Team History: Baltimore Orioles

John Lepore | June 16th, 2019

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there. During the season we will cover the history of all 30 current Major League franchises. You will get some background, iconic players and moments, and postseason results. For this week, let’s take a look at the Baltimore Orioles who have a long history with many iconic moments and players.

Early Years

The Orioles actually started their existence in the major leagues as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901. They didn’t last very long there. In 1902, the Brewers moved to St. Louis, Missouri and were renamed the Browns. The franchise would remain in St. Louis for 52 seasons. The club went to only one World Series, in 1944, which they lost to their crosstown rivals, the Cardinals. In their first season in Baltimore in 1954, the Orioles went 54-100. It was the same record they had in 1953 during their last season as the Browns. In 1955 they signed an 18-year-old kid from Little Rock, Arkansas named Brooks Robinson. This is when the franchise began to turn it around. In 1960, they had their first winning season since 1945, and things were looking up for the Orioles. Baltimore added pitching and defense over the next few years and began to play better baseball. The additions of Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Luis Aparicio, and Paul Blair were huge on that front. Boog Powell supplied the power along with Robinson but they needed a bigger bat as the final piece. Enter Frank Robinson. The Orioles acquired “The Judge” in December of 1965 from the Cincinnati Reds for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun, and Dick Simpson. I know. You are all saying…who? In defense of the Reds, Pappas was a 26-year-old starter coming off a season where he was 13-9 with a 2.60 ERA. Pappas would go on to have a good career winning 209 games with a 3.40 ERA. Nevertheless, the Orioles won this trade hands down as Frank Robinson would win the triple crown in his first year with the Orioles in 1966. (.316, 49 HRs, 122 RBI). He would also win World Series MVP that year.

World Series History

1966 was an incredible season for the Orioles. They won 97 games and thoroughly dominated the American League. They finished in the top 5 in most major categories both in pitching and hitting. Not only did they own the American League, but they also owned the World Series. In the first inning of Game One, the Orioles put up a three-spot off of Don Drysdale as Frank and Brooks Robinson went back-to-back. The Dodgers would get a HR from Jim Lefebvre in the second inning and a bases-loaded walk from Jim Gilliam in the third. That’s it! They would not score another run the entire series. Jim Palmer, Wally Bunker, and Dave McNally would toss three consecutive complete-game shutouts to sweep the series.

The 1970 Orioles were dominant once again. After winning 109 games in 1969 only to lose the World Series to the Miracle Mets, the Os won 108 games in 1970 and this time they were not going to be denied that ring. They faced the Cincinnati Reds in the Fall Classic. Frank Robinson’s former team dropped the first two games at home, both by one run. With the series back in Baltimore for Game Three, the Orioles pounded out nine runs on the strength of three HRs including a grand slam by pitcher Dave McNally in the sixth inning. The Os won the game 9-3. In Game Four, the Reds looked like they might get swept, but a three-run homer by Lee May off of Eddie Watt in the eighth inning staved off elimination for one more night. Game Five started off with a bang and it looked like the Reds may make this a series and bring it back to Cincinnati. The Reds scored three runs in the top of the first off of Baltimore starter Mike Cuellar, but the Orioles wanted to wrap it up at home. Baltimore scored two runs in each of the first three innings and the Reds wouldn’t score again. The Orioles secured the 9-3 victory and the series. Brooks Robinson was the MVP batting .429 (9-12) with two HRs and six RBI.

In 1983 the Os won their last World Series. This time it was with a whole new cast of characters except for Jim Palmer. Along with Palmer, they had a couple of other future Hall of Famers on the team in Eddie Murray and a young kid named Cal Ripken Jr. who won the American League MVP that year in only his second season. The Philadelphia Phillies took Game One in Baltimore 2-1, and it looked like the series may be low-scoring. That’s exactly how it turned out. The Orioles would take the next four games concluding with a masterful Scott McGregor tossing a complete game shutout in Game Five. Neither team scored more than five runs in a game and there were only 27 runs scored in the whole series. Rick Dempsey won the MVP. He had five hits in 13 ABs and they were all for extra bases (4 doubles and a HR).

Iconic Players

Brooks Robinson – We can’t really start talking about the Orioles without beginning with the great Brooks Robinson. He was the first piece of the puzzle who would begin to bring prominence to the franchise when they moved to Baltimore. He was signed a year after they moved from St. Louis and although he wouldn’t see regular playing time until 1958, he would make a lasting impact. He was arguably the best fielding third baseman of all-time. Robinson was a 16-time Gold Glove Award winner and 18-time All-Star. He was also the 1970 World Series MVP. Reliable? Brooks played over 152 games every season from 1960-1974 with the exception of 1965 when he only played 144 games. Robinson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer of course and finished his career with over 2,800 hits, 1,300 RBI, and 250 HRs while only striking out 990 times.

Frank Robinson – The Judge was traded to the Orioles before the 1966 season and he promptly won the triple crown, the AL MVP, and the World Series MVP in his first year in the American League. He may be the most underrated player to don a major league uniform. He hit 586 HRs, stole 204 bases, and had over 1,800 RBI and 1,800 runs. He fell 57 hits short of 3,000. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1956 and the MVP in the NL in 1961 and the AL in 1966. He is also 18th on the bWAR career leader board for position players at 107.3 ahead of guys like Cal Ripken Jr., Roberto Clemente, and his teammate Brooks Robinson. Frank was also the first African-American manager in the majors when he was hired as player-manager by the Cleveland Indians. He, of course, hit a home run that day on April 8, 1975. Classic Frank Robinson.

Jim Palmer – He was the only one there for all three of the Orioles’ Championships. Palmer was an excellent pitcher who pitched to contact. For a 12-year span from 1967-1978 Palmer had an ERA over 3.00 just once. From 1972-1978 he won three Cy Young Awards (1973, 1975, 1976) and finished in the top five in voting six times. He won 20 games eight times. Not only was Palmer an excellent regular season pitcher but he showed up in the playoffs also, pitching to a 2.61 ERA and an 8-3 record over 124.1 innings. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 1990.

Cal Ripken Jr. – Well we all know what Cal is famous for. He is the ultimate Iron Man with 2,632 consecutive games played. Ripken walked into Ray Miller’s office on the evening of September 20, 1998, and told him that he wanted out of the lineup. It was the first time Cal Ripken Jr. would not be in Baltimore’s starting lineup since May 30, 1982. He was the first of the big, power-hitting shortstops to grace our game. Ripken announced himself to the league in 1982 by winning the Rookie of the Year award while smashing 28 HRs and driving in 93. The following year he would take home another piece of hardware: The American League MVP award. Cal led the AL in runs (121), hits (211), and doubles (47) while helping the 1983 Orioles win their third and last World Series. Ripken would win another AL MVP in 1991 and set career highs in HRs (34) and RBI (114) that season. He had over 3,000 hits, 400 HRs, and an amazing 176 DRS at shortstop. Surprisingly Cal missed out on being a unanimous inductee into the Hall of Fame in 2007 getting “only” 537 out of 545 votes.

Eddie Murray – Murray was one of the best switch-hitters ever. He is undoubtedly up there with Mickey Mantle and Chipper Jones. He is one of only six players to have 3,000 hits and 500 HRs. The others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Albert Pujols. He is 11th on the All-Time list with 1,917 RBI. Murray wasn’t having a good World Series in 1983, but in the clinching Game Five, he exploded going 3-4 with two HRs and drove in three of the O’s five runs to clinch their final World Series championship. Consistency was a trademark for Murray. In a 20-year span from 1977 (his rookie year) to 1996, he had 16 years of over 20 HRs but never hit more than 33. He won the Rookie of the Year in 1977 and finished in the top five of the MVP voting six times.

Check out our Other Team Histories: San Diego Padres | Oakland A’s | Cincinnati Reds   Los Angeles Angels | Pittsburgh Pirates | Miami Marlins

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