MINOR LEAGUE BALTIMORE ORIOLES

The city of Baltimore, Maryland has been home to two minor league baseball teams called the "Baltimore Orioles", besides the four major league baseball teams, (the American Association in 1882–1891, the National League in the 1890s and the so-called "up-start" American League charter franchise of two seasons 1901–1902, and the current American League's modern team of the Baltimore Orioles since April 1954).

"Orioles" is a traditional name for baseball clubs in Baltimore (after the state bird of Maryland, with the colors of black and orange/gold/yellow). It was used by major league teams representing the port city from 1882 through 1899 in the old American Association and the original National League two decades after its founding in 1876, and by a charter team franchise member of the new American League from 1901 through 1902. The American League franchise was later shifted against the city's will to New York City with former famous player and now owner/manager John McGraw in 1903 and renamed the New York Highlanders, which later became the modern New York Yankees, a decade later (in order to give the new A.L. "bragging rights" by also having a team in the "Big Apple" versus the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers). Their string of championships and hall-of-fame roster of players began in the "Roaring Twenties", some baseballers say with the trading of the now famous "Babe Ruth", the "Bambino", and "Sultan of Swat", George Herman Ruth of southwest Baltimore, (formerly briefly with the old, now minor league Orioles of the International League with owner/manager Jack Dunn (1878–1928) in 1914, then traded later in the season to the Boston Red Sox because of new Federal League competition from the neighboring Baltimore Terrapins) now from the also financially pressed Red Sox team in 1919 to the New York Yankees. Since 1923, the Yankees have compiled 27 World Series championships (with the St. Louis Cardinals being second, having won 11 between 1926 and 2011), and the 1980s are the only decade so far in which they have failed to win at least one title.

First minor league team, 1903–1914

In 1903, an Oriole minor league team joined the Eastern League (renamed the International League in 1911, and not to be confused with the present day 'Double AA' level, minor league Eastern League). This Orioles team stayed mediocre for the first few years of its existence, but after the arrival of Jack Dunn (1872–1928), as manager, it won the Eastern League pennant in 1908. This E.L./I.L. Orioles team played at the old American League Park (a.k.a. Oriole Park) at the southwest corner of Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street in the Waverly neighborhood of northeast Baltimore.

The 1914 season featured the professional debut of local son, George Herman Ruth ("Babe Ruth"), but competition from the Baltimore Terrapins of the new Federal League challenge for major league status, with their more modern steel-beamed ballpark across the street, forced Dunn to sell Ruth (to the Boston Red Sox) later in the 1914 season and many of his other players, and eventually temporarily relocate the team to Richmond, Virginia (eventually becoming the present-day Syracuse Chiefs, still playing in the I.L.).

Second minor league team, 1916–1953

After the Federal League's demise, Dunn returned with an Orioles team in 1916. This team, later in the 1919 I.L. Baseball Season won the International League pennant with 100 victories, the first team to win that many games and went on a championship spree, seldom seen in major or minor league baseball ever since. Featuring another future Hall-of-Fame pitcher in Lefty Grove, the Orioles improved on that in 1920 by winning 110 games, including the last 25 of the season. In 1921, the Orioles won 27 straight games (a record for consecutive victories by a minor league team that would stand until the Salt Lake City team of the western Pioneer League won 29 in 1987). The Orioles won the League by 20 games over the second place team, and had a home record of 70 wins and 18 losses. Despite their impressive record, however, they lost the "Little World Series" to the American Association's champion Louisville Colonels, 4 games to 1. The Orioles actually led the fourth game, 12–4, but a riot broke out among the Baltimore home crowd in the top of the 9th inning, and the game was forfeited to Louisville, 9 runs to 0, reflecting Baltimore's alternate home-town controversial nickname of the 19th Century, "Mobtown". The I.L. Orioles continued to roll over International League opposition for several more seasons straight through to the 1925 Baseball Season.

The team entered the Governors' Cup playoffs in the International circuit in 1936, 1937, and 1940, but did not win another pennant until the "war year" of 1944. The team was leading the League on July 4 of that year, when their home wooden and steel beamed stadium, Oriole Park (formerly Terrapin Park of 1914), burned down. Even after relocating several blocks northwest to the old 1922 football bowl of Municipal Stadium on 33rd Street Boulevard (also known as "Baltimore Stadium"), the team seemed to have a hard time recovering from that loss, playing lackluster ball through the rest of the season and losing their last game, only to strangely "back into the championship" when the second place team, the Newark Bears, also lost their recent games. The Orioles, under manager Alphonse "Tommy" Thomas, went on to win the "Junior World Series" that year, four games to two, against Louisville. Six years later, with the shackles of war-time baseball cast off, in 1950, under manager Nick Cullop, Baltimore won the league championship again, only to lose the "Junior World Series" to the Columbus Red Birds of Ohio, four games to one.

The Orioles won the Governors' Cup, the championship of the IL, 2 times, and played in the championship games "Little World Series", 5 times.

The 1944 Junior World Series

October 12, 1994 by David Howell, Baltimore Sun

WERE IT NOT for the major-league baseball strike many of us would be eagerly anticipating the outcome of the World Series by now. Would the Orioles have made it? Since that's impossible to know, let's go back 50 years ago this week when the Baltimore Orioles (the minor-league version) won a championship the old Municipal Stadium. The world was still at war in 1944. The news from the fronts indicated that the Allies were closing in on the Germans and that the Japanese were being beaten, too.

Baseball saw an all-St. Louis major-league World Series as the Browns won their only American League pennant and met their stadium tenants, the Cardinals, for the championship. (The Browns would move to Baltimore a decade later and assume the Orioles' name bringing the long-denied city major-league baseball.)

Baltimore, which in 1944 was filled with defense-industry workers RTC eager for recreation, was eager for a pennant winner of its own.

The International League Orioles pleased their fans by winning the pennant by beating Newark, a Yankee farm team. That propelled them into the Junior World Series for the first time since 1925.

Their foe from the American Association was the Louisville Colonels, third-place finishers in their league, but playoff winners.

The series opened in Louisville on Friday, Oct. 6. The Orioles started poorly as the Colonels pounded pitcher Bo Palica for 10 hits in five innings. Catcher Sherm Lollar got two of the Orioles' five hits, but the Orioles lost, 5-3.

Sherm Lollar's fourth-inning grand slam led the Orioles to an eight-run inning as they swamped Louisville, 11-0, in Game 2. Red Embree struck out 10 Colonels and allowed but six hits.

Game 3 was the longest by the number of innings in Junior World Series history at that time as the Orioles outlasted the Colonels, 7-4, in 14 innings. Outfielder Howie Moss' two-run homer tied the game in the sixth. First baseman Bob Latshaw scored the winning run on outfielder Felix Mackiewicz's fourth hit of the game. Stan West got the win. The Orioles returned home leading the series, 2-1.

The next evening 52,833 paying fans crowded the old Municipal Stadium for Game 4. Many thousands more got in when a gate was knocked over by the throng trying to get inside. The crowd was larger than the attendance for the final game of the Browns-Cardinals World Series.

The Birds let their fans down, though, by losing, 5-4. The Colonels led 5-0 after four innings. The Birds scored three runs in their half of the sixth on Bob Latshaw's triple. Latshaw then scored the Orioles final run in the ninth on a throwing error by Louisville's third baseman, but the rally fell short. The series was tied at two games each. Hal Kleine took the loss.

Before the game, Orioles shortstop Kenny Braun was given a war bond by the Maryland chapter of the American Legion. He had played Legion ball in Louisville that summer before signing with Baltimore.

The Orioles regained the series lead the next night as they shut out the Colonels, 10-0. Red Embree gave up only four hits and struck out six as he won his second game of the series. Second baseman Blas Monaco had three hits, including a home run, three RBIs and scored three times. Third baseman Frank Skaff also had three hits.

Wednesday, Oct. 11, proved to be a red letter day in Baltimore as the Orioles won the Junior World Series by defeating Louisville, 5-3. It was the first time since 1928 that an International League team had won the pennant, the playoffs and the series. Three runs in the seventh iced the game for the Orioles. Bo Palica got the win in relief.

As left-fielder Stan Benjamin caught the ball for the final out of the series, the fans, "like water pouring over the dam," reported The Sun, stormed the field to get to their heroes. Trainer Eddie Weidner was at the clubhouse door to let the players in before they were trampled by their adoring fans.

After the game, Mayor Theodore H. McKeldin fired off a telegram to his St. Louis counterpart challenging the Cardinals to play the Orioles in Baltimore with proceeds to go to the war chest community funds of both cities.

"We guarantee a larger attendance than any World Series game of this year." The Cardinals, however, declined.

"Lefty" Grove has the highest win-loss percentage in baseball history.  He was 12-2 as a 20 year old while pitching in the Big Leagues for the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. In the 1920's, major stars were drawn to the International League because of the higher salaries being paid there; the Orioles at this period in history were paying the highest of any team and were able to win seven straight pennants. Lefty Grove won 121 games and only lost 38 in his five years with the Baltimore Orioles.

In 1925, Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics paid the Orioles $100,600 for Lefty Grove; the highest price ever paid for a player up to this time in history. Tall and lanky, 6'3", Lefty Grove's fastball exploded in on the hitters as it roared past home plate. Known for his hot temper, Lefty Grove would intimate the hitters with his inside pitches. "I never threw at a hitter" Grove often stated, "I was just naturally wild."  After losing some ball games "Lefty" would often punch the clubhouse lockers with his right hand and complain that his team mates were lousy fielders. He was so unpopular with his high and tight fastball that many batters complained, "Lefty" Grove was throwing at their heads."  Opposing teams' baseball fans would flock to the ballpark and "boo" and curse "Lefty" Grove; hoping their teams would beat him.  Hence even today, this one-of-a-kind pitcher, with all of his great records remains very unpopular and few historians care to tell about his great pitching efforts. (from baseballhistorian.com)

LEFTY GROVE AND THE ORIOLES

This Minor League Hero's Rough Ride Is Finally Over

Becoming the only man to lead the International League in home runs four times during its more than 100-year history should have made Howie Moss something beyond a mere provincial hero.

The Baltimore Orioles recognized him as one of their most awesome power hitters, yet his achievements never received the acclaim they deserved.

Was that a tough ultimatum dictated by the fickle winds of fate, or was he arbitrarily labeled a minor-league home run king who couldn't produce at the major-league level? It all seems unfair, considering the numbers he put up for the Orioles more than four decades ago.

Moss carried the colorful tag of "Howitzer Howie," a right-handed pull-hitter who came out of the dugout swinging. He led the International League in homers with the Orioles in 1944, 1946, 1947 and 1948 with 27, 38, 53 and 33.

May 14, 1989 JOHN STEADMAN Baltimore Evening Sun

In 1945, during the war, he was in the Navy at the Bainbridge (Md.) Training Station. Moss was later with the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians in 1946 for brief looks but was turned back each time. It was a career disappointment, yet he never complained that the game hadn't rewarded him with the thorough chance it had offered others with less impressive credentials.

Moss, age 70, died unexpectedly at his home in Baltimore Sunday and is to be buried Wednesday. He was the first of three Orioles to receive International League Most Valuable Player Awards in the '40s--Moss in 1944, Sherman Lollar in 1945 and Eddie Robinson in 1946.

A third baseman and outfielder with a strong arm, Moss hit the ball high and took advantage of a short left field in Baltimore's Municipal Stadium that had been converted from football to baseball after Oriole Park burned down on July 4, 1944.

Two of Moss' former Oriole teammates, Ray Flanigan and Milt Stockhausen, offer fond recollections.

"He was a great guess hitter, one of the best I ever saw," Stockhausen said. "He hit a lot of curveballs for home runs and had the right stroke for that fence in the stadium. It was about 280-feet down the line but went out sharply toward center field."

Flanigan, like Stockhausen and Moss, went to the Indians from the Orioles. "I don't know what happened that he didn't make it," Flanigan said. "Maybe he couldn't handle the good fastball up and in, but that goes for a lot of hitters. I do remember he'd chase a bad curveball when he got behind in the count but, again, so many others do that, too."

It seems unfair that the records categorize Moss with such other home run champions as Joe Hauser, Buzz Arlett and George Puccinelli--all of whom wore out International League pitching yet didn't do it in the majors.

They hit a ton but never had the advantage of a ready-made job situation in the big leagues, which at the time was limited to 16 clubs. Talent was evaluated in a severe and often discriminating manner.

Moss came to the Orioles after an unusual minor-league career that saw him start for Greenwood, Miss., in 1936 in the Cotton States League and suddenly quit for three years to play for an "outlaw" team in his hometown of Gastonia, N.C. It wasn't until 1941 that he got reinstated and returned to organized baseball.

The 1944 International League campaign saw the Orioles win the pennant, playoffs and Little World Series as Moss topped the league in home runs, 27; runs-batted-in, 141; doubles, 44, and hits, 178. Injuries were a problem, always seeming to occur when opportunity beckoned.

"I never believed in alibiing," he once said, "but every time I got a chance to go somewhere I either wound up on crutches or in a cast." In the Orioles opening game of the 1948 season---the first Orioles game ever televised---Moss belted two home runs in a 6-4 win over the Buffalo Bisons. The folks who stayed home to watch the game on TV probably made the better choice as an announced crowd of 9.085 watched and listened in bitter cold as a band was playing "In the Good Old Summertime."

© 2016 by Rick Benson

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