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The Baltimore Orioles, 1896

The Baltimore Orioles were a 19th-century American Association and National League team from 1882 to 1899. The club, which featured numerous future Hall of Famers, finished in first place three consecutive years (1894-1896) and won the Temple Cup championship in 1896 and 1897. Despite their success, the Orioles were contracted out of the league after the 1899 season.



The team was founded in 1882 as a charter member of the American Association, which was then a major league. After several years of mediocrity, the team dropped out of the league in 1889, but re-joined in 1890 to replace the last-place Brooklyn Gladiators club which had dropped out during the season. After the Association folded, the Orioles joined the National League in 1892. The beginnings of what was to become a legendary team can be traced to June 1892, when Harry Von der Horst hired Ned Hanlon to manage the Orioles, giving him stock in the team and full authority over baseball operations. Ned moved his growing family to a house that stood a block away from Union Park.

After two years finishing near the bottom of the league, the Orioles won three consecutive pennants with several future Hall of Famers under player/manager Ned Hanlon from 1894 to 1896. They followed up the title run with two consecutive second-place finishes. Accordingly, they participated in all four editions of the Temple Cup series, winning the final two in 1896 and 1897. After the team's 1898 second-place finish, Hanlon and most of the team's stars (though not John McGraw or Wilbert Robinson) were moved across to the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National League by the joint ownership of the clubs.

Following a fourth-place finish in 1899, the National League eliminated four teams from the circuit, the Orioles among them. First-year player/manager John McGraw followed through on his threats to abandon the NL and form a club in the rival American League, doing so beginning in 1901. (Those newly-formed Orioles only stayed in Baltimore for two seasons before moving to New York and becoming the Highlanders.)

A high-minor league franchise in the Eastern League filled the void left by the Orioles in 1903, including local product and future baseball icon Babe Ruth, but top-level professional baseball would not return to Baltimore until the St. Louis Browns relocated to the city in 1954.


The Orioles played briefly at the old Oriole Park, in Harwood at 29th and Barclay Streets, from 1890 to 1891. (The 1901 AL Orioles-turned-Highlanders would play at the site a decade later.) During the 1891 season, the Orioles moved a few blocks away to Union Park on 25th Street, where they would play until they were removed from the NL after the 1899 season. For further info see List of baseball parks in Baltimore, Maryland.


John McGraw (left) and Hughie Jennings anchored the left side of the infield for Orioles teams that won three straight National League pennants. Later, both were successful managers (pictured).

The original Orioles were one of the most storied teams in the history of the game. Managed by Ned Hanlon, they won NL pennants in 1894, 1895 and 1896, and sported some of the most colorful players in history including John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, Hughie Jennings, Joe Kelley, Wilbert Robinson, and Dan Brouthers.

They were rough characters who practically invented "scientific" baseball, the form of baseball played before the home run became the norm in the 1920s. Like the style known today as "small ball", the "inside baseball" strategy of Orioles featured tight pitching, hit and run tactics, stolen bases, and precise bunting. One such play, where the batter deliberately strikes the pitched ball downward onto the infield surface with sufficient force such that the ball rebounds skyward, allowing the batter to reach first base safely before the opposing team can field the ball, remains known as a Baltimore Chop.

Matt Kilroy pitched a no-hitter for the Orioles on October 6, 1886. Bill Hawke threw one on August 16, 1893, the first from the modern pitching distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. Jay Hughes threw a no-hitter for the Orioles on April 22, 1898.

First United States soccer champions

In the 1890s the major Baseball franchises were keen to find ways to keep their venues, and players active in the winter months. One solution was to launch a National soccer league containing the same teams names as, and even some players from its Baseball parent. Soccer was growing rapidly in popularity in the United States at the time but a combination of poor advertising, low media coverage, midweek kick off times and most importantly, the failure of the Baseball stars of the day turning up, as promised, to try their hand at the kicking game, led to attendances rarely growing above 1,000 per game. When all was said and done Baltimore were declared champions and despite positivity from owners and fans alike, a second championship was never organised and the first of several false dawns for American soccer came to an end.

External links

  • Team index at Baseball Reference
  • Excerpt from Where They Ain't: The Fabled Life And Untimely Death Of The Original Baltimore Orioles by Burt Solomon at

See also



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