Is Lincoln's Assassin Haunting the Nats?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    What's weird isn't that the Baltimore Sun calls the Nats cursed. Any Nats fan knows that.

    What's weird is that the Baltimore Sun thinks it's the ghost of John Wilkes Booth haunting the team -- because Nationals Park has disturbed his dark slumber.

    At first glance, the theory's as good as any to explain the misfortunes of one of the worst squads in professional sports. The Sun's Mark Greenbaum and David O'Leary make the case:

    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.

    But that last sentence is the key, not the kicker. Though the autopsy of Booth was performed at Navy Yards, his death occurred in Virginia and his remains have since 1867 rested in Baltimore, Md.

    Some of Booth can still be found in Washington. His third, fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae -- the site of the bullet wound that killed him -- were removed during his autopsy. Those bones are now housed at the National Museum of Health and Medicine at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is home to the bullet that killed President Abraham Lincoln (as well as a bunch of steampunk microscopes)

    The Mutter Medical Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia -- another medical museum dedicated to the exotic and/or disgusting -- boasts some sort of gross bit of tissue from Booth's autopsy. For two years, Booth was buried in the Old Penitentiary grounds of the Washington Arsenal (now Fort McNair) and in a warehouse at the same site. And, of course, four of Booth's coconspirators were executed at Fort McNair.

    But Booth didn't stay in Washington for long. After spending just two years in Southwest (in an altogether different quadrant from Nationals Park), Booth's remains were removed to Baltimore, where his family committed them to Green Mount Cemetery.

    Just three miles from Camden Yards.

    It is true that President Lincoln favored town ball -- a predecessor to baseball -- and that seems reason enough that the ghost of Lincoln's assassin should hate it. Yet if the spectre of Booth hates baseball like he hated the Union, it would only make sense that Booth's spirit would focus his unworldly wrath on the Orioles, whose seasons he will have seen since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954. Booth, a Maryland-born and Maryland-based actor, would surely be bothered by the home team playing the sport that Lincoln would have loved. Booth's ghost would have overheard all three of the team's World Series runs at Memorial Park -- in 1966, 1970 and 1983.

    Perhaps Booth seeks to deny Washington the sport that President Lincoln might have enjoyed. A Mount Pleasant resident is just as sorry for Strasburg's injury as a Mount Rushmore injury. But ghosts root for -- or against -- home teams, and they don't haunt across leagues. If the ghost of Booth hates baseball pure and simple, it's surely Camden Yards that bothers him most.