As I point out in Monday’s column about the Nationals and Orioles, the rivalry between Washington and Baltimore’s pro teams hasn’t been much to talk about. It’s kind of stunning, really. You’re hard-pressed to come up with a single Marquee Game involving the Redskins and Colts, Redskins and Ravens, Senators and Orioles, Expansion Senators and Orioles, Nats and Orioles – or, if you want to go back to the ’40s, the Washington Capitols and Baltimore Bullets (of the Basketball Association of America).
And that, folks, takes in a lot of territory.
Of course, there are reasons for this. The biggest – let’s be honest here – is that Washington’s teams usually haven’t held up their end. The Senators – first and second editions – were abysmal from 1954 (when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore) to 1971 (when Senators II relocated to Texas). There was only one season in all that time in which the Senators finished with a winning record – 1969, when they went 86-76 … and finished 23 games behind the Orioles in the American League. (The O’s won 13 of 18 meetings that year.) If you’re going to play a memorable game or series, it helps if both sides are good (as the O’s almost always were).
The Redskins and Colts were never in the same division, but they did meet every season from 1953 to ’67. The Redskins finished above .500 only twice in that stretch (’53 and ’55); the Colts, meanwhile, won two championships (1958, ’59) and, with Johnny Unitas at quarterback, became one of the NFL’s flagships. Naturally, Baltimore dominated the series (winning 15 of 20, many by large margins, before the Colts sneaked off to Indianapolis in early ’84).
Read it and weep: Only twice in that 1953-to-’83 period did the Redskins and Colts meet in a season in which they both finished with a winning record. The first time was in 1969, when Vince Lombardi’s Redskins (7-5-2) got whomped by Don Shula’s Colts (8-5-1), 41-17, at Memorial Stadium. (Neither club, by the way, made the playoffs that year.)
The other time was in 1977, also in Baltimore – and a Monday night game, to boot. The Colts won, that one, too, 10-3, on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bert Jones to Freddie Scott in the fourth quarter.
The Colts went 10-4 that season and won the AFC East. The Redskins went 9-5 and missed the playoffs in a tiebreaker. So if George Allen’s Over the Hill Gangsters had won that night, they would have gone to the playoffs and the Colts would have stayed home. That game – that 10-3 game in Week 8 of 1977 – is, near as I can determine, the only truly significant one ever played by pro teams from Washington and Baltimore. (The Redskins and Ravens certainly haven’t played any.)
One game in … how many years is it? Astounding.