When D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams donned an old Washington Senators hat and announced in September 2004 that Major League Baseball was returning to the District, there was euphoria. The nation’s capital, the national pastime: It seemed to be a perfect fit.
“It irks me that they kept saying, ‘D.C. needs a team.’ As far as I was concerned, D.C. had a team, and it just happened to be in Baltimore,” Mr. Krauss said. “In the ‘80s and in the ‘90s, Baltimore was Washington’s baseball team, and people forget that very quickly.”
Not everyone has. Even amid the Nationals‘ division championship season, there are plenty of Orioles fans still rooted in the area to enjoy Baltimore’s even more improbable run to the playoffs. Naturally, some fans left once the Nationals arrived and many now cheer for both teams, but the Orioles are far from a forgotten team in Washington.
Filling baseball’s black hole
Washington has the dubious distinction of having its baseball team leave not once, but twice: the original Senators in 1960 after 60 seasons to become the Minnesota Twins and the expansion Senators in 1971 to become the Texas Rangers.
Those growing up in the D.C. area after ‘71 had options: Walk away from the sport, maintain a casual interest without an allegiance or latch on to the Orioles.
Baltimore got the Orioles in 1954 and celebrated World Series titles in 1966, 1970 and 1983.
“You’ve got to remember that there’s a whole generation of people, myself included, that grew up in the D.C. suburbs but didn’t have a D.C. baseball team to root for,” said John Domen, 33, of Silver Spring, who grew up in Bowie. “We were all drawn to the Orioles, and that meant going to Memorial Stadium as a little kid and watching Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray, then Camden Yards after that.”
Mr. Krauss, 37, started watching the Orioles during their championship season in 1983, and he stuck with the team with no reservations or apologies through a lot of lean times, most notably 14 consecutive losing seasons before this year. Some, such as 28-year-old John Scott of Arlington, never saw the Orioles win it all but remained a fan despite growing up in Gaithersburg.
“Part of being a fan is going through the bad times. It just happened to be for the Orioles it was 14 straight years of really bad times,” Mr. Krauss said. “And I didn’t think they were ever going to end. You just don’t know. But every Opening Day has been my favorite day of the year.”
Nats’ impact on Orioles
There was no more vocal opponent to baseball’s return to the District than Orioles owner Peter Angelos, who once said, “There are no baseball fans in Washington, D.C.”
Despite that assertion, he didn’t want another team in the area cutting into his fan base.