Ted Leavengood

A Parkway World Series Runs Through It

The Gladys Noon Spellman Parkway runs between downtown Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC. The highway–named for the Maryland Congresswoman who served from 1974-1981–empties out several blocks south of Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles and one of the finest ballparks designed by HOK who have done most of the newest baseball stadiums in the country. At the other end of the Parkway lies Nationals Park, also designed by HOK.

Technically, the Parkway ends at the boundary of the District of Columbia, but the highway itself continues as Interstate 295 through DC until it begins to flow alongside the Anacostia River. There as the river provides vistas of the old Naval Yard, you can see the Nationals ballpark looming in the distance. The Parkway was part of the original design for the nation’s capital by Pierre L’Enfant. However, it was not realized until FDR completed it as part of Depression era public works projects. Before the 20th century, it was not safe to assure easy transit into the Capital for Baltimore natives, many of whom harbored deeply-felt sympathies for the Confederacy.

Now the cultural and political milieu of Maryland and the District of Columbia are a mosaic of felicity as the two jurisdictions are among the most dependably Democratic voting jurisdictions in the country.  But they have a new link–professional baseball–that may test those bonds.

The Baltimore Orioles were the biggest surprise in baseball this season. They gave the New York Yankees a run for their money extending them to five games before failing to make the ALCS. There are few in baseball, however, who do not see them returning to post-season baseball with increasing frequency. Their young core of Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Manny Machado in the field, will soon be complemented by a pitching staff anchored by Dylan Bundy. It will be this youth movement of the Orioles that will defend Camden Yards from the artillery brought by Lincoln from DC to Federal Hill to stifle the Confederate rabble holding forth in the city. The guns are a visible symbol of enduring concern in the nation’s capital about Baltimore’s loyalties.

The Washington Nationals have a deeper set of young players, one that was predicted to contend, but not quite as quickly as 2012 when they surprised everyone by winning the NL East Divisional Championship. Led by a strong and deep pitching rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler, the Nationals promise to be in the thick of October baseball for years to come.

So how long will it be before there is a World Series in which the two teams board buses to travel back and forth along the Gladys Noon Spellman Parkway to visit their opponent’s ballpark? Not long is the answer. As talented as the two teams are, the odds are good that they may soon tangle in the ultimate baseball showdown.

And that would be a very historic baseball first. The two teams have both fielded major league baseball teams at the same time only for brief periods in the history of the game. From 1892 until 1900 both Baltimore and Washington fielded teams in the original National League when it expanded briefly to a 12-team format. The league dropped both cities for the 1900 season and in 1901 the American League was born out of the cities that had been forced out of the National League.

Both Baltimore and Washington were among the charter members of the American League as founded in 1901, but very quickly Ban Johnson–who was the driving force behind the new league–and his brain trust decided that a team was needed in New York City for the new league to prosper. The Orioles were shifted to New York City in 1903 where they became first the Highlanders and then the Yankees.

The situation was not rectified until 1954 when Baltimore rejoined the American League as the relocated St. Louis Browns franchise. For the next seventeen years the two cities fought for supremacy of the American League although Washington never made a real game of it. As a result, there was little real contention between DC and Baltimore for baseball hegemony. For those 30 years when the two cities shared the major league baseball stage, at no time did Washington field a contender or anything close.

If the 2012 season is any indication, that era may be drawing to a close. The champion of the Mid-Atlantic may yet become the World Series Champion and the contest could easily play out as fans drive back and forth for the games along the Gladys Noon Spellman Parkway.

Congresswoman Spellman will be a forgotten benefactor of the contest when it comes to pass. The attention will likely be for the two aces going in Game One: Strasburg and Bundy. The guns on Federal Hill will be forgotten trappings of a history few remember and no one much cares about. The rivalry between the city of the North–DC–and the city of the South–Baltimore–will be settled with bats and balls and not bullets and cannon fire. Of course it never really came to that during the Civil War, and it looked like there never would be any formal contest between the cities of any kind.

That is all about to change and it will be great fun when it does. There should be a Spellman Cup for the winner. I for one will take my pregame lunch on Federal Hill where I can look down on Camden Yard the way it is intended to be seen: from the Union battlements where we can successfully train our big guns on dissenters. I will name my big gun Strasburg and be glad to bring him to bear on whatever the Orioles have to offer. So bring on that Parkway World Series. As they say down south, “Times a wasting.”

About Ted Leavengood

Ted Leavengood is a baseball writer who is the managing editor for Seamheads.com a national baseball blog and writes a weekly column for MASN.com. He is co-host of a weekly podcast, "Outta the Parkway," that airs every Friday night at 7 pm on the Seamheads Podcast Network and a member of the Society For American Baseball Research. He has written three books on the history of baseball in Washington: Clark Griffith, The Old Fox of Washington Baseball; Ted Williams and the 1969 Senators, and The 2005 Nationals, Baseball Returns to Washington, DC, a journal of that season. Ted lives in North Chevy Chase with his wife Donna.


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