Baltimore Orioles (NL)

From BR Bullpen

Team History[edit]

The Baltimore Orioles were one of four teams that were selected from the American Association to join the National League for the 1892 season. Baltimore, MD was considered a particularly rowdy town in those years, and the atmosphere around the team was rather charged. Players were known for their drinking binges going on late into the night, newspapers covering the team openly disparaged it, and the fans were unpredictable, forcing ownership to install a barbed wire fence to protect players and umpires from the crowd at Oriole Park following a particularly violent incident involving umpire Jack Brennan in 1884.

During their seven years as a National League team, the Orioles were a powerhouse, winning three consecutive pennants. They had several Hall of Famers on these championship teams including Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley and Hughie Jennings. They have been credited as the team that invented, or at least perfected, the small ball style of play, including frequent sacrifice hitting, the hit-and-run and, of course, the Baltimore Chop. Prior to the start of the 1899 season, manager Ned Hanlon and owner Harry Von der Horst obtained stock in the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. As manager of the Brooklyn team, Hanlon took with him Keeler, Jennings and Kelley. This prompted the team to be dubbed the "Brooklyn Superbas". Following the departures, Orioles third baseman John McGraw took over as manager.

Under McGraw's leadership the team finished with a 86-62-4 record in 1899. Against the Superbas the team went 6-8 including a forfeit loss in the first game of a doubleheader. It should also be pointed out that the Orioles outdrew the Superbas at home (123,416 to 122,575) and by 46,000 on the road. During the winter months between 1899 and 1900 rumors began circulating around the league and in the press that the National League would drop some of its weaker teams. Some of the rumors were as to where McGraw would end up for the upcoming season: either to go to New York to play for the Superbas, and/or manage or play with the New York Giants, or manage a team in Washington, DC. In actuality both John McGraw and fellow teammate and good friend Wilbert Robinson were hustling around to ensure some sort of future for the team.

In February a new league, the American Association, was formed. Baltimore was one of the teams selected to join the league. McGraw and Robinson joined together with Philip Peterson, police judge Harry Goldman, and Kelley's father-in-law, John J. Mahon and formed the Baltimore Baseball Club of the American Association. When Hanlon's lease on Union Park expired, McGraw obtained the lease. Upon learning that McGraw had obtained the lease, Hanlon put armed guards at the gate. Soon after, the park became the site of a stand-off between the two camps. The club house and groundkeeper's house were occupied by Hanlon's men, while McGraw's supporters were camped around third base. Before the end of the month, the American Association folded as they were not able to get strong support from Philadelphia. The National League officially dropped the Orioles, as well as the Cleveland Spiders, Louisville Colonels and Washington Senators on March 8th.

Not wanting to work with McGraw and Robinson, Hanlon sold the players to the St. Louis Cardinals. Initially McGraw talked about putting a team in the Eastern League. Even a meeting involving the Robison brothers, Hanlon and Von der Horst did little to convince the two friends to go St. Louis. McGraw even hinted that the Giants would take them, but Giants' boss Andrew Freedman stated that he would not take the two even as a gift. It wasn't until April that Judge Goldman convinced the two to go to St. Louis for the rest of the season, and that they would be able to put a team together in Baltimore for the 1901 season. That team would be the first incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League.


  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Charles C. Alexander: John McGraw, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 1995 (Originally published in 1988).
  • Frederick G. Lieb: The History of a Colorful Team in Baltimore and St. Louis, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1955.
  • Marty Payne: "Beer Tanks and Barbed Wire: Bill Barnie and Baltimore", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 42, Number 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 25-29.