- (For the 1901-02 American League team known as the Baltimore Orioles, see New York Yankees.) There were also a 19th-century National League team and a 20th-century minor league team named the Baltimore Orioles. For the bird the team is named for, see Baltimore Oriole.
From the Browns to the Orioles
The modern Orioles can trace their franchise link back to the Milwaukee Brewers of the Western League, who in 1902 became the St. Louis Browns of the fledgling American League. Half a century of sub-par baseball and the existence of two major league teams in St. Louis - the AL Browns and the NL Cardinals - eventually forced Browns majority owner Bill Veeck to consider moving his franchise. Just before World War II, the Browns came close to moving to Los Angeles, nearly two decades before big league baseball eventually arrived in California.
During the war, the Browns won their only St. Louis based American League pennant in 1944, but they faced their local rivals, the more successful Cardinals, and lost the 1944 World Series, 4-2. They were one of only three teams at the time (the others being the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies) to have never won a World Series.
Following the 1953 season, Veeck sold his controlling interest to Clarence Miles, and the American League owners approved the relocation of the team to Baltimore. The team immediately took on the nickname "Orioles", a name with a long and storied history in the city:
- 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.
- In 1901, Baltimore and McGraw were awarded an expansion franchise in the growing American League, but again the team was sacrificed in favor of a New York City franchise, as the team was transferred to the city in 1903. After some early struggles, that team eventually became baseball's most successful franchise - the New York Yankees.
- 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 1916. The Orioles of the IL won several league championships, first a lengthy run in the 1910s and 1920s, 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.
The Oriole Way
In 1966, the Orioles traded with the Cincinnati Reds and acquired slugging outfielder Frank Robinson. Robinson went on to become the first player to win the Most Valuable Player award in each league while hitting for the Triple Crown (leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.) The Orioles won their first ever American League championship in 1966, and in a major upset, swept the World Series by out-dueling the Los Angeles Dodgers aces Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
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 acerbic manager Earl Weaver as "pitching, defense, and the three run home run."
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.
In 1981, Cal Ripken, Jr., the son of former Oriole player and manager Cal Ripken, Sr. joined the Orioles organization, and went on to become the face of the Oriole team until his retirement in 2001. While setting several records for offensive and defensive performance as a shortstop, Cal will be remembered most for his streak of consecutive games played. Ripken played in every game from May 30, 1982 until September 20, 1998, breaking Lou Gehrig's record by three full seasons.
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. In 1993, Peter Angelos bought the Baltimore Orioles, which returned the team to local ownership. However, Angelos' ownership resulted in a number of controversies. Angelos hired Pat Gillick as GM for the Orioles in 1995. Gillick went on to bring in several premium players like Rafael Palmeiro, Joe Carter, 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. However, after the Orioles failed to advance to the World Series in either playoff, Angelos refused to give Johnson the nod to return as manager and instead promoted pitching coach Ray Miller. Likewise, when Gillick's contract expired in 1998, it was not renewed. Angelos brought in Syd Thrift to take over as GM. Thrift's moves seemed to add on aging stars like Albert Belle and Scott Erickson. With Miller at the helm, the Orioles found themselves not only out of the playoffs, but also with a losing season. The woes continued into the 1999 season as well, with Gillick additions like Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, and Eric Davis leaving in free agency. After a second straight losing season, Angelos fired Miller and brought in former Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove.
The 21st Century
Going into the 2006 season, the Orioles have had eight consecutive sub-.500 seasons - the combination of lackluster play of the team’s part, an inept owner, 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.
The 2005 Collapse
The 2005 season will likely go down as the most controversial in the Orioles' history. The Orioles began the season with a tremendous start, holding onto first place in the AL East division for 62 straight days. However, turmoil on and off the field began to take its toll as the team started struggling around the All-Star break, dropping them close to the surging Yankees and Red Sox. Injuries to Luis Matos, Javy Lopez, Brian Roberts, Sammy Sosa, and Larry Bigbie came within weeks of each other. The team was increasingly dissatisfied with the front office's and manager Lee Mazzilli's "band-aid" moves to help the team through this period of struggle. Various minor league players such as Single-A Frederick outfielder Jeff Fiorentino were brought up in place of more experienced players such as David Newhan, who batted a .311 the previous season. On July 15, 2005, Rafael Palmeiro collected his 3,000th hit in Seattle, and was suspended for a violation of MLB's drug policy 15 days later, after testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol. The Orioles continued tumbling, falling out of first place and further down the AL East standings. This downfall cost Lee Mazzilli his managerial job midway through the season, allowing bench coach and 2003 managerial candidate Sam Perlozzo to take over as interim manager and lead the team to a 23-32 finish. The Orioles 30-62 second half record is, from a percentage standpoint, the worst in baseball history after playing .600 ball for the first 70 days. The club's major offseason acquisition, Sammy Sosa, posted his worst performance in a decade, with 14 homeruns and a .221 batting average. He is not expected to return to the Orioles organization, considering his exorbitant salary, his miserable performance, and his stormy relations with batting coach Terry Crowley and teammates including Miguel Tejada.
The 2006 Turnaround?
Following the dissapointing 2005 season, it was clear major changes needed to be made within the Orioles. In the front office, Executive VP Jim Beattie was not re-signed, allowing Mike Flanagan to become the sole GM of the Orioles. Shortly after, Jim Duquette was hired as Vice President of Baseball Operations, which was Flanagan's previous position. Duquette made it clear at his signing that he reported to Flanagan, so the "two-headed GM" will not exist anymore. The Orioles also fired assistant General Manager Ed Kenney and asked for the resignation of Dave Ritterpusch, Director of Baseball Information Systems.
There was also drastic changes in the Orioles coaching staff. Perlozzo was named the new manager, and unlike Mazzilli, was given full freedom to name his coaching staff. Perlozzo led off strong by convincing Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone to become the pitching coach for the Orioles. He retained hitting coach Terry Crowley and first base coach Dave Cash. Former base coach Rick Dempsey was named the bullpen coach, with Tom Trebelhorn resuming third base coach. Perlozzo rounded out his staff with former Cubs and Phillies manager Lee Elia as the bench coach.
While the Orioles have large holes in their lineup and pitching staff, they will excercise caution in free agency and be defined more for who they do not pursue. The Orioles allowed Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro to file for free agency and maintained that they would not resign the two, who were arguably the most controversial players of the 2005 season. The Orioles will likely look for an everyday first baseman, a defensive backup catcher, one or two outfielders, a frontline starting pitcher, and possibly a closer, with current closer B.J. Ryan a free agent. However, the Orioles will be mindful of several minor league players such as Nick Markakis, Val Majewski, Walter Young, and Chris Ray, who are close to making large impacts at the major league level, and may choose instead to sign "stop-gap" players.
- Founded: 1893, as the Milwaukee, Wisconsin franchise in the minor Western League. In 1900 that league became the American League, which achieved major league status in 1901.
- Formerly known as: Milwaukee Brewers, 1894-1901. St. Louis Browns, 1902-1953.
- Home ballpark: Oriole Park at Camden Yards 1992-present
- Prior home parks: Memorial Stadium (Baltimore) 1954-1991, Sportsman's Park (St. Louis)
- Uniform colors: Black and Orange
- Logo design: An oriole
- Playoff appearances (11): 1944, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1983, 1996, 1997
- Luis Aparicio
- Jesse Burkett (St. Louis Browns)
- Hugh Duffy (Milwaukee Brewers)
- Rick Ferrell (St. Louis Browns)
- Goose Goslin (St. Louis Browns)
- Rogers Hornsby (St. Louis Browns)
- Reggie Jackson
- George Kell
- Heinie Manush (St. Louis Browns)
- Eddie Murray
- Jim Palmer
- Branch Rickey (St. Louis Browns)
- Robin Roberts
- Brooks Robinson
- Frank Robinson
- George Sisler (St. Louis Browns)
- Rube Waddell (St. Louis Browns)
- Bobby Wallace (St. Louis Browns)
- Earl Weaver
- Hoyt Wilhelm
Minor league affiliations
- AAA: Ottawa Lynx, International League
- AA: Bowie Baysox, Eastern League
- Advanced A: Frederick Keys, Carolina League
- A: Delmarva Shorebirds, South Atlantic League
- Short A: Aberdeen IronBirds, New York-Penn League
- Rookie: Bluefield Orioles, Appalachian League
- Rookie: VSL Orioles, Venezuelan Summer League
- Orioles award winners and league leaders
- Orioles statistical records and milestone achievements
- Orioles players of note
- Orioles broadcasters and media
- Orioles managers and ownership
- Baltimore Orioles official web site
- Orioles Hangout - Orioles fan site
- Baltimore Orioles News
- Baltimore Orioles Baseball Fan Blog