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A Short History of Baltimore Orioles Baseball

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David has enjoyed watching and playing baseball since he was a kid.

The Baltimore Orioles' awesome logo

The Baltimore Orioles' awesome logo

American League OG

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 eight teams a start in the American League.

With over 120 years of games played, the franchise has had some success, but recently that success has been hard to come by. Many baseball fans remember the media attention the Orioles received when Cal Ripken Jr. was closing in on Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive games played streak in 1995. Conveniently, the game he broke the streak too place at home. I still remember Cal jogging around the outfield in the middle of the game when the PA announcer acknowledged 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 labor strike.

Certainly, the franchise has been blessed by other big-name players, which I will get into later, but for the modern-day fan Ripken was the face of the franchise. Fans will have plenty of opinions about owner Peter Angelos, most of them very favorable or very unfavorable. I don’t think many fans would give him a “C” grade on his ownership report card.

Cal Ripken Sr. and Jr. in 1982

Cal Ripken Sr. and Jr. in 1982

O's Struggling in 21st Century

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 is 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.

Cal Ripken Jr.'s display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York

Cal Ripken Jr.'s display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York

O's Heyday: The 1960s & '70s

Before the streak made everyone pay attention to the Orioles they opened one of the premier 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 1960s and 1970s were pretty good to the Orioles franchise. They won the division six times, the American League crown five of the six seasons they entered the playoffs, and won two of their three World Series titles (1966, 1970). 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.

O's Legends: Jim Palmer, Brooks and Frank Robinson, and Eddie Murray

The most recognizable name to 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 his commercials growing up. To be fair, fellow hurlers, Mike Cuellar and Mike Flanagan, were big factors in 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, as well as a guy that came into the league in the late '70s named Eddie Murray, these men more than handled their business at the plate. Brooks Robinson won MVP in 1964 and Frank Robinson followed as MVP in 1966 after winning the Triple Crown (leading the league in batting average, HRs, and RBI). It's worth mentioning, too, that Frank previously won MVP with the Cincinnati Reds (1961), the only player to be named MVP in both leagues. Murray won Rookie of the Year in 1977, but really made a name for himself in the 1980s when he and Ripken—who won the Rookie of the Year award in 1982—played their best baseball.

Eddie Murray, one of the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history

Eddie Murray, one of the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history

Milwaukee to St. Louis to Baltimore

Many of Major League Baseball's original teams have moved at least once. The Orioles have moved three times in their franchise’s history. They started out in 1894 as the Milwaukee Brewers, playing in the Western League. In 1900, that league broke away from the National League to start the American League, and for one season (1901) the Brewers played in Milwaukee.

The franchise relocated to St. Louis in 1902, dubbed themselves the Browns, and enjoyed some success in the 1920s behind the hitting of Hall of Famer George Sisler. Unfortunately, the Browns' run ended as the hometown rival Cardinals rose to prominence, becoming not just the most popular baseball team in St. Louis, but the most popular team in the south and west when those areas weren't represented by MLB.

So, the franchise relocated again, this time to Baltimore, renaming themselves the Orioles after Maryland’s state bird. Their first season in Charm City was 1954, but it wasn't until the early '60s that they started becoming competitive in the AL.

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 1954-91, the Orioles played in Memorial Stadium. When they played in St. Louis (1902-53), they played at Sportsman’s Park. The stadium would later be renamed Busch Stadium. Going way back to their Milwaukee days, the team played at Lloyd Street Fairgrounds (1895-1901) and Borchert Field (1894).

Hall of Fame manager, Earl Weaver.

Hall of Fame manager, Earl Weaver.

Orioles in the Hall of Fame

A total of 34 former Baltimore 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.

In addition to Murray, Palmer, Ripken, Robinson (Brooks and Frank), Earl Weaver’s bust also wears an Orioles hat.

Favorite Baseball Team


David (author) from Idaho on November 28, 2012:

FSlovenec - Living in Northern California I should be an A's or Giants fan but I am not. I haven't seen a game at AT&T yet but I have driven by it many times and it is a beautiful stadium. Cleveland has gotten close but just can't make it over the hump, maybe their time is coming?

Frank Slovenec from San Francisco, CA on November 27, 2012:

Great Hub...I am a baseball fan (extreme) I love Camden the mid 90's I had season tickets...I am native to Cleveland a die hard fan of the Indians..I live in San Francisco 5 blocks from AT&T ..World Series is always exciting, none will be more exciting that the Indians World Series Victory..with 2010 and 2012 least I do not have to view the catch every time they want to show a great Giants Play..thank you

David (author) from Idaho on November 26, 2012:

Esmeowl12 - We actually drove by the stadium while on vacation recently and it looked great even from the freeway and in the pouring rain.

David (author) from Idaho on November 26, 2012:

CZCZCZ - It was a fun piece for me to put together since I am such a huge baseball fan. I appreciate the congrats as well and thanks for the comment.

David (author) from Idaho on November 26, 2012:

Alex - Correct, I mentioned the move in the relocation area of the article; I didn't think noting their team name was very important. Thanks

David (author) from Idaho on November 26, 2012:

summerberrie - Thanks, it was a great surprise to see it named HOTD.

David (author) from Idaho on November 26, 2012:

Paul - Thanks for sharing your personal story on the team. Part of why I enjoy doing these team related pieces is because I enjoy hearing about stories from loyal fans like yourself. I appreciate what you have added here and thanks for sharing.

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on November 22, 2012:

Camden Yards is a beautiful baseball stadium. I went to a game there sometime in the 1990s when it was quite new.

CZCZCZ from Oregon on November 22, 2012:

Very nice detailed franchise history of the Baltimore Orioles. Was interesting to read through about a team I have never really spent much time learning about. Congrats on getting hub of the day honors for this article.

AlexDrinkH2O from Southern New England, USA on November 22, 2012:

Today's Orioles are actually the old St. Louis Browns. They moved to Baltimore in 1954.

summerberrie on November 22, 2012:

Congrats on the HOTD. A great hub!

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on November 22, 2012:

I followed the Orioles a lot when I lived in the Baltimore area during the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. I remember seeing Cal Ripken Jr. play when he played his first few games in September of 1981. The Orioles made the playoffs more than once during Ripken's career. As you mentioned later in your hub, the Orioles won the division and the World Series in 1983. Ripken played a big part in the Orioles winning that year. The Orioles also almost won the division in 1982, losing out to the Milwaukee Brewers on the last day of the season. I liked listening to Chuck Thompson on WBAL. I also really enjoyed going to games at old Memorial Stadium when my Brewers were playing the Orioles. This is a great hub about the Orioles. Congratulations on getting hub of the day! Voted up, sharing with followers, sharing on Facebook and Pinning.

David (author) from Idaho on October 15, 2012:

Goody5 - They made a great run here in 2012 and appear to be set to compete for years to come. We will see if they can build on the positives from 2012 and get even better.

Goody5 from Bohville, USA, Just below the Mason-Dixon line in the land of the pleasant living on October 08, 2012:

This is an awesome hub, but then of coarse I am a Baltimore Oriole's fan due to birth right. As I'm leaving this comment they are about to start their 2nd game with the NY Yankees for the 2012 playoffs, which is their first time back there in 15 years. Stop on by and visit my O's hub, you'll fit right in - GO BIRDS!!!!

David (author) from Idaho on August 30, 2012:

bdegiulio - They are having a very good 2012 season and are a legitimate threat to take the east. The last month will be huge for them.

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on August 30, 2012:

Great info on the Orioles. Brings back a lot of great memories. They are having a great year, hope they catch the Yankees.

David (author) from Idaho on August 30, 2012:

Nettlemere - Thanks, it is OK if you don't understand the game...everyone had to start somewhere :)

Nettlemere from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on August 30, 2012:

Thorough and interesting - even to a Brit who doesn't understand the game properly!

David (author) from Idaho on August 30, 2012:

teaches12345 - I love watching the little league world series. The level of technical understanding and firm fundamentals impresses me every year. I live a few hours from Petaluma and I was rooting for those guys to go all of the way but Japan looked awesome this year.

Dianna Mendez on August 29, 2012:

I love watching baseball. Just finished watching the little league series last week. I don't keep up with the stats and player specifics, but I do enjoy learning and reading about it, as you have posted here.

David (author) from Idaho on August 29, 2012:

petertebin - Cal Ripken Jr. was a classy player and a great spokesman of the game. I'm glad you enjoyed the article, thanks.

petertebin from Maryland on August 29, 2012:

Great Piece on my home team and respect it. Cal grew up minutes away from me as I grew up in Havre De Grace right outside of Aberdeen. I learned the love the game as well as getting to know his brother Fred and father Cal Sr. Great Hub!

David (author) from Idaho on August 29, 2012:

JThomp42 - Thanks, it was a fun piece to put together as a big fan of the sport. I'm hitting all of the teams but so far I have learned something about each of them that I didn't know.

David (author) from Idaho on August 28, 2012:

billybuc - The other players were before my time but I do remember watching Ripken Jr. For me he kind of opened the door for bigger guys playing shortstop, before him being over six feet tall and playing SS just wasn't something that happened. Thanks for commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 28, 2012:

Now we are talking serious baseball history....the Orioles of old were a team I could follow....the Robinson boys....what great players....Jim Palmer....of course Ripken...I loved Earl Weaver and his arguments with umpires. Great history! Nice job!

David (author) from Idaho on August 28, 2012:

First Colony - That is an interesting point, I'll tackle that move when I get to the Yankees franchise. I have to agree with your comment about the Yankees not being one of the initial teams, even though they are such a huge organization now. Thanks for your comment and voting.

First Colony on August 28, 2012:

Even though this franchise did not come to Baltimore until 1954, there was an Orioles team in Baltimore in 1901. That team moved to New York in 1903, and became the New York Highlanders who then became the New York Yankees. Sorry, just had to get that in. I always liked that the big, bad Yankees were NOT one of the American League's original teams.

An excellent Hub. Voted up.