On Sept. 16, Patrick Randall watched the Washington Nationals clinch the National League’s East Division title from his Silver Spring home and poured himself a glass from an 18-year-old bottle of Dewar’s Scotch Whisky to celebrate. A short time later the same evening, Randall poured himself another glass to celebrate the Baltimore Orioles clinching the American League’s East Division title.
“I grew up with the O’s and I was very disappointed by how they had fallen apart under Peter Angelos, who seemed more interested in keeping a team out of Washington than putting a good team on the field in Baltimore,” Randall said. “When Washington got its team, I had two franchises to root for, and no problem doing so, despite having a lot of Baltimore-based family who tried to expel me as an Orioles fan for also liking the Nats.”
The Nationals’ and Orioles’ advancement to their respective leagues’ playoff seasons has led many commentators to speculate on a potential World Series showdown between the two teams. The prospective contest has been referred to variously as the “I-95 Series,” a “Parkway Series,” or the “Battle of the Beltway.”
“If it’s the O’s and Nats in the World Series, whoever wins, I win,” Randall said.
Both teams claim legions of fans among Montgomery County residents, many of whom share Randall’s enthusiasm for both.
“The O’s are my team, so if only one gets to go, I’d like it to be them,” said Barry Piatt, who attends about 30 baseball games in Baltimore or Washington every season. “The Nats have such a Cinderella story. I was very slow to warm up to them – they were the Montreal Expos in my mind for the first couple of years, and they played like it. But look at them now! You have to love that kind of development and progress. I hope both get to go to the World Series, that would be terrific, but if I had to pick just one, it would be the O’s.”
Steve Baker, a lifelong resident of Kensington, attended his first Orioles game in 1983 when he was 8 years old. He caught a foul ball at that game and has remained a loyal fan ever since. Baker said he is excited about the team’s success, but does not feel any animosity to or from local Nationals fans.
“It seems to me that the rivalry between the Nats and the O’s is like the one between the Cubs and the Cardinals,” Baker said. “It’s more like a fencing match with a friend, instead of the ‘knife fight’ rivalry you see with teams like the Red Sox and Yankees.” Baker also described himself as a “bandwagon Nationals fan,” and said that he would be happy to see them win the World Series.
Phil Wood, a veteran radio and television sports reporter who works for the Mid Atlantic Sports Network and co-authored a book on the history of baseball in Washington, said age plays a large role in determining a fan’s team loyalty.
“In Montgomery County, you have a lot of people who were in their teens when the Senators left Washington in 1971, so they were glad to have a DC team again,” Wood said. “A lot of those people never completely warmed up to the Orioles as the home team. The Nationals have established themselves amazingly well in a short amount of time, and that’s earned them a lot of respect from Orioles fans. At any given game, you’ll see people with Orioles caps at Nationals Park.”
Wood said the atmosphere of friendly competition may change in years to come depending on how well the two teams perform.
“When the Senators and Orioles were here, neither of them was much good,” Wood said. “If both the Nationals and Orioles remain competitive, I think people will become more partial to one team or the other.”
Wood said an I-95 series is unlikely but possible.
“The analysts in Las Vegas say that the Dodgers and the Angels are the most likely teams to go the World Series,” Wood said. “I tend to believe them, since they make their living with these predictions. But it is possible.”