Is John Wilkes Booth Haunting the Washington Nationals?

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It's been five years since major league baseball returned to the nation's capital. In that time, the Washington Nationals have posted a 403-549 record, failed to make the postseason and lost the most promising young pitcher in a generation to a catastrophic arm injury. Given all that misfortune, it seems fair to ask, are the Nationals haunted? More importantly, are they being haunted by the man who killed Abraham Lincoln? Yes and yes, argue Mark Greenbaum and David O'Leary of The Baltimore Sun. It's a problem they attribute to the location of the Nationals Park (not to the ghost's liking) and Lincoln's fondness for baseball (also not to the ghost's liking). Greenbaum and O'Leary explain:

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. That the apparitions of Booth and his gang would aim their ghoulish enmity on modern baseball may seem strange, but it makes sense given President Lincoln's affinity for what became our national pastime. ...

For Booth and his co-conspirators, Lincoln's affection of old-time base ball might be enough for them to focus their eternal hatred against it, and the sport's popularity in the North during the Civil War, particularly among federal soldiers, would have reinforced their disgust of the burgeoning recreation. Haunting the Nats could be a degree of revenge against the residents of the loathed Union capital.

All of which gives this some added context.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.