The first weekend of interleague play is over, and any further bragging rights associated with the Battle of the Beltways will have to hold off until the Orioles travel to the banks of the Anacostia River to face the Nationals June 17-19.
It’s going to take some time before Major League Baseball gets it wish, a thriving rivalry between two teams separated by about 35 miles of the Gladys Noon Spellman Memorial Parkway (or the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Route 295, to those of you who didn’t know that the Maryland portion was named for the former U.S. congresswoman following her death in 1988 after almost eight years in a coma).
But long ago, baseball battles between the nation’s capital and Maryland’s largest city were commonplace. When the Senators played in Washington, D.C., they were not only nearby neighbors but also members of the American League, meaning games between the two franchises happened multiple times a year.
Back in 1957 and 1959, the Orioles opened the season at the second coming of Griffith Stadium, with all the pomp and circumstance reserved for a full-fledged event. While Cincinnati got the honor of hosting the National League’s first game each season, Washington was the focal point of the American League universe as baseball drew the curtain on the AL campaign with an opener in D.C.
As you can see from this YouTube video, politicians were omnipresent (some things never change in Washington), with President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard M. Nixon throwing out ceremonial first pitches. Folks who thought National Bohemian was solely a Baltimore beer might be chagrined to spot Mr. Boh atop the outfield grandstand and Natty Boh advertisements prominently displayed around the ballpark. Yes, the National Brewing Co. also sponsored Senators baseball.
As for the games, the O’s prevailed on Monday, April 15, 1957, using an 11th-inning sacrifice fly by Carl Powis to score Dick Williams for a 7-6 victory. Gus Triandos went 3-for-6 with a home run, Brooks Robinson was 1-for-5 and NBilly Lowes picked up the victory with two scoreless innings of relief. The Senators’ lineup included future Oriole Whitey Herzog and former Oriole Clint Courtney.
Two seasons later, on April 9, 1959, the Senators scored a 9-2 victory in the opener. Harmon Killebrew and Reno Bertoia each hit two-run homers off O’s starter Jack Harshman in a four-run fourth inning, expanding a 1-0 Senators lead. Triandos’ two-run homer in the ninth prevented Washington’s Pedro Ramos from pitching a shutout.