Baltimore Sports History: The Orioles

May 15th, 2024 by The Professor

by Andrew Ciofalo, host of After The Whistle

The last time Baltimore had a Major League Baseball team was in 1902 when the Oriole franchise was transferred to New York. What followed was over 50 years without another Major League Baseball team in the city. That was until the failing St. Louis Browns franchise owned by Bill Veeck sold his Browns to a group headed by a Baltimore attorney, Clarence Miles.

A quick rewind and brief history of the St. Louis Browns, the franchise started life as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1894 and played in the Western League. At the time it was considered a minor league and played in it until 1899. In 1900 the Western League, under control of President Ban Johnson, was renamed the American League and converted to a Major League in 1901. Before the first season, Ban Johnson wanted the franchise to move to St. Louis as it was a much bigger city and didn’t believe a team would survive in Milwaukee. Team owner Matthew Killilea was able to convince Johnson to a one-year prove-it year in Milwaukee. This one year was a complete failure as the Brewers finished in dead last in the league. The team would be moved to St. Louis and would get new ownership as well as a new name: the St. Louis Browns.

In the late 1940s, the franchise was declining after making the World Series in 1945. The Club was bought by Bill Veeck in 1951 and only continued to decline as all the owners in baseball did not like Veeck. After attempts to force the Cardinals out of St. Louis, Veeck realized he would have to move the Browns out of town as it was not big enough to support the two teams. Baltimore Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro and attorney Clarence Miles spoke to Veeck about moving the team to Baltimore as they had been without a Major league for over 50 years at that point. Veeck and Miles had a deal in place that saw Veeck still being principal owner of the team but was swiftly shut down by other team owners. Other clubs had united against Veeck, forcing him to sell the complete team to Miles.

The club was quickly brought to Baltimore and the name changed from the Browns to the Orioles. With this change of identity came a change in roster as many old Browns players were traded away, including 17 players going to the New York Yankees.The new Orioles would play their first season in Old Memorial Stadium. Although in the first years weren’t so successful record wise, the crowds that were drawn in the first season was already 5 times bigger than any the franchise had seen before. Over a million fans in the first year came out to Memorial Stadium to watch the Orioles.

Success would come for the O’s soon enough.  In 1960 promise was shown when they finished second in the American League, behind the Yankees. The golden age of Oriole Baseball came between 1966 and 1983; three World Series wins, six World Series appearances and seven AL East Division Titles. This era had the talents of many Oriole and MLB Hall of Famers such as Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Rick Dempsey just to name a few.

In each year the O’s won the World Series, they had that years MVP on the team. Their first World Series win came in 1966 and this team was stacked. Frank Robinson won MVP unanimously and was followed by Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell in second and third in MVP voting. The Orioles won their second World Series in 1970, Boog Powell won MVP this year and not far behind was again Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson finishing in seventh and tenth in MVP voting. Their third World Series was won in 1983, Cal Ripken Jr. won the MVP that year and narrowly beat out teammate Eddie Murray.

The last time the O’s made the World Series was in 1983 and since then it has been slim success and lots of rebuilding. The O’s have only made the playoffs 6 times in the past 40 years and won the division only twice.

Recent rebuilding however has led to draft picks that are turning out so far to be fantastic. High round draft picks like Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez are just a few of the many young talented prospects that will provide exciting and winning baseball for the Orioles for years to come. 



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