The oddsmakers are saying there’s only about a 6 percent chance of the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles facing off in the World Series. But that hasn’t dampened the buzz. “Man, it would be so epic to have a Beltway World Series,” Nats outfielder Bryce Harper declared. “We can’t wait to meet — I am hoping for this,” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, wearing an orange suit on the Senate floor and congratulating both teams on winning their divisions.
And so The Washington Post asked D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to weigh in on the prospect of their teams meeting and the rivalry between their cities. We sent the same questions to the Wilson Building and Baltimore City Hall. As far as we know, the mayors didn’t discuss their answers with each other.
Rawlings-Blake: The Battle of the Beltways has quietly become one of the MLB’s best friendly rivalries — and is always one of my favorite series of the year. I think it is only fair to label a postseason matchup the Beltway Series.
Gray: It should definitely be the Parkway Series. For starters, Beltway Series isn’t exactly the most poetic name — and the beltways don’t actually connect our two cities (or, in the District’s case, even pass through our city). Besides, the term “Beltway” inspires more fear and loathing in our region’s commuters and residents than the excitement and joy that should accompany your team reaching the pinnacle of baseball. Moreover, to people across the country, the term “Beltway” in reference to Washington is less one of endearment and more one denoting gridlock — of both the political and traffic varieties. Isn’t Parkway Series more appropriately bucolic for a game played outdoors on a field of beautiful green turf? After all, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway actually connects our two cities, is administered by the National Park Service and has important historical resonance (the idea for a parkway linking Baltimore and Washington dates back to Pierre L’Enfant’s original plans for our city).
Gray: I’d make the same wager I made with the mayor of St. Louis two years ago: The loser has to fly the winning city’s flag over their City Hall for a day. The version we would send to Mayor Rawlings-Blake features the District’s rallying cry in our fight to gain self-determination and full democracy: “No Taxation Without Representation.”
Rawlings-Blake: I’d favor doing something like the bet we made with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee when the Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. I am committed to improving our communities. Therefore, the loser of a hypothetical series should volunteer at a local charity of the winner’s choice. But because fans deserve something a bit more fun, too: If the Nationals were to win, I would be willing to join a Presidents Race at Nationals Park. If the Orioles were to win, Mayor Gray should have to take an Adam Jones-style pie in the face here at Camden Yards. I think I could at least beat Teddy; but outrunning Adam Jones? Wait on it!
Rawlings-Blake: Why did you list Washington first?
Gray: I suppose there are always regional rivalries between large urban centers located near each other — but Baltimore and the District are very different from each other in a number of ways, and each has its own selling points. The District was a city initially planned and created as the nation’s capital, and our biggest regional economic engine has always been the federal government and the economic sectors (like defense contracting, tourism, and national and international cultural and political institutions) associated with that. Meanwhile, Baltimore has a long history as a city centered on heavy industry and shipping — and the Charm City has a very distinct appeal from that of the District.
In terms of sports rivalries, the Nats and the O’s certainly are developing one, and I think that’s good for baseball fans in both cities. And, without question, we have a robust rivalry in professional football — and the games always seem especially competitive when the two teams meet on the field. Moreover, the Washington football team has five NFL titles (three Super Bowl championships and two pre-merger NFL championships), while Baltimore teams have six (two Super Bowl titles for the Ravens, and one Super Bowl and three NFL championships for the Baltimore Colts). There will always be competition to see which team has the most Super Bowl victories.
Gray: Baltimore, like many large cities in the United States, is struggling with significant structural issues that are causing severe budget pressures. Less than 20 years ago, the District was in a similar situation — and we got out of it by making disciplined budget decisions while also making strategic investments in long-term economic and population growth. The good news is that it worked; the District is now on the strongest financial footing in our history, our economy is booming, and we are growing by an estimated 1,000 to 1,200 new residents per month. Baltimore has embarked on a similar path, and Mayor Rawlings-Blake has already had to make many tough budget decisions. Baltimore should continue focusing on what makes it great — a burgeoning creative class, a wealth of infrastructure resources and cultural treasures, and strong neighborhoods — to grow the city’s population and revenue in ways that ameliorate its fiscal problems.
Rawlings-Blake: They call Baltimore “Charm City” for a reason. From Edgar Allan Poe and Thurgood Marshall to Billie Holiday and Future Islands, we love celebrating our culture. We’re also known for our warmth and character. In this sense, Baltimore’s reputation is quite different from the cold perception of transplant-magnet Washington. However, there is much more to Washington than partisan gridlock and baggy suits. From Michael Chabon to Marvin Gaye, Washington — like Baltimore — is a city with an amazing history and a unique culture. It must take time to celebrate its local culture.
Rawlings-Blake: We are so much more than “The Wire.” We are a perennially bustling port city and proud of our rich history — we just concluded a series of spectacular events marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the birth of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” We are a city of small neighborhoods, each with its own charm. We have a flourishing arts and culture scene, elevated by large festivals such as Artscape and smaller exhibitions celebrating the city’s unique character and local talent. We have lots of family-friendly attractions, from the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center at our renowned Inner Harbor to the Maryland Zoo in historic Druid Hill Park. We also have a thriving night life and, I think, an underrated “foodie” culture. Finally, we are home to some of the best sports teams — undoubtedly the best fans — in the country.
Gray: Probably the same thing that far too many Americans across the country misunderstand about us: that we are not only the nation’s capital but also a living, thriving city of about 660,000 residents who work in many industries beyond the federal government and who are just like Americans in every other city. The biggest differences are that we do not have voting representation in Congress, and we cannot exercise final approval of either our budget or local laws — even though, for example, we generate the lion’s share of our budget through local property, income and sales taxes.
Gray: Well, the Battle of Baltimore gave us “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but the burning of Washington a month earlier — when the British actually burned the White House and the Capitol — played a significant role in turning the tide of world opinion against the British in the War of 1812. Both played crucial roles in ending that war, but the burning of Washington was the only time in our nation’s history that the District of Columbia was occupied by a foreign power.
Rawlings-Blake: Both events are integral moments in our nation’s history, but my vote is for the Battle of Baltimore. It was after the disheartening capture and abhorrent desecration of our nation’s capital that the city of Baltimore served as the last line of defense for the fledgling nation against the largest naval power the world had ever seen. While the burning of Washington is worthy of remembrance, the Battle of Baltimore is worthy of celebration. Without a victory here 200 years ago, we might not be having this discussion now.
Rawlings-Blake: While the thought of Mayflower trucks leaving in the middle of the night still does — and probably always will — boil the blood of us Baltimoreans, Baltimore is now Ravens Nation. We will always remember Johnny U and the Greatest Game Ever Played, but I will have to go with the Senators. One of baseball’s key franchises for the first half of the 20th century, the Senators were sorely missed.
Gray: I think both losses dealt significant psychological blows to cities that were struggling. The District lost the Senators in 1971 — just three years after the 1968 riots that scarred our city for a generation. The difference is that Baltimore went only 13 years before NFL football returned there with the arrival of the Ravens, while the District had to wait more than three decades — until 2005 — for the nation’s pastime to again be played professionally in the nation’s capital.
Yet another difference is that Washington suffered the degradation of losing the Senators twice — the first time to Minnesota in 1960, and then the expansion team that came to the District in 1961 and left to become the Texas Rangers just 10 years later. Fortunately, despite being back only since 2005, baseball seems firmly entrenched in the District under the Nationals.
Gray: A large, thriving, mixed-use waterfront area — one thing that the District hasn’t really had in the modern era. But we’re working hard to change that, with projects that are bringing more business and more residents to our waterfronts on both the Potomac and Anacostia rivers — including the new Southwest Waterfront development and a number of fantastic projects in the booming Capitol Riverfront/Navy Yard community around Nationals Park!
Rawlings-Blake: Traveling throughout the D.C. metropolitan area is so easy thanks to its reliable and diverse transit options. To meet my administration’s goal of growing Baltimore city by 10,000 families over the next decade, we must provide residents and visitors with a world-class transit system. My administration recently announced our $230 million contribution to the $2.9 billion Red Line project. We know we must invest in projects like this to ensure that people can connect with Baltimore’s growing economy, get their kids to our newly constructed and renovated schools, and explore new local attractions, like our Horseshoe casino. With the Red Line and other transit initiatives, we will grow a more connected, vibrant and livable city.
Rawlings-Blake: I had the amazing opportunity to watch Cal Ripken break Lou Gehrig’s record in 1995 for consecutive games played. The “2,131 moment” caught the attention of the nation, and it is a record that will most likely never be broken. No disrespect to Robert Downey Jr., but Baltimore will always have a different “Iron Man.” On the field, Cal embodied the characteristics of Baltimore: toughness, perseverance and charm. On that night, all of Baltimore felt enormously proud.
Gray: It was declaring, “Play ball!” to begin the Nationals’ 2011 season. As you may know, I have always loved baseball — I was devoted to the Senators, played for Dunbar High School, and even was scouted by the White Sox and Dodgers before I decided to attend George Washington University instead. The opportunity to participate in an Opening Day tradition for the team I love today was a true honor.
Gray: Because the Nats are peaking at just the right time. We have the best starting rotation and the best bullpen in Major League Baseball, and we are finally getting all of our star players healthy at the same time — something that eluded us all season. Some of our lesser-known players (think of Denard Span) have absolutely turned it on since the All-Star break, and we are in very good shape indeed heading into the playoffs for only our second time since the Nats came to town. Moreover, Mike Rizzo and Matt Williams have put together a team that’s full of good guys who work hard and play well together, genuinely enjoy each other’s company, and eschew drama. The Orioles are a great ballclub — but the Nationals are truly a team in every sense of the word, and their many fans here in the nation’s capital are hungry for our first World Series title in 90 years.
Rawlings-Blake: Despite facing numerous injuries and setbacks — not to mention, never once getting the credit they deserved — this gritty, resilient team refused to give up and kept fighting. And I don’t think they are done yet. Buck likes our guys, and so do I. Why will the Orioles win the World Series? Because #WeWontStop!