September 13, 2010
Might the Washington Nationals be cursed by the ghosts of John Wilkes Booth and the conspirators who helped him in his plan to assassinate Abraham Lincoln in 1865?
That's what Mark Greenbaum and David O'Leary are suggesting in a Baltimore Sun op-ed while pointing out that the relatively new Nationals Park rests near land where Booth's body was once buried and where four of his conspirators — Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, David Herold and George Atzerodt — met their fate on the gallows.
"While the Nationals' woes can be traced to a legacy of administrative incompetence and player failures, the team's location at the Washington Navy Yard should also be considered as a source of their ineptitude. Nationals Park sits directly on an infamous stretch of the Anacostia River where authorities conducted the autopsy of John Wilkes Booth on the ironclad U.S.S. Montauk anchored at the Navy Yard. Next door at Fort McNair, Booth's co-conspirators were held and tried at the country's first federal penitentiary, and four of them were hanged there in July 1865. Booth himself was buried there until his remains were later moved.
"Nestled beside where Lincoln's killers were executed, the placement of the stadium may have unwittingly exposed the Nationals to the conspirators' vengeful ghosts."
So are the ghosts responsible for the Tommy John surgery that Our American Phenom (aka Stephen Strasburg(notes)) needed after injuring his elbow in August? With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Greenbaum and O'Leary — who both live in the ballpark's neighborhood — believe that may be the case and cite Lincoln's interest in early forms of baseball as a natural tie-in.
Of course, they and the rest of us acknowledge that the real reasons for the Nationals' failures come in Triple A-level pitching staffs, unfortunate injuries and the front-office foibles that date back to the Jim Bowden era.
Still, it's a bit ghoulish to learn that the Nationals Park is located so closely to where some of America's most infamous met their deserved fate. Bryce Harper, beware!