At 3:46 yesterday afternoon, Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves crushed a two-run home run off Chad Cordero, one of baseball's best relief pitchers. The ball rose above the clock in deep right-center field and into the mezzanine level at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, and perhaps siphoned the playoff hopes out of the Washington Nationals.
Less than two minutes later, nine miles away in Landover, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound meat-slab of a man, Cornelius Griffin of the Washington Redskins, slammed a rookie quarterback from the Chicago Bears to the ground. Before a howling throng of 90,138, Griffin jarred the ball loose, recovered the fumble and ensured the Redskins a victory in their first game of the 2005 season.
For what is believed to be the first time ever, Washington sports fans could choose yesterday afternoon: A Major League Baseball team and a National Football League team from Washington played regular season games here on the same day, at the same time. There was dejection at RFK, delirium at FedEx Field, as summer wended toward fall and baseball gave way to football.
In the spirit of the day's symmetry, the final score of both games was 9-7.
"It's good for the town," said former Chicago Bear and current Redskin Phillip Daniels. "I was used to all the teams playing the same day in Chicago. It made it feel like a real sports town."
If the games signaled the continued progression of a growing sports town, it was lost on both teams. Neither franchise announced the other's score over the public address system. At FedEx Field, the Nationals' score did not appear until 3:05 p.m., two hours after the opening kickoff, along with other major league scores. "Braves 6, Nationals 2" barely elicited a reaction from the crowd.
No mention was made of the Nationals' stirring comeback, which culminated when Ryan Zimmerman singled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth inning before Cordero gave up the decisive home run to Jones.
The Nationals seemed especially interested in snubbing the Redskins. A sampling of what appeared on the RFK scoreboard instead of regular updates on the score from the football stadium to the east:
Southwest Airlines Fan Flyaway contest.
Security Moving and Storage Big Move of the Game.
And Nats-erpiece Theatre, in which the Nationals' Ryan Church acted out an inaudible scene from an Austin Powers movie.
Fans had an easier time getting to and from the games than their teams did winning them. On a day when Metro used its entire fleet of trains to handle big crowds at both stadiums and at the Sept. 11 anniversary Freedom March from the Pentagon to the Mall, riders said they had little trouble getting where they needed to go.
Among the few complaints: the mile walk from the new Morgan Boulevard Metro station to FedEx Field.
The return of the Redskins may have coincided with the disappearance from serious playoff contention of the Nationals, who remain four games out of the National League's wild-card playoff spot with 18 left.
There were a combined 121,972 paid-for tickets at both stadiums yesterday. The Nationals drew an announced crowd of 31,834, and their attendance for the three-game weekend series against the Braves numbered 112,212, proving, if nothing else, that for the moment they can coexist with the Redskins in a growing sports market.
The Redskins and a professional baseball team haven't played at the same time in Washington for various reasons, the most obvious one being that the District did not have a baseball team from 1972 to 2004. But before then, the teams played at the same stadium. The Redskins and Washington Senators called Griffith Stadium home until 1961 and then shared RFK Stadium, originally called D.C. Stadium.
At one point, there was talk of a home football-baseball doubleheader because of the inception of "Monday Night Football" on ABC in 1970. A 1969 Washington Post article mentioned the possibility of installing AstroTurf at RFK so both teams could play on the same day, but the teams' respective owners decided to keep natural grass.
A same-day stadium reconfiguration of RFK would have been almost impossible anyway, given the technology of the time. Most observers back then, including former Redskins quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and linebacker Sam Huff, cannot recall sharing the stadium on the same day with the Senators, much less playing at the same time.
"I shared a locker with Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium," said Huff, who played for the New York Giants before he was traded to the Redskins. "But then they have two of everything in New York, baseball, football, hockey. I don't remember any of that here."
The staging of the two games made for an interesting timeline. In Landover, at approximately 1:05 p.m., Redskins kicker John Hall booted the ball to the Bears to start the game. At 1:06 p.m., the Nationals' Jason Bergmann threw the first pitch. The Redskins' game ended about eight minutes before the Nationals'.
Dennis Cordell of Alexandria, who wore a Nationals baseball cap to go with his Redskins polo shirt at FedEx Field, enjoyed the best of both games. His son, Dennis Jr., planned to call his father every 30 minutes with Nats updates.
John Putnam went to the Nats game on Saturday night and ended up at FedEx Field yesterday afternoon. He wore a worn leather, retro football helmet and carried cold beers in each hand. "If the Nationals had played at another time, I would have been there," Putnam said. "They had to schedule it this way and make it hard on me."
Staff writers Eli Saslow, Steven Ginsberg and Jonathan Abel and researcher Don Pohlman contributed to this report.