The Baltimore Orioles are a professional baseball team based in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball's American League. From to the present, the Orioles have played in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
One of the American League's eight charter franchises, the club was established as a major league club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in . The Milwaukee Brewers (not to be confused with the current Milwaukee Brewers) moved to St. Louis in and became the St. Louis Browns. After more than five decades in St. Louis, in the Browns moved to Baltimore and assumed the nickname Orioles, the traditional nickname of various Baltimore baseball clubs.
At the end of the 1900 season, the American League removed itself from baseball's National Agreement (the formal understanding between the NL and the minor leagues). Two months later, the AL declared itself a competing major league. As a result of several franchise shifts, the Brewers were one of only two Western League teams that didn't either fold or move (the other being the Detroit Tigers). During the first American League season in 1901, they finished last (8th place) with a record of 48–89. During its lone Major League season, the team played at Lloyd Street Grounds, between 16th and 18th Streets in Milwaukee.
In 1902, however, the team did move to St. Louis, where it became the "Browns", in reference to the original name of the legendary 1880s club that by 1900 was known as the Cardinals. They even built a new park on the site of the old Browns' former home, Sportsman's Park. In their first St. Louis season, the Browns finished second. Although the Browns usually fielded terrible or mediocre teams (they had only four winning seasons from 1902 to 1922), they were very popular at the gate during their first two decades in St. Louis, and trounced the Cardinals in attendance. In , the Browns rebuilt Sportsman's Park as the third concrete-and-steel park in the majors.
During this time, the Browns were best-known for their role in the race for the 1910 American League batting title. Ty Cobb took the last game of the season off, believing that his slight lead over Nap Lajoie would hold up unless Lajoie had a near-perfect day at the plate. However, Cobb was one of the most despised players in baseball, and Browns catcher-manager Jack O'Connor ordered third baseman Red Corriden to station himself in shallow left field. Lajoie bunted five straight times down the third base line and made it to first easily. On his last at-bat, Lajoie reached base on an error – officially giving him a hitless at-bat. O'Connor and coach Harry Howell tried to bribe the official scorer, a woman, to change the call to a hit – even offering to buy her a new wardrobe. Cobb won the batting title by just a few thousandths of a point over Lajoie (though it later emerged that one game may have been counted twice in the statistics). The resulting outcry triggered an investigation by American League president Ban Johnson. At his insistence, Browns owner Robert Lee Hedges fired O'Connor and Howell; both men were informally banned from baseball for life.
In 1916, Hedges sold the Browns to Philip DeCatesby Ball, who owned the St. Louis Terriers in the by-then-defunct Federal League. Four years later, Ball allowed the Cardinals to move out of dilapidated Robison Field and share Sportsman's Park with the Browns. This move was one of many that eventually doomed the Browns; Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey (a former Browns manager) used the proceeds from the Robison Field sale to build baseball's first modern farm system. This effort eventually produced several star players that brought the Cardinals more drawing power than the Browns.
The 1922 Browns excited their owner by almost beating the Yankees to a pennant. The club was boasting the best players in franchise history, including future Hall of Famer George Sisler and an outfield trio of Ken Williams, Baby Doll Jacobson, and Jack Tobin that batted .300 or better from 1919–23 and in 1925. In 1922, Williams became the first player in Major League history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, something that would not be done again in the Majors until 1956.
Ball confidently predicted that there would be a World Series in Sportsman's Park by 1926. In anticipation, he increased the capacity of his ballpark from 18,000 to 30,000. Ball was right, as there was a World Series in Sportsman's Park in 1926 – the Cardinals upset the Yankees. St. Louis had been considered a "Browns town" until then; after their 1926 series victory, however, the Cardinals dominated St. Louis baseball while still technically tenants of the Browns. Meanwhile, the Browns rapidly fell into the cellar.
During the war, the Browns won their only St. Louis-based American League pennant, in 1944. Some critics called it a fluke, as most major league stars voluntarily joined or were drafted into the military; however, many of the Browns' best players were classified 4-F: unfit for military service. They faced their local rivals, the incredibly successful Cardinals, in the 1944 World Series, the last World Series to date played entirely in one stadium. However, they lost the series in six games.
In 1945, the Browns posted an 81–75 record and fell to third place, 6 games out, again with less than top-ranked talent. The 1945 season may be best remembered for the Browns' signing of utility outfielder Pete Gray, the only one-armed major league position player in history. 1945 proved to be the Browns' last hurrah; they would never have another winning season in St. Louis. In fact, 1944 and 1945 were two of only eight winning seasons they enjoyed in the 31 years after nearly winning the pennant in 1922.
After the 1951 season, Veeck made Ned Garver the highest-paid member of the Browns. Garver remains the last pitcher to win 20 games for a team that lost 100 games in a season. He was the second pitcher in history to accomplish the feat.
Veeck also brought the legendary, and seemingly ageless, Satchel Paige back to major league baseball to pitch for the Browns. Veeck had previously signed the former Negro League great to a contract in Cleveland in 1948 at age 42, amid much criticism. At 45, Paige's re-appearance in a Browns uniform did nothing to win Veeck friends among baseball's owners. Nonetheless, Paige ended the season with a respectable 3–4 record and a 4.79 ERA.
Veeck believed that St. Louis was too small for two franchises and planned to drive the Cardinals out of town. He signed many of the Cardinals' most popular ex-players and, as a result, brought many of the Cards' fans in to see the Browns. Notably, Veeck inked former Cardinals great Dizzy Dean to a broadcasting contract and tapped Rogers Hornsby as manager. He also re-acquired former Browns fan favorite Vern Stephens and signed former Cardinals pitcher Harry Brecheen, both of whom had starred in the all-St. Louis World Series in 1944. Veeck also stripped Sportsman's Park of any Cardinals material and dressed it exclusively in Browns memorabilia, even moving his family to an apartment under the stands. Although the Browns fielded hideous teams during this time, Veeck's showmanship and colorful promotions made attendance at Browns games more fun and unpredictable than the conservative Cardinals were willing to offer.
Veeck's all-out assault on the Cardinals came during a downturn in the Cardinals' fortunes after Rickey left them for the Brooklyn Dodgers in . Indeed, when Cardinals' owner Fred Saigh was convicted of massive tax evasion late in 1952, it looked almost certain that the Cardinals were leaving town, as most of the top bids came from non-St. Louis interests. However, Saigh accepted a much lower bid from Anheuser-Busch, whose president August Busch, Jr. immediately announced that he had no intention of moving the Cardinals. Veeck quickly realized the Cardinals now had more resources than he could ever hope to match and decided to move the Browns.
Veeck attempted to move the Browns back to Milwaukee (where he had owned the Brewers of the American Association in the 1940s), but the move was blocked by the other American League owners, seemingly for reasons that were more personal than business-related. An undaunted Veeck then tried to move the Browns to Baltimore, but was again rebuffed by the owners, still seething at the publicity stunts he had pulled at Browns home games. Meanwhile, Sportsman's Park had slipped into disrepair, and Veeck was forced to sell it to the Cardinals since he could not afford to make the necessary improvements to bring it up to code. With his only leverage gone and facing threats of the liquidation of his franchise, Veeck was all but forced to sell the Browns to a Baltimore-based group led by attorney Clarence Miles and brewer Jerry Hoffberger. With Veeck "out of the way," the American League owners quickly approved the relocation of the team to Baltimore for the 1954 season.
The Browns, along with the Washington Senators, were mostly associated with losing, as both franchises seemed to be the American League's perennial doormats. The Senators became the butt of a well-known vaudeville joke, "First in war, first in peace, and last in the American League" (a twist on the famous "Light Horse Harry" Lee eulogy for George Washington: "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen"). A spin-off joke was coined for the Browns: "First in shoes, first in booze, and last in the American League."
Many older fans in St. Louis remember the Browns fondly, and some have formed societies to keep the memory of the team alive; also, it is not uncommon to see sporting goods stores in the St. Louis area stock Browns shirts and hats. The club was in St. Louis for 52 years. As of the 2006 season, the club had been in Baltimore longer than they were in St. Louis.
In the 1890s, a powerful and innovative National League Orioles squad included several future Hall of Famers, such as "Wee" Willie Keeler, Wilbert Robinson, Hughie Jennings, and John McGraw. They won three straight pennants, and participated in all four of the Temple Cup Championship Series, winning the last two of them. That team had started as a charter member of the American Association in 1882. Despite its on-field success, it was one of the four teams contracted out of existence by the National League after the 1899 season. Its best players (and its manager, Ned Hanlon) regrouped with the Brooklyn Dodgers, turning that team into a contender.
In 1901, Baltimore and McGraw were awarded an expansion franchise in the growing American League, but again the team was sacrificed in favor of a New York City franchise, as the team was transferred to the city in 1903. After some early struggles, that team eventually became baseball's most successful franchise - the New York Yankees.
As a member of the high-minor league level International League, the Orioles competed at what is now known as the AAA level from 1903–1953. Baltimore's own Babe Ruth pitched for the Orioles before being sold to the AL Boston Red Sox in 1914. The Orioles of the IL won nine league championships, first in 1908, followed by a lengthy run from 1919 to 1925, and then dramatically in 1944, after they had lost their home field Oriole Park in a disastrous mid-season fire. The huge post-season crowds at their temporary home, Municipal Stadium, caught the attention of the big league brass and helped open the door to the return of major league baseball to Baltimore. Thanks to the big stadium, that "Junior World Series" easily outdrew the major league World Series which, coincidentally, included the team that would move to Baltimore 10 years later and take up occupancy in the rebuilt version of that big stadium.
Pappas went 30–29 in a little over two years with the Reds, before being traded. Although he would go on to have back-to-back 17-win seasons for the Chicago Cubs in 1971 and 1972, including a no-hitter in the latter season, this did not help the Reds, who ended up losing the 1970 World Series to Robinson and the Orioles. This trade has become renowned as one of the most lopsided in baseball history, including a mention by Susan Sarandon in her opening soliloquy in the 1988 film Bull Durham: "Bad trades are a part of baseball. I mean, who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas?"
From 1966 to 1983, the Orioles won three World Series titles (1966, 1970, and 1983), six American League pennants (1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1979, 1983), and five of the first six American League Eastern Division titles. They played baseball the Oriole Way, an organizational ethic best described by longtime farm hand and coach Cal Ripken, Sr.'s phrase "perfect practice makes perfect!" The Oriole Way was a belief that hard work, professionalism, and a strong understanding of fundamentals were the keys to success at the major league level. It was based on the belief that if every coach, at every level, taught the game the same way, the organization could produce "replacement parts" that could be substituted seamlessly into the big league club with little or no adjustment.
During this stretch, three different Orioles were named Most Valuable Player (Frank Robinson in 1966; Boog Powell in 1970; and Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1983). The pitching staff was phenomenal, with four pitchers winning six Cy Young Awards (Mike Cuellar in 1969; Jim Palmer in 1973, 1975, and 1976; Mike Flanagan in 1979; and Steve Stone in 1980). In 1971, the team's four starting pitchers, McNally, Cuellar, Palmer, and Pat Dobson, all won 20 games, a feat that has not been replicated since. In that year, the Birds went on to post a 101–61 record for their third straight AL East title. Also during this stretch three players were named rookies of the year (Al Bumbry-1973, Eddie Murray-1977, Cal Ripken Jr.-1982).
When an Oriole GM was told by a reporter that Earl Weaver, as the skipper of a very talented team, was a "push-button manager" he replied "Earl built the machine and installed all the buttons!"
As the Robinson boys grew older, newer stars emerged, including multiple Cy Young Award winner Jim Palmer and switch-hitting first baseman Eddie Murray. With the decline and eventual departure of two local teams, the NFL's Baltimore Colts and baseball's Washington Senators, the Orioles' excellence paid off at the gate, as the team cultivated a large and rabid fan base at old Memorial Stadium.
After winning the 1983 World Series, however, the Orioles suffered a gradual downturn in their on-field fortunes, culminating in the 1988 season, when the Orioles lost their first 21 games in a row to set a Major League record for most consecutive losses at the beginning of a season. The losing streak also cost then-manager Cal Ripken, Sr., his position, as he was fired after six games and replaced by former Oriole Frank Robinson. After a 54–107 season in 1988, the "Why Not?" Orioles then shocked the baseball world by finishing two games out of first place in 1989, a season in which they were not eliminated from the pennant race until the final weekend of the season. Frank Robinson was named the American League's Manager of the Year for guiding the Orioles to their remarkable turnaround.
Once the season began, the Ripken countdown resumed, and in September he finally broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak of 2,130 games, in a nationally televised game. This was later voted the all-time baseball moment of the 20th Century by fans from around the country in 1999. Ripken would finish with 2,632 straight games, finally sitting on September 20, 1998 against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Going into the 2009 season, the Orioles have had eleven consecutive sub–.500 seasons, due to the combination of lackluster play, constant turnover in the club's front office, and the ascent of the Yankees and Red Sox to the top of the game – each rival having a clear advantage in financial flexibility due to their larger media market size. Further complicating the situation for the Orioles was the relocation of the Montreal Expos franchise to nearby Washington, D.C.. The new Washington Nationals threatened to carve into the Orioles fan base and television dollars. Fortunately for the Orioles, Peter Angelos owns MASN, which hosts all of the Nationals television games, effectively combining two teams' television revenue to support the Orioles. There is some hope that having competition in the larger Baltimore–Washington metro market will spur the Orioles to field a better product to compete for fans with the Nationals. However, neither team has fielded a winner since the Nationals arrival in 2005.
The tradition is often carried out at other sporting events, both professional or amateur, and even sometimes at non-sporting events where the anthem is played, throughout the Baltimore/Washington area and beyond, notably at Baltimore Ravens, Aberdeen Ironbirds, and Maryland Terrapins games. "The Star-Spangled Banner" has special meaning to Baltimore historically, as it was written during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Fans in Norfolk, VA chanted "O!" even before the Tides became an Orioles affiliate. "O!" has also been shouted during the anthem at Washington Redskins and Washington Capitals home games. The practice caught some attention in the spring of 2005, when some fans performed the "O!" cry at Washington Nationals games at RFK Stadium (As they did again at the opening of Nationals Park at the beginning of the 2008 season. Many Washingtonians are Orioles fans, since the Orioles were the closest team to Washington between the Texas Rangers' departure and the Montreal Expos' relocation). At Cal Ripken, Jr.'s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the crowd of over 70,000, most of them Orioles fans, carried out the "O!" tradition during Tony Gwynn's daughter's rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner.
Other previous flagship radio stations include WBAL (1090 kHz AM) from 1987–2006, the now–defunct WFBR (1300 kHz AM) from 1979 through 1986, and a brief period with WCBM (680 kHz AM) for the 1987 season. Previous to 1979, WBAL had been the flagship station.
Former Oriole television broadcasters include: Thompson, Miller, former Baltimore Ravens broadcaster Scott Garceau, longtime versatile sportscaster Mel Proctor, former Cleveland Cavaliers broadcaster Michael Reghi, as well as former Oriole players including Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, former pitcher Mike Flanagan, and former outfielder John Lowenstein.
Previous Baltimore television flagship stations have included: WMAR-TV (Channel 2) and WNUV-TV (Channel 54), as well as regional cable network Home Team Sports (HTS) which eventually evolved into Comcast SportsNet.
|1944 (St. Louis)||St. Louis Cardinals||L|
|1966 (Baltimore)||Los Angeles Dodgers||W|
|1969||Minnesota Twins||W||New York Mets||L|
|1970||Minnesota Twins||W||Cincinnati Reds||W|
|1971||Oakland Athletics||W||Pittsburgh Pirates||L|
|1979||California Angels||W||Pittsburgh Pirates||L|
|1983||Chicago White Sox||W||Philadelphia Phillies||W|
|1996||Cleveland Indians||W||New York Yankees||L|
|1997||Seattle Mariners||W||Cleveland Indians||L|
†Jackie Robinson's number 42 is retired throughout Major League Baseball
|World Series Championship Navigation Boxes|
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