams.

Just to save you the trouble of turning to the standings inside, the Orioles are in first place in the AL East, thanks to the sweep of the Yankees at Camden Yards and the Blue Jays' loss in Texas yesterday. Meanwhile, down the road at RFK, the Nationals were sweeping the Diamondbacks to maintain their grip on the NL East lead.

According to the Steinbrennerian calendar, this means these two cities, together again on the baseball map for the first time in 34 years, are on track to be physically together on the field this fall.

Of course, notables from both sides keep throwing cold water on the idea, this collision course toward the greatest baseball event this area has ever known. There were the Orioles' players and coaches yesterday talking about how much it meant to beat the Yankees again, but also about how they had to build on this rather than dwell too much on it. There are 150 games to go, after all.

"You like to take this as a confidence boost for [the players]," manager Lee Mazzilli said, noting that this is something his team can keep doing against everybody. "But," he added, "I don't look that far ahead."

So October is out of the question for now.

Same thing for the Nationals, who went out of their way during the circus of last week's official home debut to remind everybody not to put too much weight on that one game. Manager Frank Robinson [how cool would it be to have him back here in October?] was cracking wise about his days in Cleveland, when the Indians would draw 80,000 for Opening Day and 10,000 the next day.

General manager Jim Bowden, meanwhile, was calling his shot: "This team will win more games than last year, I can promise you that." The Expos won 67 last year. Not exactly Namath or Ali there.

Still, as their home opener approached, anticipation was rising for reasons other than the end of the long drought. Much as the Orioles fans are giddy over running the Yankees out of town, Nationals fans were in a frenzy over having won a series in Atlanta over a Braves team that had been to the former Expos in recent years what the Yankees had been to the O's.

With their twin sweeps at home, both teams have energized their followers as they haven't been energized in a long time - three decades there, what seems like three decades here.

OK, so the Parkway Series concept might be way too fanciful for the third week of April. (Might be?) This still is shaping up as a momentous week of baseball at both ends of Route 295. We're in the midst of a head-to-head with each other already, home dates for both teams on the same day for six straight days.

The first two pitted the Yankees' presence at Camden Yards against the completion of the inaugural series at RFK. All told, nearly 167,000 fans attended major league games within 45 minutes of each other yesterday and Saturday.

Baltimore's attendance prevailed, averaging more than 48,000 to D.C.'s 35,000-plus. But one must factor in all the pinstripe fans at Camden Yards, and all the building- and health-code violations at RFK. Which brings up one issue that could cool the fire of the rivalry at World Series time: All seven games would have to be played in Baltimore. Either that, or play the Nationals' home games at the proposed site next to the Anacostia River, which probably has better amenities for fans right now than RFK does.

Nevertheless, those were incredible crowds in both buildings, and there are still four games left for each on their homestands. Into Camden Yards come the Tigers for two games, and then the Red Sox for two. For the latter two, the park will again be filled with enemy fans, and if the Orioles send them home as unhappy as they did the Yankees fans, they won't be able to keep a cap on the excitement any longer.

Down in the District, the Nationals host division rivals Florida and, gulp, Atlanta. Same deal: Fare well against them, send a message that they're not going away, and baseball in D.C. will go officially off the chain.

All over the area this week, there are going to be a lot of bleary eyes at work, a lot of ink-stained fingers, a lot of high electric bills and gas-station stops and ATM withdrawals, probably more than there ever have been at one time.

Which is all exciting. But not as exciting as it will be at World Series time. O's-Nats. Don't say you weren't warned.

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