Back in 1967, on the night the Boston Red Sox won the pennant for the first time in 21 years, a New Hampshirite and a man from Worcester, Massachusetts, passed each other in the dead of dark in the Rocky Mountains.

They spotted each other's tags, came to screeching halts and jumped out of their cars to slap hands, share a beer under the stars and marvel at the wonderful news from Fenway Park.

It's a safe bet that if two Washingtonians met in Mongolia and found out the Baltimore Orioles had just won the World Series, they's scratch their heads and say, "The Baltimore who?"

Washington does not love the Orioles and never has. The Nation's Capital is poorer for that.

All the Midwest loves the Cubbies and the Chisox. All New England loves the Bosox. All New York, all the way to Buffalo and Plattsburgh, loves the Yanks or the Mets. But the Baltimore appeal has never made it the 35 miles down I-95.

More's the pity, because in addition to having the best overall record in baseball for the last 22 years, the Orioles may have the pleasantest stadium in either league for just plain watching, and a team that almost guarantees a solid performance game in and game out.

So why won't Washington travel to Baltimore to cheer on the Orioles?

"Too far to go," said a Northern Virginian. "And I always get lost getting there. Besides, I'd rather hear about the Pirates or the Phils. Baltimore is just another team to me."

Added a native Washingtonian, "I'll never pull for the Birds. It goes back too far withh me. I'm an old Senators fan and I could never switch over."

The Northern Virginian's answer is right here, a foolproof route that shouldn't take more than an hour and a quarter from downtown Washington under normal circumstances; only time can answer the native Washingtonian, whose wounds may never heal.

For that part, the Orioles are beginning to woo the recalcitrant Washington crowd. At the beginning of last season they bragged that 10 per cent of their fans had ventured forth from the capital. This year for the first time bus service is being offered for Sunday games, leaving the Beltway Plaza Shopping Center at 12:30 whenever the Birds have a weekend home stand.

Also, WTOP radio will carry 150 Orioles games and WDCA-TV, Channel 20, will televise some selected games.

But there is no subsitute for the real thing.

Memorial Stadium was built to accommodate the Birds when they came to town in 1954. It's a simple place - it only ran the city $5 million - and therein lies its charm.

There is no Astroturf, no retractable dome, no glaring are lighting, no dizzy exploding scoreboard.

No one sets off a cannon when an Oriole homers and there's no glittering waterfall beyond the bleachers.

Memorial Stadium is just a ballpark, with real grass and a fine upper deck that exposes the fan to the gentle breezes of a summer night. It's set in a residential part of town, and when the sun sets on a night game the lights from Baltimore rowhouses twinkle on over the center field fence.

Baltimore fans are knowledgeable and moderately even-tempered even in my favorite low-cost region, Section 34 in the upper grandstand. Best of all they almost never fill the stadium, which means one can pick his spot in the great expanse of the upper deck, spread out peanuts and beer and watch the grand old game unfold.


Take New York Avenue out to where it forks, and stay left; you'll be on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which will lead you in on Russell Street and onto Paca Street; then take Lombard, Baltimore or Mulberry to the right to Charles Street, go left on Charles and ride through the heart of the city up to 33rd Street. Take a right and you're heading straight at the stadium. There are several private parking lots immediately around the stadium, and stadium parking directly across 33rd Street at Eastern High School.

The Orioles are home this weekend against the torrid Milwaukee Brewers. Game times: 7:30 Friday, 1:15 Saturday and 2 Sunday. Reservations are required for the Sunday bus, which costs $4 and leaves from Beltway Plaza shopping Center, Greenbelt Road and Kenilworth Avenue, at 12:30. Call Max Leiderman, 622-2550, to reserve a seat.

You can get tickets to Orioles games through Ticketron outlets here or charge them on a major credit card by phoning 621-1895 (a local D.C. number).