We can ill afford polemics among supporters of D.C. baseball, I suppose. But it irks me that Patricia R. Ciaccio {Close to Home, Jan. 31} implies we might be happy Oriole rooters but for the fact that "some of us grew up with the National League."

Who grew up with the National League? Granted that a National League team is our best shot, I'll take it. But let's not forget our history.

The trouble with going to Memorial Stadium to see baseball is not that it's an American League park. It's that it's in Baltimore. This is Washington.

I was born here in 1949. I lived across the river in Alexandria for 16 months, and didn't move back to the D.C. area until last June. I discovered major-league baseball as an 8-year-old in Darien, Conn., who was terrible at sports. That was when the New York Yankees were so dominant they were hated even on their own turf. My pride in being a product of the nation's capital carried naturally from the front page to the sports page. There I found fitting heroes: they, it seemed, were terrible at sports too.

But they weren't all always terrible. Usually one of them hit well enough to make the top few ranks in average, homers and RBIs -- Roy Sievers when I first woke up to them, Harmon Killebrew later on.

Washington started the season a day before most other teams so Ike could throw out the first ball at Griffith Stadium. And if by chance it won that game, the next day's standings were a beautiful, ephemeral sight.

Sometimes Washington even beat the Yanks.

(Which reminds me -- how many teams have a Broadway musical written about them, like Washington's protagonists of "Damn Yankees"? If "you gotta have heart" to keep hoping for baseball's comeback now, for some of us that's not a new requirement.)

Bad as the standings would start to look by June or July, I could remind myself that the pitcher was arguably the most important man on the field, and that in the sport's long history -- almost unarguably -- the Beethoven of pitchers had been a man named Walter Johnson. He'd worn a "W" on his cap for two decades before finally helping to pitch his team to its first and only world championship, in 1924.

I owe no love to the American League, I guess, because in 1960 it broke my heart. Instead of the obvious course of expanding in Minnesota, it let D.C.'s team move to Minnesota and expanded here. At least I got a new set of hapless heroes to follow from afar. In 1971, when they were Texas-bound, they weren't replaced.

The fact is, though, that this is not only an American League town; it's the American League town in the area. When the Johnny-come-lately Orioles hit Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954, Washington had been a bastion of the league for more than half a century. But let it pass. Like I say, I'll take what I can get.

Timothy Kelley