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Baltimore Got Its Shot Back in 1954

Baltimore didn't fight to keep Veeck as owner.

"The Browns were, after all, a failure," Bready said. "Veeck had to share some of the blame. The people putting up the money wanted to have control."

On Sept. 28, 1953, Major League Baseball approved the move of the St. Louis Browns. The franchise, renamed the Baltimore Orioles, would begin play in 1954.

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Though it might pain Orioles fans to hear this, the franchise's first incarnation in 1901-02 helped spawn their American League East rival, the New York Yankees. From 1882 to 1899, a franchise known as the Orioles existed in the American Association and then in the new National League. A different version of the franchise entered the American League in 1901 but lasted only through 1902, moving to New York after the season. From 1903 to 1912, that franchise was known as the New York Highlanders. But in 1913, the team's name was changed to the Yankees.

Baltimore was without a major league franchise for 52 years, though a minor league version of the Orioles existed during that time and had its share of important history. On Feb. 27, 1914, 19-year-old George Herman Ruth signed with the International League Orioles for $600. During spring training that year, Ruth's older teammates referred to him as one of owner Jack Dunn's "babes." The name stuck and sportswriters began referring to Ruth as "Babe." The Orioles soon stumbled into financial hardship and Dunn was forced to sell Ruth to the Boston Red Sox for $8,500. At the time Ruth, then mostly a pitcher, was 13-6 for the Orioles, who were in first place by 5 1/2 games.

"He really was establishing himself as a major league player [in Baltimore], to an extent where the Red Sox knew about him," said Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Museum.

Bready said the city hardly loved its minor league Orioles. Attendance was sparse. But momentum grew stronger for a major league team.

The Baltimore relocation group began to worry that baseball would decide to move the Browns to the West Coast. Groups in California were pushing for expansion past the Mississippi River. But those groups had yet to firm up their bids.

"Baltimore had built a stadium," said Bready, who was an editorial writer for the Baltimore Evening Sun for 40 years. "The other cities did not have built stadiums to offer. All they had were grandiose plans."

On April 15, 1954, the new Baltimore Orioles arrived at Camden Station and were met by a sizable crowd. The 25 players got off the train and headed straight for a parade. Many Baltimore businesses and schools closed for the day.

"It was fantastic," D'Alesandro III said. "The city went crazy. The realization we were a major league city was like hitting the lottery."

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