Baltimore Orioles Baseball
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
The Baltimore Orioles were one of the initial teams created when the American League was formed back in 1901. Professional baseball was already being played in select cities across the US but those teams played in the National League. With the sport continuing to grow and expand the powers that be decided another league was in order, giving the eight teams a start in the American League.
With over one hundred and ten years of games played the franchise has had some success but recently that success has been hard to come by.
Many fans of baseball can remember the media attention that the Orioles received when Cal Ripken Jr. was closing in on Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak back in 1995, when he started his two thousand one hundred and thirty first game. Conveniently this game was a home game and any fan of baseball had their TV tuned to the game. I still remember Cal jogging around the outfield in the middle of the game when time was taken to acknowledge his feat. The energy in the stadium was intoxicating and a real treat for baseball, since it was trying to heal from a substantial black-eye due to the recent a labor strike.
Certainly the franchise has been blessed by having other big name players, which I will get into later, but for the modern day fan Ripken was the face of the franchise for so long it is tough to not consider him as the main guy.
Fans will also have plenty of opinions of owner Peter Angelos, most of them very favorable or extremely unfavorable; I don’t think many fans would give him a “C” grade on his ownership report card.
Recently the Orioles have been marred in a lengthy slump and are just starting to show signs of digging out of their disappointing seasons; with the newly added second wild card option their chances of getting back to the playoffs have increased. Since the late 1990’s the team has been a fixture in, or near, the cellar of the American League East Division. They have had no choice but to look up and see the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees fight it out for division superiority for over a decade. To make matters worse they have seen a much younger franchise in Tampa Bay show success and make it to the playoffs on more than one occasion. For many fans the timing of Ripken’s retirement and the Orioles regression are more than just a coincidence; Ripken retired in 2001 while their last winning season was 1997.
During Ripken’s playing days the franchise put some respectable teams on the field but they weren’t quite good enough to complete for a World Series title. During his twenty-one seasons with the Orioles they only won their division once in 1997. They had some big name sluggers like Brady Anderson and Rafael Palmeiro but they weren’t enough and the pitching wasn’t adequate either.
Before the streak made everyone pay attention to the Orioles they opened one of the premiere stadiums in all of baseball. Camden Yards was a one of a kind facility that helped pave the way for some of the stadiums that grace Major League Baseball today. If you are a fan of a team that has built a newer stadium since the mid 1990’s you should have a soft spot in your heart for what Camden Yards gave to the sport.
Baseball has had plenty of father and son combinations and a few brothers playing together too. I cannot remember another team having what the Orioles had in 1987 when Cal Ripken Sr. managed his sons Cal and Billy. I know the Griffey’s shared playing time together, and the Boone’s did as well, but those similarities only applied to the players, not one of them being the manager too.
The 1960’s and 1970’s were pretty good to the Orioles franchise. They won two of their three World Series titles in this span, won the division six times and the American League crown five of the six seasons they entered the playoffs. These two decades featured some dominant arms for the team; to show how good they were the team had pitchers win the CY Young award five times during this stretch.
The biggest recognizable name for me is Jim Palmer. I’m not old enough to remember him playing but I recognize the contributions he made to the game and remember some of his commercials when I was growing up. Not to be out done fellow hurlers Mike Cuellar and Mike Flanagan were big factors for the team’s success as well.
Pitching can help you win games, and keep you in close contests too, but if you want to be considered a team capable of winning it all you need a few guys that can swing a baseball bat. These two decades had some big name guys wearing Orioles jerseys that even casual fans might recognize their names.
Led by two guys named Robinson, Brooks and Frank, plus a guy that came into the league in the late seventies named Eddie Murray; these men more than handled their business the plate. The Robinson's, no relation, won two MVP awards in the sixties and Murray won Rookie of the Year in 1977. Frank won the Triple Crown (led the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in) in 1966. Murray really made a name for himself in the eighties when he and Ripken (who won the Rookie of the Year award in 1982) played their best baseball.
The team made Baltimore their home in the early fifties, prior to that they played their games in St. Louis (they were called the Browns there) and not faring too well there either. The franchise was probably looking for a change of scenery with about half a century of average at best play in St. Louis and were renamed the Orioles, Maryland’s state bird, when they made the move.
Prior to playing in St. Louis the team played in Milwaukee and was known as the Brewers.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Best Baseball Players
Some big name players have played for the Orioles. The pitchers from the sixties and seventies won over twenty games a few times and Cy Young awards to boot. The team had great hitters winning MVP awards and the illusive Triple Crown. For good measure the team can even claim a couple of Rookie of the Year’s.
Many of the original teams installed in professional baseball more than a century ago have moved on more than one occasion but the Orioles have only moved three times in their franchise’s history. Starting in Milwaukee in 1894 they moved to St. Louis in 1902 and went to Baltimore in 1954.
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Camden Yards Park
Prior to the beginning of the 1992 season the team played in an average at best baseball stadium, especially compared to some of the newer ones open in the last few years. During the 1990’s baseball stadiums went through a transformation from a round concrete thing with seats and a bunch of grass to entertainment destinations.
For me this transformation has been great for the game. Stadiums are no longer just a place to catch a game; they are a place to have a great time watching the game as well as providing other entertainment options. In my opinion this transformation began with the construction of Camden Yards.
Camden Yards was a state of the art venue to watch a professional baseball game. It also has some interesting quirks to it like the brick structure just beyond the right field section of the stadium. This might be a minor detail that can be easily overlooked but to a passionate fan it is small feature that just elevates the overall beauty of the entire facility.
From 1954 – 1991 the team called Memorial Park home, before that it was Sportsman’s Park from 1902 – 1953 in St. Louis; the stadium would later become recognized as Busch Stadium. Going way back in the team’s history and Milwaukee days they played at Lloyd Street Fairgrounds from 1895 – 1901 and Borchert Field in 1894.
Major League World Series
The franchise has three World Series titles to its name. The first was secured in 1966, the second won in 1970 and the latest in 1983.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
A total of thirty-four former players sit proudly in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Out of these players nine wear the hats of Orioles teams of the present and the past. Three wear Browns hats and six wear Orioles ones.
In addition to Murray, Palmer, Ripken, Robinson (Brooks and Frank), Earl Weaver’s bust also wears an Orioles hat.