Baltimore Orioles

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 21:11

The history of the Baltimore Orioles

Information about the MLB team Baltimore Orioles.

The professional baseball team based in the city of Baltimore, Maryland is the Baltimore Orioles. With three World Series titles and seven American League pennants in their collection, the Baltimore Orioles have proven to be worthy of the love and support given by the residents of Baltimore. Before finally settling to Baltimore, however, the Orioles went through a series of name changes and town relocations.

Milwaukee Brewers

Between the late 1890s and early 1900s, the Baltimore Orioles were known as the Milwaukee Brewers. When the American League became a competing major league, the Milwaukee Brewers and the Detroit Tigers were the only teams that neither folded nor moved. During the first American League season, however, the Milwaukee Brewers finished last with a 48-49 record.

St. Louis Browns

After several years of playing for Milwaukee, the team moved to the city of St. Louis. The team then dropped the nickname “Brewers” in favor of “Browns,” which is the original team name of the St. Louis Cardinals. The name change seemed to have worked for the team, not only because it gained critical acclaim and fan bases, but also because they finished second in their first major league season as the Browns.

The popularity of the Browns, however, is not always caused by the golden moments in baseball. In 1910, Browns coach Harry Howell and catcher-manager Jack O'Connor became involved in the 1910 Chalmers Award controversy. The strongest contenders for the award, which is the Most Valuable Player award then, were Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers and Nap Lajoie of the Cleveland Indians. On the final day of the season, when Cobb and Lajoie's batting average were already neck-to-neck, the Cleveland Indians played against St. Louis Browns. Wanting to beat Cobb's batting average, Lajoie bunted five straight times down the third base line. Despite his success early in the game, Lajoie made an error when he reached base during his last at-bat. Howell and O'Connor, who are not very fond of Ty Cobb, tried to bribe the official scorer of the game to change the last call so that Lajoie can have a shot at the Chalmers Award. Howell and O'Connor, because of their involvement in the bribery, were not only harshly kicked off the team but were also completely banned from baseball.

Around six years later, owner Robert Hedges sold the St. Louis Browns to Philip Ball. During its first years with Philip Ball, the team became a stronger contender for major league titles and even finished second during the 1922 season. Even if he helped the team proper, Philip Ball also had his share of management blunders. The first of such blunders was when he allowed resident genius Branch Rickey to move to the Cardinals just because of conflicting egos. He even shared Sportsman's Park, which is the official home of the Browns, with Sam Breadon's St. Louis Cardinals. Although they both play for the city of St. Louis, the Browns and the Cardinals cannot resist the inevitable sports rivalry.

In 1922, St. Louis Browns have some of the best players in baseball franchise history: Baby Doll Jacobson, George Sisler, Jack Tobin, and Ken Williams. Williams, who is a part of the outfield trio, made history by hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases in just one season. Because of the promising performance of the team, Philip Ball predicted that it is only a matter of time before a World Series will take place in Sportsman's Park. Failing to prevent his anticipation, Ball decided to have Sportsman's Park renovated by increasing its sitting capacity from 18,000 to 30,000. Philip Ball was right indeed because the 1926 World Series actually took place in the Sportsman's Park. The competing team, however, was not his beloved Browns but the Cardinals.

During the war outbreak in the early 1940s, many baseball players were drafted into the military. To Ball's delight, however, most of St. Louis Browns' best players were unfit for military service. Although many critics considered it a fluke, the Browns won the league title in 1944. Although they only finished third the year after, the Browns made another mark in history because of Pete Gray. As the utility outfielder of the team, Pete Gray made a name for himself by being the only one-armed position player in major league history.

In 1951, Philip Ball sold the team ownership to former Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck. Because of his desire to move the Cardinals out of town, Veeck hired the who's who in Cardinals to work for the Browns: managers Marty Marion and Rogers Hornsby, pitcher Harry Brecheen, and announcer Dizzy Dean. Veeck even went as far as decorating Sportsman's Park, the home shared by the Browns and the Cardinals, with lots of Browns memorabilia. The other wild antics of Veeck includes hiring 3'7-tall Eddie Gaedel as the team's pinch hitter and 42-year-old Satchel Paige as the pitcher. Despite being criticized for his wild antics, Veeck became a well-loved team owner.

Despite his almost-working plan to oust the Cardinals from St. Louis, Veeck decided to move the Browns to another city. Los Angeles was one of his early options, but he shelved the idea after the Pearl Harbor bombings. Veeck then attempted to move the Browns back to Milwaukee, but he was blocked by the owners of the American League. He also tried to move the team to Baltimore, but he was also rebuffed by the American League owners. During the early 1950s, the team suffered financial crisis that led to the selling of Sportsman's Park to the Cardinals. Because of the ongoing financial crisis, Veeck was forced to sell the Browns to Clarence Miles and Jerry Hofberger after the 1953 season.

Baltimore Orioles

After taking over the team, Miles and Hofberger relocated the team to Baltimore and changed its name from Browns to Orioles. The name Baltimore Orioles, which is also a traditional nickname of many baseball clubs in the city, was adopted in honor of the eponymous state bird of Maryland. The team's name, however, is not the only thing that Miles and Hofberger changed. In 1954, the new team owners made a 17-player trade with the New York Yankees. The infamous trade was said to be a strategic move to distance the Baltimore Orioles from their St. Louis Browns past.

One of the most notable players of the early Orioles is outfielder Frank Robinson. Traded from the Cincinnati Reds, Frank Robinson debuted his year with the Orioles by winning the Most Valuable Player and the Triple Crown awards. Aside from his personal awards, Robinson also helped his teammates perform a major upset by sweeping the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1966.

The time between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s was known as the glory days of the Orioles.  Aside from producing talented players and amazing coaches, the team won a variety of titles and awards: three World Series titles, six American League pennants, and five American League Eastern Division titles. Several Orioles also gained individual recognition: Most Valuable Players Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, and Cal Ripken, Jr.; Cy Yong awardees Mike Cuellar, Jim Palmer, Mike Flanagan, and Steve Stone; and Rookies of the Year Al Bumbry, Eddie Murray, and Cal Ripken, Jr. The secret to the team's success is that they always do it the Oriole Way. As explained by coach Cal Ripken, Sr., the Oriole Way is an organizational ethic that is based on the belief that “hard work, professionalism, and a strong understanding of fundamentals were the keys to success.”

Iron Man of Baseball

In 1995, the Baltimore Orioles once again made a mark in the history of baseball. Star player Cal Ripken, Jr. became the new “Iron Man” of baseball when he broke the 2,130 consecutive games streak of Lou Gehrig. The celebration of Ripken, Jr.'s impressive achievement in Camden Yards was voted as the all-time baseball moment of the 20th Century.

"The homerun that wasn't" incident

A year after Ripken, Jr.'s historical achievement, the Baltimore Orioles experienced another groundbreaking moment in baseball history. After Game 1 of the 1996 American League Championship Series, competing teams Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees graced the headlines with a 12-year-old kid named Jeffrey Maier. Jeffrey Maier, a fan, altered the results of the game by catching the ball even before Tony Tarasco did. Even though the playbacks reveal that, had not Maier catch the ball, it would have fallen right into Tarasco's gloves; game officials still allowed Derek Jeter to make the “Homerun That Wasn't.” The Yankees, thanks to Maier's infamous ball-catching interference, won the game.