Happy Fourth of July, Orioles fans. I'm spending the holiday with my family in Catonsville, Md., where July 4 is, like a certain fictionalized news anchor, kind of a big deal. It certainly isn't more popular than Jesus (just "imagine" someone saying that); more like a secularized version of a holy day of obligation. Thousands of locals make the pilgrimage to Frederick Road in the afternoon for the annual parade and then on to Catonsville High School in the evening for fireworks. Both events have been funded for the past 65 years by community donations. They're the mainstays around which you build your day if you live in Catonsville.
We're baseball fans, so our holiday inevitably involves catching at least a few innings of the O's game. It's fun to have the Orioles as part of the celebration. Unfortunately, the Fourth of July O's game hasn't reached the level of tradition. If it were up to me, it would (says the blogger who has no idea of the intricacies of baseball scheduling nor the cost-benefit analysis of the venture I'm about to propose). Here's how: I'd have the Orioles play an annual Independence Day doubleheader with the Washington Nationals.
There's precedent there. As Style magazine reports, the International League Orioles used to play twice on July 4: "The night of July 3, 1944, began much like any other summer night. At the game between the International League Orioles and the Syracuse Chiefs at Oriole Park, local children cheered for favorite players like Howie Moss and Sherm Lollar. Men in suits and hats meticulously kept score with pencil and scorecard. And several fans got into an altercation in one of the boxes. Perhaps they were reacting to the 10th inning debacle when the Chiefs scored seven runs -including a grand slam - that resulted in the ugly 11-4 score and the Orioles' third loss in a row to the pesky Chiefs. Or perhaps the fans were
already primed for the Fourth of July holiday, when there would be fireworks and a doubleheader at Oriole Park."
There's also precedent for a Baltimore-D.C. showdown. Two years after the St. Louis Browns arrived in Baltimore and became the Orioles, the O's split a twinbill with the Washington Senators on July 4, 1956, at Griffith Stadium. The Senators took the opener 10-8 with the O's getting revenge in a six-inning nightcap by a 7-4 score. What modern owner wouldn't be thrilled by the prospect of nearly 8,000 fans at the ballpark on Independence Day, as was the case for that 1956 showdown? (Kidding, of course. The O's and Nationals could draw at least 10,000.)
As long as we're going to continue with Interleague play and try to convince local fans that geography alone should naturally produce a rivalry, let's up the ante and have Baltimore and Washington's baseball teams square off annually for an Independence Day doubleheader. Alternate ballparks each year and use the doubleheader as the culmination of a three-game set. Loser picks up the tab for fireworks afterward.
Making the game a tradition that fans can anticipate at the same time each year might just produce some feelings of rivalry. At the very least it would be fun. Let's turn the "Battle of the Beltway" into the "Independence Day Doubleheader."
(Extra credit: I'd like to offer special congratulations to my dad, Frederick Taylor, who will become Catonsville's official town crier during
today's Fourth of July ceremony. Look for Squire Frederick leading the parade this afternoon if you happen to be in town.)
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds will appear this week as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.