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The Quietest Spot in Downtown Washington

A reader writes:

If Watergate were happening today, Mark Felt and Bob Woodward wouldn't meet in a Rosslyn parking lot in the middle of the night. They'd meet in the Orioles store in Farragut Square at lunchtime. I just started a new job in Dupont Circle and thought I'd wander down to the O's store on my lunch break. It was completely empty for the whole 5 minutes I was there, and the cashier never looked up from reading her book. How much longer do you think they'll keep it open?

The reader, Miles Grant of Ballston, got me curious. So every day last week, I popped over to the Orioles Official Team Store on 17th Street NW during lunch hour, the peak of the downtown shopping day. The park outside the store was teeming with office workers dining on the lawn and the restaurants and other shops were all busy, but every single time I entered the O's store, I was the only person in there other than the two employees.

So why does Orioles owner Peter Angelos keep his Washington store open? Because, as he told me during an interview on Washington Post Radio, "It's our territory." The store is just one way in which Angelos stakes his claim to Washington even as the Washington Nationals try to establish themselves as the home team.

Memo to the Lerner family: Wouldn't it be exquisitely cool if you opened a Nats team store in downtown Baltimore?
Of course, that's assuming that you're already working on setting up such a shop in, um, Washington. And while you're at it, it'd be nice to have them in a couple of your suburban malls, too. You wouldn't even have to pay rent, right?

Meantime, Miles Grant and I are going to start hanging out at the O's Store, not to buy the $18 toy trucks or the $99 warm-up jackets, but to enjoy some very fine air-conditioning on a summer lunch break. Thank you, Mr. Angelos!

One more note to the Lerners: Check out this email from reader William F. Yurasko--

This month marks the 51st anniversary of 'Damn Yankees.' The show's "Broadway debut has got the song 'Heart' stuck in my head again. For the last two years, I have been going on about how 'Heart' needs to be played at RFK following 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.' Now that ownership has been announced, the time for more direct lobbying can begin. Think about it--30,000 people singing this rousing number during the 7th inning stretch. It sure beats Boston's 'Sweet Caroline' or Balmer's inexplicable 'Country Boy.' It would be a uniquely Washington experience! Best of all, it is an improvement that can start right away and does not cost a thing.

"Also, why stop at Heart? Maybe we could let Screech fly away and bring in a mascot we can really get excited about -- Lola!"

Fabulous idea. Mr. Lerner?

By Marc Fisher |  May 8, 2006; 7:33 AM ET
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Comments

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Wish I could take credit for it, but someone suggested this during Boswell's chat on Friday - "It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got that Swing" by Duke Ellington. Surely this song has more of a tie to DC than "Heart!" Go Nats!

Posted by: 7th Inning Stretch | May 8, 2006 8:47 AM

As a very sometime-baseball fan, I thought I could stridle my loyalties between the Orioles and the Nats. But it's like Angelos, with his stupid cable behavior, is forcing a girl to choose. And if he's going to make me choose, I'm going with the guy that's local.

Angelos ain't such a good businessman, as we all know: he could have kept my loyalty too if he'd been just a little less anti-Nats. But I can't have these two beaus under my wing, fightin' all the time.

Sorry, Peter, but it's over. Oh, and it's you, not me.

Posted by: 1st inning stretch | May 8, 2006 8:57 AM

I've been advocating more references to the Senators for a while, especially the adoption of "Heart". Also, they should put up Senators trivia during the game, etc. The Nats should embrace Washington's baseball history, as mediocre as it was. Otherwise we're no better than the Devil Rays.

Posted by: 10th Inning Stretch | May 8, 2006 9:48 AM

Who gets the Senators' history? Did it move to Texas with the Rangers? Or does DC "keep" it like Cleveland got to keep the Browns' history and records, etc?

Posted by: OD | May 8, 2006 10:15 AM

The history and records of the AL Nationals belong to the Minnesota Twins. The history and records of the expansion Senators (as well as the rights to the name "Senators") belong to the Texas Rangers.

I read that the Rangers were willing to sell back the name "Senators" to the Nats after the Expos moved here and Bud Selig originally wanted that name. They changed it to "Nationals" because Mayor Tony Williams vehemently opposed the name "Senators." (Ironically, I think firmly believe Williams and Mark Plotkin are the ONLY baseball fans in D.C. who oppose the name "Senators" because of the lack of D.C. voting rights.)

Anyway, if the Rangers were willing to make a deal with the Nats for the team name, I think both they and the Twins would be willing to make an arrangement over the team records and history. Even if they were not willing to give up the records outright, I think they would be willing (for a fee) to let the Lerners USE their records. After all, the Twins have spent over 40 years in Minnesota and the Rangers have spent over a third of a century in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. If they do not use Senators records in their media guides, why not let the Nats use them?

I really would love to see an all-time roster of players who have been Senators or Grays...

Posted by: Eddie Cunningham | May 8, 2006 10:43 AM

One more thing. Everyone IS aware there is a Nationals baseball store at RFK Stadium, right?

Posted by: Eddie Cunningham | May 8, 2006 10:44 AM

If Angelos thinks his territory extends south to NC, he's obviously never been to Virginia south of Fredricksburg. At least from Richmond to Norfolk, folks are Braves fans. It may be partly because of the R Braves, but there's definitely also a southern identity thing. The same can't be said of the Mets despite the Tides being in Norfolk.

Posted by: Rob | May 8, 2006 10:48 AM

If they're going to throw Senators history, stats and trivia in a nod to DC's baseball past, they better include Grays history, stats and trivia, too.

I'd rather have seen the team resurrect the Grays name and legacy. ...a winning one!

Posted by: Greg | May 8, 2006 11:28 AM

I would like to see the Nationals use the late, great Link Wray's instrumental classic "Rumble" during rallies to stir up the crowd at RFK. It was recorded right here in D.C. in 1958, and was popularized on local TV legend Milt Grant's teen dance show.

Posted by: Vincent | May 8, 2006 11:43 AM

A Boston Red Sox fan - I think if D'Angelos add some Red Sox souvenirs - he might make some money.

I did an informal poll a couple of weeks ago at a local VA supermarket and found people wearing the following:
3 Nats Caps
3 Red Sox Caps and 1 T-Shirt
1 Yankee cap
'0' Orioles

Angelos must be kidding himself, there are more Red Sox fans in this area than Orioles.

Posted by: Dawn | May 8, 2006 1:04 PM

The Nationals media guide does in fact include a section of Washington baseball records which involve both previous franchises.

Posted by: Cosmo | May 8, 2006 1:13 PM

I agree: having more references to the Grays would be a great way to keep DC happy about the team, and connect it to a storied history of excellence.

Just imagine if they renamed the team the Homestead Grays...instant marketing opportunities, great logos, a connection to the Negro Leagues; it's all there. Plus, it would be a great opportunity to shine a light not only on the past racism in baseball, but also on DC continued lack of voting rights. Politics is perception, after all.

Posted by: edward | May 8, 2006 1:58 PM

How long did the Grays play in Washington as opposed to Pittsburgh? I don't know the history, but I do know Pittsburgh claims them as theirs. The name "Homestead Grays" comes from the team's attachment to Homestead, which is a Pittsburgh neighborhood.

Posted by: THS | May 8, 2006 2:12 PM

Politics may be perception, but god please let's not make the baseball team political.

I don't understand how the Twins or Rangers can "own" the Senators history. What is preventing the Nationals from putting up trivia questions about the Senators during the game? I can understand thoses other teams having some rights to the trademarks, but how can they "own" the history of a team to the exclusion of others?

Posted by: 11th Inning Stretch | May 8, 2006 2:15 PM

It's really a shame that Pete's extremely asinine behavior is hurting his team so much. The small crowds have to be affecting the players on the field. I really hope he sells the team ASAP to the rest of his investors and lets maybe Mark Clacy take over as president or someone, heck, anyone else.

However, at least on ym side of the Potomac, I do see plenty of O's gear around, so people do still identify with the team to some degree.

Posted by: Sad O's fan.. | May 8, 2006 2:28 PM

In my opinion, having grown up in Maryland, but now living across the river (sacrilege!), the O's are a Maryland thing, much like the Terps. I think if the NoVa contingent had been awarded the Expos way back when, Angelos and the O's wouldn't be in as bad a situation as they are now. But that's neither here nor there. I see some O's gear being worn in DC, but not nearly as much as that of the Nats, Red Sox and Yankees. I think it will be interesting to see the interleague matchup between the two teams this year and note the differences in the crowd at the game as well as the overall atmosphere. This could be a big chance for the Lerners to make a PR splash. Rivalry is a dream landscape for marketers.

Posted by: mgd | May 8, 2006 2:46 PM

Why does Fisher continue shilling for Comcast, when even he admits that every other cable company in the area is carrying the Nationals games?

If Comcast held the rights to the Nats games then the Nats would get no ownership in the network and would get less money in an annual rights payment. Would Fisher really want to weaken the Nats financial position just so he can spite Angelos?

Posted by: Nats Fan | May 8, 2006 2:49 PM

the Twins and Rangers "own" Senators history as they are the same franchise, just relocated. As such, the official history of the Nats starts as the Expos. I believe the Media Guide and Programs officially say "Washington Professional Baseball Leaders" or some such. The only exception, I think, is the Cleveland Browns, but that was the result of the NFL settling the city's lawsuit.

I think I've read commentary in the Baltimore Sun where some fan gets upset that the Colts still celebrate their Baltimore years.

IIRC last year, Taveres said something to the effect that programs would always need three tables: Nats only, Nats+Expos, Nats+Sens.

Posted by: tallbear | May 8, 2006 3:00 PM

I was surprised that, at Opening Day 2005, "You Gotta Have Heart" wasnt used at some point in the proceedings, especially when the ex-Senators were introduced, who took their positions on the field to thunderous applause and handed gloves to the new Nats.

A ceremony that proves, BTW, that the Nationals can -- and should -- make the most of Washington's baseball heritage. It doesnt matter at all who "owns" the name Senators. And whether or not the franchise records are technically traced back through Montreal, there's nothing to prevent unofficial comparisons with previous Washington teams, including Senators I and II.

The best example of this is the way the New York Mets in 1962 TOTALLY embraced the history of the NY Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers. They incorporated elements of those teams' uniforms, and populated their early old-timer's days with ex-Dodger and Giant greats. New York's NL fans loved it. The Nats should stay the Nats but embrace the old Senators and their fans.

And in a nine-inning game, there's room for both "Heart" and the Duke. But please don't sacrifice "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," which will celebrate its centennial in 2008.

Posted by: Meridian | May 8, 2006 3:13 PM

*Quote* One more thing. Everyone IS aware there is a Nationals baseball store at RFK Stadium, right? *end Quote*

You mean A Trailer. Not much of a store.

Posted by: Joe D. | May 8, 2006 3:22 PM

Have you been to the stadium in the last year? The store is enclosed within the stadium by the main entrance. BTW - Who cares? It is DC's team and if you were a fan you wouldn't care if it is a trailer, a tent or an empty downtown storefront.

There are so many incorrect perceptions that linger. Show your support for the team despite the inconveniences. It is worth it!

Posted by: DC Nat Fan | May 8, 2006 3:39 PM

While we're talking about what to sing at the ballpark, here's my suggestion for the National Anthem:
"o'er the land of the free ... N!! ... the home of the brave."

Posted by: FrayFelipe | May 8, 2006 3:39 PM

To Joe D. - you need to go back to RFK more often. They towed the trailer away late last summer when they opened a proper stadium store in the stadium. It's on the 300 level rigth at the main gate.

Posted by: Mark W | May 8, 2006 3:44 PM

I want to cast another vote in favor of "Heart." Never mind whether "Damn Yankees" was about the AL teams, the Senators and the Yanks. It has nothing to do with the Senators specifically.

It's a great song. It is very singable. Its sentiment fits both a losing streak and a winning streak, both Opening Day and a pennant race.

It would be vastly better than that stupid "Sweet Caroline" thing they play in, what? the eight inning or so. That one makes no sense at all. "Heart" makes every bit of sense. It reflects the loyalty of every Washington baseball fan who waited 34 years for a team to return.

Posted by: shepdave | May 8, 2006 4:05 PM

I haven't heard Sweet Caroline at all this year, at least not during the 6 games that I've been to. "Heart" would certainly be a fine choice.

The stadium store is fine during games, but it's really not worth a special trip. A similar store downtown would attract more casual fans and passersby, even though Kasten says it would just be a loss leader.

With the historical information already in the Nats' media guide, I'm not sure what else would be accomplished by the team "owning" those old records. I imagine they'll come up with some kind of display for some of them in the new stadium, but unless you're over 40 and/or a real fanatic, I don't think they're all that important to the casual fans the team needs to attract.

Posted by: Cosmo | May 8, 2006 5:02 PM

"Angelos must be kidding himself, there are more Red Sox fans in this area than Orioles."

Yes, and they're just as obnoxious and insufferable as their Orioles or Yankees counterparts. Take "Sweet Caroline" and shove it back to New England, please.

Posted by: Vincent | May 9, 2006 3:51 AM

During Fischer's WTWP interview Stan Katsen rejected the idea of opening a Nationals store in Baltimore citing it's a 'money-hole' and is the last thing the club needs right now. He also termed it as a 'unsophisticated' question.

Way to go Katsen, go nickel and dime on us! If Katsen doesn't embrace this idea, he's no good.

And that's where and when I decided not to like Katsen.

Posted by: MM | May 9, 2006 11:17 AM

I've been to three games and haven't heard Sweet Caroline, unless I'm surpressing my memory of it.

Heart's good, but the Ellington number's sublime -- good call.

As far as possessing records are concerned, is there a reason we don't have banner acknowledging the 1924 World Series win in cneter field?

Posted by: Georgetown | May 9, 2006 12:46 PM

MM:

That's ridiculous. A Nats store in B'more is a funny idea, but not a realistic one. If that's what you're going to base your opinion of Kasten (learn to spell his name) on, then you've proved how silly you are.

Posted by: R | May 9, 2006 1:10 PM

Yep, no way does Orioles territory extend down here. Actually baseball isn't all that popular in Richmond, and what few fans there are, root for the R-Braves or their parent club. I was living in a baseball void before the Nationals came to D.C., and now I'm firmly in their camp.

Posted by: Rich from Richmond | May 9, 2006 1:41 PM

If the Nats want to make inroads in Richmond, they need to find a NASCAR driver who'll put their logo on his car.

Posted by: Vincent | May 10, 2006 10:55 AM

Kasten is stingy. I don't like stingy owner.

Posted by: MM | May 10, 2006 2:49 PM

What we should really do is alternate Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing..." with Chuck Brown's version thereof. DC stylee!

Posted by: Lindemann | May 11, 2006 10:03 AM

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