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Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles

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Baltimore Orioles Logo

Ballpark:
Camden Yards
Established:
1954
Affiliations:
AAA Norfolk Tides,AA Bowie Baysox,High-A Frederick Keys,Low-A Delmarva Shorebird, Short Season A Aberdeen IronBirds
Retired Numbers:
4, 5, 8, 20, 22, 33, 42
Owners:
Peter Angelos
Manager:
General Manager:
Played As:
BAL, MLA, SLA

Baltimore Orioles

Played as:
Baltimore Orioles:(1954 - 2011) - 3 World Championships, 6 Pennants, and 10 Playoff Appearances
St. Louis Browns (1902 - 1953) - 1 Pennant and 1 Playoff Appearance
Milwaukee Brewers (1901)
Overall (1901 - 2011) - 3 World Championships, 7 Pennants, and 11 Playoff Appearances

They are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball’s American League. One of the American League’s eight charter franchises in 1901, it spent its first year as a major league club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the Milwaukee Brewers before moving to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. After 52 mostly hapless years in St. Louis, the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 and adopted the Orioles name in honor of the official state bird of Maryland. The Orioles name had been used by previous major league baseball clubs in Baltimore, including the American League Baltimore Orioles franchise from 1901-1902 that became The New York Yankees and the National League Baltimore Orioles which won National League championships under Hall-of-Fame manager John McGraw, before McGraw took the black and orange team colors to the New York Giants baseball team, which became the San Francisco Giants after the 1957 season. Nicknames for the team include the O’s and the Birds.

The Orioles experienced their greatest success from 1964–1983, winning 7 Divisional Championships (1969–1971, 1973–1974, 1979 and 1983), 6 pennants (1966, 1969–1971, 1979 and 1983), 3 World Championships (1966, 1970 and 1983), and 5 Most Valuable Player awards (3B Brooks Robinson 1964, OF Frank Robinson 1966, 1B Boog Powell 1970 and SS Cal Ripken Jr. 1983 and 1991). The first World Series Championship team in 1966 was led by Hall-of-Famers Frank Robinson (OF), Brooks Robinson (3B), and Jim Palmer (P). Frank Robinson won the 1966 World Series MVP award, as well as the Triple Crown in hitting, in which he led the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. The second World Series Championship team in 1970 was led by the previous trio of Hall-of-Famers, Hall-of-Fame manager Earl Weaver, and 1970 AL MVP Boog Powell (1B). Brooks Robinson won the 1970 World Series MVP award. The third World Championship team was led by Hall-of-Famers Cal Ripken, Jr. (SS), Eddie Murray (1B), Jim Palmer (P) and 1983 World Series MVP Rick Dempsey (C). The Orioles’ success after 1983 included the following. Frank Robinson won the American League manager of the year in 1989 managing the Orioles to a second-place finish in the AL East Division only two games behind the Toronto Blue Jays. Cal Ripken Jr. won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1991. The Orioles won their first American League Wild Card playoff appearance in 1996 and went wire-to-wire in winning the American League East Division championship in 1997, with Davey Johnson winning the American League Manager of the Year Award. Since the retirement of Cal Ripken Jr. in 2001, the Orioles have been best known for their successful stadium, the trend-setting Oriole Park at Camden Yards, opened in 1992 near the birthplace of Babe Ruth.

The 1889 Milwaukee Brewers

The modern Orioles franchise can trace its roots back to the original Milwaukee Brewers of the minor Western League, beginning in 1894 when the league reorganized. The Brewers were there when the WL renamed itself the American League in 1900.

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 fold, move or get kicked out of the league (the other being the Detroit Tigers). In its first game in the American League, the team lost to the Detroit Tigers 14-13 after blowing a 10 run lead in the 9th inning. To this day, it is a major league record for the biggest deficit overcome that late in the game. 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, Wisconsin.

St. Louis Browns

In 1902 the team moved to St. Louis, where it became the “Browns,” in reference to the original name of the 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 1909, 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 for the season-ending doubleheader between the Browns and the Cleveland Naps. 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.

War era

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.

Veeck era

In 1951, Bill Veeck, the colorful former owner of the Cleveland Indians, purchased the Browns. In St. Louis, he extended the promotions and wild antics that had made him famous and loved by many and loathed by many others. His most notorious stunt in St. Louis came on August 19, 1951, when he sent Eddie Gaedel, a 3-foot 7-inch, 65-pound midget, to bat as a pinch hitter. When Gaedel stepped to the plate he was wearing a Browns uniform with the number 1/8. With no strike zone to speak of, Gaedel walked on four straight pitches, as he was ordered not to swing at any pitch. The stunt infuriated American League President Will Harridge, who voided Gaedel’s contract the next day.

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 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 1942. 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 group of Baltimore-based investors led by attorney Clarence Miles. With Veeck “out of the way,” the American League owners quickly approved the relocation of the team to Baltimore for the 1954 season on September 29, 1953. Miles became the franchise’s chairman of the board and president.

Legacy

Unlike other clubs that had relocated in the 1950s, retaining their nickname and a sense of continuity with their past (such as the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, New York/San Francisco Giants, Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, and Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics), the St. Louis Browns were renamed the Baltimore Orioles upon their transfer, implicitly distancing themselves at least somewhat from their history. In December 1954, the Orioles further distanced themselves from their Browns past by making a 17-player trade with the New York Yankees that included most former Browns of note still on the Baltimore roster. Though the deal did little to improve the short-term competitiveness of the club, it helped establish a fresh identity for the Orioles franchise. Indeed, to this day, the Orioles make almost no mention of their past as the Browns.

The Orioles finally cut the last ties to the Browns era in August 1979. In 1936, the Browns sold 20,000 shares of stock to the public at $5 a share—an unusual practice for a sports franchise even today. In 1979, new owner Edward Bennett Williams bought back those shares, making the franchise privately held once again. Although the buyout price is not known, it is assumed that given the Orioles’ prosperity over their then 25 years in Baltimore, the owners made a handsome return on their investment.

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. The club has now been in Baltimore longer than it was in St. Louis.

Baltimore Orioles

As mentioned above, the Miles-Hofberger group renamed their new team the Baltimore Orioles soon after taking control of the franchise. The name has a rich history in Baltimore, having been used by Baltimore baseball teams since the late 19th century.

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 New York 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 ten years later and take up occupancy in the rebuilt version of the big stadium.

Seeds of success (1954–59)

After starting the 1954 campaign with a two-game split against the Tigers in Detroit, the Orioles returned to Baltimore on April 15 to a welcoming parade that wound through the streets of downtown, with an estimated 350,000 spectators lining the route. In its first-ever home opener at Memorial Stadium later in the afternoon, they treated a sellout crowd of 46,354 to a 3–1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The remainder of the season wouldn’t be as pleasant, with the team enduring 100 losses while avoiding the AL cellar by only three games. With fellow investors both frustrated with his domination of the franchise’s business operations and dissatisfied with yet another seventh place finish, Clarence Miles resigned in early November, 1955. Real estate developer James Keelty Jr. succeeded him as president with investment banker Joseph Iglehart the new board chairman.

The seeds of long-term success were planted on September 14, 1954 when the Orioles hired Paul Richards to become the ballclub’s manager and general manager. He laid the foundation for what would years later be called the Oriole Way. The instruction of baseball fundamentals became uniform in every detail between all classes within the organization. Players were patiently refined until fundamentally sound instead of being hastily advanced to the next level.

For the remainder of the 1950s, the Orioles crawled up the standings, reaching as high as fifth place with a 76–76 record in 1957. Richards succeeded in stocking the franchise with a plethora of young talent which included Dave Nicholson, Pete Ward, Ron Hansen (1960 AL Rookie of the Year), Milt Pappas, Jerry Adair, Steve Barber (20 wins in 1963), Boog Powell, Dave McNally and Brooks Robinson. Unfortunately, Richards also had the tendency to recklessly spend money on individuals with dubious baseball skills. This became a major problem as bidding wars between the ballclubs to land the best amateur players escalated signing bonuses.

The solution came on November 5, 1958 when Lee MacPhail was appointed general manager, allowing Richards to focus on his managerial duties. MacPhail added much needed discipline to the scouting staff by establishing cross-checkers who thoroughly evaluated young hopefuls to determine whether they were worthy of being tendered a contract. He also accepted the title of president after Keelty resigned in mid-December, 1959.

Pennant contenders (1960–65)

One month prior to the end of the 1961 season, Richards resigned as the team’s skipper to become the general manager of the expansion Houston Colt 45s. A year earlier, he succeeded in establishing the Orioles as a legitimate contender when they stood atop the AL standings as late as early September before finishing in second place at 89–65.
In 1964, the Birds, piloted by Hank Bauer in his first year of managing the ballclub, were involved in a tight pennant race against the Yankees and White Sox. They ended up in third with a 97–65 record, only two games out. It has been suggested that they would likely have advanced to the Fall Classic had it not been for a minor wrist injury that sidelined Powell for two weeks in late August. Nevertheless, Robinson enjoyed a breakout season with a league-high 118 runs batted in (RBI) and winning the AL Most Valuable Player Award.

CBS’ purchase of a majority stake in the Yankees on September 9 of that same year resulted in a change to the ownership situation in Baltimore. Iglehart, the Orioles’ largest shareholder at 32% and owner of a sizable amount of CBS stock, straightened out his conflict of interest issues on May 25, 1965 by selling his 64,000 shares in the ballclub to the National Brewing Company, an original team investor which finally had controlling interest at 65%. Brewery president Jerold Hoffberger became the Orioles’ new chairman of the board.

With the benefit of a deep talent pool and superior scouts, the franchise continued to make improvements at the major league level. Three months before the start of the 1963 season, the Orioles stabilized its infield by acquiring Luis Aparicio in a transaction that involved sending a trio of homegrown players (Hansen, Nicholson and Ward) to the White Sox. They also scoured the minor leagues for selections in the Rule 5 draft (Paul Blair from the Mets in 1962, Moe Drabowsky from the Cardinals in 1965) and claims off waivers (Curt Blefary, 1965 AL Rookie of the Year, from the Yankees in 1963).

Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson

On December 9, 1965, the Orioles traded pitcher Milt Pappas (and several others) to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for slugging outfielder Frank Robinson. The following year, Robinson won the American League Most Valuable Player award, thus becoming the first (and so far only) man to win the MVP in each league (Robinson won the NL MVP in 1961, leading the Reds to the pennant). In addition to winning the 1966 MVP, Robinson also won the Triple Crown (leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.) The Orioles won their first ever American League championship in 1966, and in a major upset, swept the World Series by out-dueling the Los Angeles Dodgers aces Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. The only home run ball ever hit completely out of Memorial Stadium was slugged by Robinson on Mother’s Day in 1966, off Cleveland Indians pitcher Luis Tiant. It cleared the left field single-deck portion of the grandstand. A flag was later erected near the spot the ball cleared the back wall, with simply the word “HERE” upon it. The flag is now in the Baltimore Orioles museum.

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?”

Glory Years (1966–1983)

In the 1960s, the Orioles farm system produced a number of high-quality players and coaches and laid the foundation for two decades of on-field success. This period included eighteen consecutive winning seasons (1968–1985)– an unprecedented run of success which saw the Orioles become the envy of the league, and the winningest team in baseball.
During this period, the Orioles 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. Elaborations on the Oriole way include pitching coach and manager Ray Miller’s maxim “Work fast, change speeds, and throw strikes” and manager Earl Weaver’s maxim “Pitching, defense and three-run homers.”

It began in 1966 after the Robinson for Pappas deal as Robinson won the Triple Crown Award. His Orioles would easily sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1966 World Series. After a mediocre 1967 season, Hank Bauer would be replaced by Earl Weaver halfway into 1968. The Orioles would finish 2nd in the American League. This would only be a prelude to 1969 where the Orioles won 109 games and easily won the newly-created American League East division title. Mike Cuellar shared the Cy Young Award with Detroit’s Denny McLain. After sweeping Minnesota in the American League Championship Series, Baltimore was shocked by losing to the New York Mets in a five-game World Series. The next year, Boog Powell won the MVP and the Orioles won another 108 games. After sweeping the Twins once again in the ALCS, the Orioles won the 1970 World Series by defeating the Cincinnati Reds’ Big Red Machine in five games.

In 1971, the Orioles won another division title thanks to having four 20-game winners on their pitching staff (Cuellar, Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson, and Dave McNally). After defeating the young Oakland A’s in the ALCS, the Orioles would lose a heartbreaking seven-game World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Orioles would miss the playoffs in 1972, but rebounded to win the division in 1973 and 1974. Each time, they would lose to Oakland in the ALCS. During this stretch, the Orioles began to phase out their veteran infield by replacing Davey Johnson and Brooks Robinson with younger stars Bobby Grich and Doug DeCinces, respectively. Johnson would be dealt along with Johnny Oates to the Atlanta Braves for catcher Earl Williams. Although Williams would hit 63 home runs in two seasons with Atlanta, he would only hit 36 homers in two seasons with the Orioles.

In 1975, the Birds acquired slugger Lee May in a trade with Houston, and they traded Dave McNally, Rich Coggins and minor league pitcher Bill Kirkpatrick to Montreal for star outfielder Ken Singleton, and future 20-game winner Mike Torrez. Jim Palmer won the Cy Young Award, but the Orioles lost the division title to the Boston Red Sox and their mega-rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice. The 1976 season brought Reggie Jackson, and Ken Holtzman, from a trade with Oakland, but the Orioles only won 88 games. It was this season when the Orioles made a trade that brought them players such as Tippy Martinez and Rick Dempsey. This young foundation, along with the departures of the unhappy Jackson and Holtzman, would create the basis for 1977. The “No Name Orioles,” along with Rookie of the Year Eddie Murray won 97 games and finished tied for second place with Boston. After finishing fourth in 1978, the Orioles finally won the division in 1979 thanks to strong play from Ken Singleton and Cy Young Winner Mike Flanagan. The Orioles defeated the Angels in the ALCS, but they lost to Pittsburgh in another stunning World Series. This started a short period of heartbreak for Baltimore that would nevertheless culminate in a championship.

The Orioles won 100 games in 1980 thanks to Cy Young Winner Steve Stone, but the Yankees won 103 games. Although Baltimore had the best overall record in the AL East in 1981, they finished second in each half. As a result, they were out of the playoffs. 1982 had Baltimore eliminated on the final weekend of the season when the Milwaukee Brewers defeated them. Earl Weaver retired and Joe Altobelli took over for 1983. Altobelli would lead the Orioles to 98 wins and a division title thanks to MVP Cal Ripken, Jr. The Orioles defeated the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS thanks to a 10th-inning homer by Tito Landrum in the deciding game. The Orioles won the World Series in 5 games by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies.

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). Additionally, Brooks Robinson was named Most Valuable Player in 1964, just two years before the 1966-1983 golden era began. 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). One might date the glory years of the Orioles dating back to 1964, which would include two 3rd-place seasons, 1964–1965, in which the Orioles won 97 and 94 games respectively and a year in which third-baseman Brooks Robinson won his Most Valuable Player Award (1964). The glory years of the Orioles effectively ended when The Detroit Tigers, a divisional rival at the time, went 35-5 to open the 1984 season on the way to winning the World Series that year, and when Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jim Palmer retired during the 1984 season.

Final seasons at Memorial Stadium (1984–1991)

After winning the 1983 World Series, the Orioles spent the next five years in steady decline, finishing 1986 in last place for the first time since the franchise moved to Baltimore. The team hit bottom in 1988 when it started the season 0–21, en route to 107 losses and the worst record in the majors. The Orioles surprised the baseball world the following year by spending most of the summer in first place until September when the Toronto Blue Jays overtook them and seized the A.L. East title on the final weekend of the regular season. The next two years were spent below the .500 mark, highlighted only by Cal Ripken, Jr. winning his second A.L. MVP Award in 1991. The Orioles bade farewell to Memorial Stadium, its home for 38 years, at the end of the 1991 campaign.

Camden Yards opens (1992–93)

Opening to huge fanfare in 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards was an instant success, spawning other retro-designed major league ballparks within the next two decades. It was where the 1993 All-Star Game was played. The Orioles returned to contention in those first two seasons at Camden Yards, only to finish in third place both times. Also in 1993, with then-owner Eli Jacobs forced to divest himself of the franchise, Baltimore-based attorney Peter Angelos was awarded the Orioles in bankruptcy court, returning the team to local ownership for the first time since 1979.

Strike year (1994)

After the 1993 season, the Orioles acquired first baseman Rafael Palmeiro from the Texas Rangers. The Orioles, who spent all of 1994 chasing the New York Yankees, occupied second place in the new five-team AL East when the players strike, which began on August 11, forced the eventual cancellation of the season.

Ripken breaks the streak (1995)

The labor impasse would continue into the spring of 1995. Almost all of the major league clubs held spring training using replacement players, with the intention of beginning the season with them. The Orioles, whose owner was a labor union lawyer, were the lone dissenters against creating an ersatz team, choosing instead to sit out spring training and possibly the entire season. Had they fielded a substitute team, Cal Ripken, Jr.’s consecutive games streak would have been jeopardized. The replacements questions became moot when the strike was finally settled.

The Ripken countdown resumed once the season began. Ripken finally broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak of 2,130 games in a nationally televised game on September 6. This was later voted the all-time baseball moment of the 20th century by fans from around the country in 1999. Ripken finished with 2,632 straight games, finally sitting on September 20, 1998 against the Yankees at Camden Yards.

The Orioles finished two games under .500 in third place in Phil Regan’s only season of managing the ballclub.

Recent history: Post-Ripken Era & Downfall (2000–present)

Cal Ripken, Jr. achieved his 3000th hit early in the season. A fire sale occurred late in the season, where the Orioles traded away many veterans for unproven young players and minor league prospects. The Orioles called up many of their AAA players to finish the season. The only acquired player that would have a long-term career with the organization was Melvin Mora.

This was Cal Ripken, Jr.'s final season. His number (8) was retired in a ceremony before the final home game of the season.Radio

Since 2000, the Orioles have not won more than 78 games in a single season and have finished last in the American League East 3 times, and 4th 6 times. Despite a great ball park and ownership that will spend, the team itself has been a drift.They have had 4 mangers this past decade, Mike Hardgrove lasted four seasons, Lee Mazzilli one and a half, Sam Perlozzo two, but only one full season as he was hired 108 games into the 2005 season and fired 69 games into the 2007 season, Dave Trombley was then hired and lasted two full seasons and then was let go 54 games into the 2010 season. He was replaced by Juan Samual for 51 games and then Buck Showalter. Over the final 57 games the Orioles produced their first winning record under a manager since 1997 when Davey Johnson won 98 games.

 

Radio

Orioles games are broadcast on a 20-station radio network in Maryland and nearby states, anchored by flagship station WJZ-FM (105.7 MHz). Fred Manfra, and Joe Angel alternate radio announcing duties.

Television

As part of the settlement of a television broadcast rights dispute with Comcast SportsNet over the Washington Nationals, the Orioles severed their Comcast ties at the end of the 2006 season. All Orioles’ games are now televised on the Orioles-controlled Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN), with some games also airing locally on WJZ-TV (ch. 13). Longtime sportscaster Gary Thorne, who is also recognized for his work as a hockey announcer, is the current television announcer for the Orioles, along with Hall of Fame member and former Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, as well as former Orioles catcher Rick Dempsey. Some MASN telecasts in conflict with Washington Nationals’ game telecasts air on an alternate MASN2 feed. All Oriole games are televised, as their non-MASN games are televised by ESPN, Fox, or TBS.

Six former Oriole franchise radio announcers have received the Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting: Chuck Thompson (who was also the voice of the old NFL Baltimore Colts), Jon Miller (now with the San Francisco Giants and ESPN), Ernie Harwell, Herb Carneal, Bob Murphy and Harry Caray (as a St. Louis Browns announcer in the 1940s.). Other former Baltimore announcers include Josh Lewin (currently with Fox Sports), the late Bill O’Donnell, and Baltimore radio veteran Tom Marr, who called the games during the “Oriole Magic” years on the old WFBR-AM (now WJZ). In 1991, the Orioles experimented with longtime TV writer/producer Ken Levine as a play-by-play broadcaster. Levine was best noted for his work on TV shows such as Cheers and M*A*S*H, but only lasted one season in the Orioles broadcast booth.

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, former major leaguer Buck Martinez (now with the Toronto Blue Jays as their play-by-play announcer), 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.

Musical traditions

“O!”
Since its introduction at games by the “Roar from 34,” led by Wild Bill Hagy and others, in the late 1970s, it has been a tradition at Orioles games for fans to yell out the “Oh” in the line “Oh, say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave” in “The Star-Spangled Banner”. “The Star-Spangled Banner” has special meaning to Baltimore historically, as it was written during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812 by Francis Scott Key, a Baltimorean. “O” is not only short for “Oriole,” but the vowel is also a stand-out aspect of the Baltimorean accent.

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, Georgetown Hoyas, Maryland Terrapins, West Virginia Mountaineers, Penn State Nittany Lions and Aberdeen Ironbirds games. 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 “O” Shout has traveled from across the DC Metro Area, from Frostburg to Salisbury, Md. The practice caught some attention in the spring of 2005, when some fans performed the “O!” cry at Washington Nationals games at RFK Stadium. At Cal Ripken, Jr.’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the crowd, mostly of Orioles fans, carried out the “O!” tradition during Tony Gwynn’s daughter’s rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. Additionally, a faint but audible “O!” could be heard on the television broadcast of Barack Obama’s pre-Inaugural visit to Baltimore as the National Anthem played before his entrance.

“Thank God I’m a Country Boy”

It has been an Orioles tradition since 1975 to play John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the seventh inning stretch.

In the July 5, 2007 edition of Baltimore’s weekly sports publication Press Box, an article by Mike Gibbons covered the details of how this tradition came to be.

Other music

Some songs from special events include “One Moment in Time” for Cal Ripken’s record-breaking game. For his last game, the theme from Pearl Harbor, “There You’ll Be” by Faith Hill, was featured. The theme from Field of Dreams was played at the Last Game at Memorial Stadium in 1991, and the song “Magic to Do” from the stage musical Pippin was used that season to commemorate “Orioles Magic” on 33rd Street. During their heyday in the 1970s, a club song, appropriately titled “Orioles Magic”, was composed, and played when the team ran out until Opening Day of 2008. Starting the following game, the song (a favorite among many fans, who appreciated its references to Wild Bill Hagy and Earl Weaver) was only played (along with a video featuring several Orioles stars performing the song) after wins.

Rex Barney

For 23 years, Rex Barney was the PA announcer for the Orioles. His voice became a fixture of both Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, and his expression “Give that fan a contract,” uttered whenever a fan caught a foul ball, was one of his trademarks – the other being his distinct “Thank Yooooou…” following every announcement (He was also known on occasion to say “Give that fan an error” after a dropped foul ball). Rex Barney died on August 12, 1997, and in his honor that night’s game at Camden Yards against the Oakland Athletics was held without a public–address announcer.

 
 
 
Tagged:
1966 World Series, Baltimore Orioles, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Memorial Stadium, St. Louis Browns
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