Baltimore Orioles (1901-1902)

From BR Bullpen

Baltimore Orioles

Ballpark: Oriole Park IV (Apr. 26, 1901 - Sept. 29, 1902)

The 1901-1902 Baltimore Orioles were members of the American League for its first two seasons. They have no direct connection to the current-day Baltimore Orioles.

During the off-season between 1899 and 1900, the National League contemplated dropping four teams from its twelve-team league. Among the four teams that were considered for contraction were the Baltimore Orioles (NL). When Orioles' manager John McGraw learned that his team was considered for contraction, he threatened to join the upstart American League.

The league reduction committee met in Cleveland, OH to begin talks of dropping Baltimore, as well as the Cleveland Spiders, the Louisville Colonels and the Washington Senators. In early February 1900, two groups were camped out at Union Park around the first and third base lines. McGraw's camp was at the third base line, while former Orioles' manager Ned Hanlon had forces camped at the first base line.

Unfortunately for McGraw, he was not able to find backers when he traveled to Philadelphia, PA for prospective owners for his team, and was forced to withdraw his AL Orioles' team. By the end of the month, McGraw and his friend Wilbert Robinson signed long-term contracts with the Orioles, who were still members of the NL. Both were sold to the Brooklyn Superbas, but declined to show up at the start of the season. Later the two were sold to the St. Louis Cardinals. Following the end of the 1900 season, McGraw returned to Baltimore, MD where he began establishing a new Orioles franchise. November 21st saw McGraw given a ten-year contract as manager, and on January 4, 1901 the Baltimore Orioles were incorporated. By the end of the month the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles were officially a part of the American League, joining 5 franchises inherited from the old Western League.

The 1901 season ended with the Orioles in fifth place with a 68-65-2 record. The 1902 season found the team hovering around the .500 mark. Throughout the early part of the season, McGraw was suspended for his on-field behavior, as the new circuit was not as open to the "rough-house" sort of play which the National League encouraged in the 1890s. Things reached a climax when he received a season-long suspension. As a result, McGraw left the team and headed for New York, NY, where he became manager of the New York Giants. His teammate Wilbert Robinson took over on July 1st as manager in Baltimore. It would not be the last that the team would hear of McGraw, however. In mid-July he, along with John Mahon, sell their shares to Cincinnati Reds owner John T. Brush and Giants owner Andrew Freedman. The two men claim some of the team's best players for their own teams.

Due to the lack of players on the Orioles, the team forfeits its game against the St. Louis Browns. League President Ban Johnson stepped in and took control of the team in order to protect the interests of the other owners of the team. Stocking the team with players from the other teams in the AL, the Orioles finished the season with a 50-88-2 record.

During the off-season, Johnson decided to move the team to New York. Orioles' owner Harry Goldman and team president Sydney Frank, who own a combine 49%, could not block the move. The team was sold to Frank Farrell and Bill Devery on January 9, 1903, for $18,000.It was the beginning of the storied new York Yankees franchise (although they would more often be called the "Highlanders" during their first few seasons). For its part, Baltimore would have to be content with an International League team, except for the brief Federal League episode, until the St. Louis Browns relocated in 1954.