Baltimore Orioles Information
Half a century of mostly sub-par baseball, coupled with the success of their rivals (and tenants) the Cardinals, eventually forced new Browns majority owner Bill Veeck to consider moving his franchise in 1951. The Browns had been candidates for relocation earlier: in 1941, the Browns had come close to moving to Los Angeles, nearly two decades before big league baseball eventually arrived in California. The American League even drew up a schedule including Los Angeles and had a meeting scheduled to vote on the relocation of the Browns, but the bombing of Pearl Harbor killed the move. 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.
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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 George Herman Ruth - nicknamed "Babe" - 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 10 years later and take up occupancy in the rebuilt version of that big stadium.
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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.
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The Orioles farm system had begun to produce a number of high quality players and coaches who formed the core of winning teams; from 1966 to 1983, the Orioles won three World Series titles (1966, 1970, and 1983), six American League pennants, and five of the first six American League Eastern Division titles. They 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. This led to an unprecidented run of success from 1966 to 1983 which saw the Orioles become the envy of the league, and the winningest team in baseball.
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During this rise to prominence, "Weaver Ball" came into vogue. Named for fiery manager Earl Weaver, "Weaver Ball" is defined by the Oriole trifecta of "Pitching, Defense, and the Three-Run Home Run". - - When an Oriole GM was told by a reporter that Earl Weaver, as the skipper of a very talented team, was a "push-button manager" he replied "Earl built the machine and installed all the buttons!". - - As the Robinson boys grew older, newer stars emerged including multiple Cy Young Award winner Jim Palmer and switch-hitting first baseman Eddie Murray. With the decline and eventual departure of two local teams - the NFL's Baltimore Colts and baseball's Washington Senators, the Orioles' excellence paid off at the gate, as the team cultivated a large and rabid fan base at old Memorial Stadium.
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In 1992, with grand ceremony, the Orioles began their season in a brand new ballpark, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and thus retiring Memorial Stadium in the major league baseball world. The name of the new park though did have much controversy in it. Many felt that since the Orioles' new home was so close to Babe Ruth's birthplace that the new park should have been named after Ruth instead of being indirectly named after the Earl of Camden, Charles Pratt, who was a Britisher who never set foot on American soil. There was also the superficial connection to the fact that Ruth played for the Orioles early in his career, which is interesting since the Orioles team that Ruth played for was in no way related to the Orioles team that moved to Baltimore from St. Louis. In 1993, Peter Angelos bought the Baltimore Orioles, which returned the team to local ownership. However, Angelos' ownership resulted in a number of controversies.
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Angelos hired Pat Gillick as GM for the Orioles in 1995. Gillick went on to bring in several premium players like B.J. Surhoff, Randy Myers, and Roberto Alomar. Under Gillick and manager Davey Johnson, the Orioles made their first return trip to post-season play by winning the A.L. Wild Card spot in the 1996 season. The Orioles followed up by winning the A.L. East Division title in 1997 by going "wire to wire" (being in first place from the first day of the season to the last). However, after the Orioles failed to advance to the World Series in either playoff, Johnson resigned as manager following a dispute with Angelos, with pitching coach Ray Miller taking his place. With Miller at the helm, the Orioles found themselves not only out of the playoffs, but also with a losing season. When Gillick's contract expired in 1998, it was not renewed. Angelos brought in Frank Wren to take over as GM. The Orioles added volatile slugger Albert Belle, but the team's woes continued in the 1999 season, with stars like Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, and Eric Davis leaving in free agency. After a second straight losing season, Angelos fired both Miller and Wren. He named Syd Thrift the new GM and brought in former Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove.
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Going into the 2006 season, the Orioles have had eight consecutive sub-.500 seasons due to the combination of lackluster play on the team’s part, a string of ineffective management, and the ascent of the Yankees and Red Sox to the top of the game - each rival having a clear advantage in financial flexibility due to their larger media market size. Further complicating the situation for the Orioles is the relocation of the Montreal Expos franchise to nearby Washington, D.C. - for which Angelos has demanded compensation from Major League Baseball. The new Washington Nationals threaten to carve into the Orioles fan base and television dollars. There is some hope that having competition in the larger Baltimore-Washington metro market will spur the Orioles to field a better product to compete for fans with the Nationals. - - Beginning with the 2003 season, big changes began to sweep through the organization to try to snap the losing ways. General Manager Syd Thrift was fired and to replace him, the Orioles hired Jim Beattie as the Executive Vice President and Mike Flanagan as the Vice President of Baseball Operations. After another losing season, manager Mike Hargrove was not resigned and Yankees coach Lee Mazzilli was brought in as the new manager. The team signed powerful hitters in SS Miguel Tejada, C Javy Lopez, and former Oriole 1B Rafael Palmeiro. The following season, the Orioles traded for OF Sammy Sosa.
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