Reporting David Elfin
No major metropolitan areas are closer to each other than Washington and Baltimore. Even though Nats Park is on the southern edge of DC, it’s still less than 40 miles from Camden Yards.
And yet, there really never has been of a sports rivalry between the cities.
Washington and Baltimore competed against each other in the American League from 1954-68 and then in the AL East from 1969-71 before robber baron Bob Short absconded with the Senators to Texas.
But neither was competitive in the 1950s and the Senators, who were reborn as an expansion franchise in 1961 after the original team had moved to Minnesota, managed just one winning season during their final 12 years. That was in 1969, when Washington went 86-76 under Manager of the Year Ted Williams only to finish a staggering 23 games behind the AL champion Orioles of Hall of Famers Earl Weaver, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Jim Palmer.
The Redskins and Colts were NFL rivals from 1953-69 – although oddly Baltimore was always in the Western Conference. Washington won three of the first seven matchups from 1953-59 but lost the final eight making ti a one-sided series.
Baltimore’s Bullets became Washington’s in 1972 without a lot of controversy despite their NBA excellence. Charm City has never had an NHL team nor have many of its denizens become devotees of the Capitals. And residents of both Balmer and DC, at least of the latter’s northern suburbs, root for the University of Maryland.
The Redskins and Ravens have played just four times – not counting preseason — since the latter moved from Cleveland in 1996 and compete in different conferences so there’s not much of a NFL rivalry there.
Which brings us to the O’s and the Nats, the former Montreal Expos who relocated to the nation’s capital in 2005. After scoring 17 runs on Friday, their most since coming to DC, the Nats managed just four in their weekend losses to the Birds, extending Baltimore’s lead in the interleague series to 18-15.
However, the Orioles (21-24) are still in the AL East cellar while the Nats (21-25) have fallen to the NL East basement again. Baltimore hasn’t had a winning record since 1997 when current lefty ace Zach Britton was nine. Washington finished .500 during baseball’s return six summers ago but hasn’t come close since.
Couple that joint incompetence with belonging to different leagues and meeting just six times a year and it’s hard to generate the intensity of Red Sox vs. Yankees or Dodgers vs. Giants no matter the proximity of the markets.
So the O’s won two of three from the Nats this weekend. Congrats, fellas. Get back to me when that actually means something. If it ever does.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.