Thursday, May 31, 2012

THE ORIOLES WERE NEVER THE BROWNS!


  The Orioles were never the Browns! As the first Public Relations Director of the Orioles I can testify to the fact that neither those of us connected with the club or the fans of Baltimore ever thought of ourselves as a continuation of the Browns. We were a new franchise, a new ball club, an entirely new organization, and our history was tied into the long history of Baltimore Orioles baseball, not St. Louis baseball.
The St. Louis Browns had their own history. Unfortunately their story came to an end in 1953. There’s no need to tack on Baltimore’s history to their history.  To read something like the following is really annoying to me:

When the Orioles were the St. Louis Browns, they played in only one World Series, the 1944 matchup against their Sportsman's Park tenants, the Cardinals.    

That’s a quote from a current Wikipedia article on the "Baltimore Orioles.'' Here’s another from the same article:

        The Baltimore Orioles are a professional baseball team based in Baltimore, Maryland in the United States. They are a member of the Eastern Division of Major League Baseball's American League. One of the American League's eight charter franchises in 1901, it spent its first year as a major league club in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as the Milwaukee Brewers before moving to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. After 52 mostly hapless years in St. Louis, the Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 and adopted the Orioles name in honor of the official state bird of Maryland. 

Memorial Stadium, home of the American League Orioles from 1954 until they
 moved to Camden Yards, following the 1991 season. The once proud stadium
has since been demolished.
That last sentence is totally false! The Browns did not adopt the name "Orioles." The new owners of the Baltimore franchise assumed the name.
        Note that the article traces the Orioles’ history back even to the Milwaukee Brewers, but I can’t fault the anonymous author of the article, because he or she is just repeating the commonly accepted version of things. But the commonly accepted version of things needs to be corrected!
Baltimoreans take no pride in the fact that Hugh Duffy of the old Milwaukee Brewers is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet he along with several former Browns’ are grouped with the Orioles Hall of Famers under the general heading “Baltimore Orioles Hall of Famers”! That’s ridiculous! The Orioles were never the Browns, and the Orioles were never the Brewers!
        When the group of Marylanders led by Attorney Clarence W. Miles purchased the St. Louis Browns franchise in 1953, the Browns ceased to be. The new owners also purchased the International League Orioles from their owner, Jack Dunn III, part of whose compensation was the guarantee of a permanent front office position with the new Major League organization.
        The city of Richmond, Virginia, was awarded the International League franchise vacated by Baltimore. The owners of the new American League franchise had no intention of calling their new team anything else but THE ORIOLES.
Don Larsen, a former Brown
pitcher, who, after a 3 and 21

season with the Orioles, was

traded to the Yankees, where

he pitched a perfect game in

the 1956 World Series vs.

the Brooklyn Dodgers.
        Seventeen of the former Browns players were retained by the new Orioles General Manager, Arthur Ehlers, and team Manager Jimmy Dykes. For these players, as for all other professional baseball players, their individual statistics include their time with any and all teams for whom they played, including the Browns.
        The Major League Orioles’ team records, however, date from 1954, their first season in the American League. Now here’s where baseball historians, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and The Baseball Encyclopedia (the holy bible of Major League Baseball), are all completely wrong, in my view. In adding up the team records of the current Orioles, they include the St. Louis Browns’ records, as if they were a continuous franchise!
        If the records of the present team are to be linked to those of any other American League team, let it be to the 1901 and 1902 American League Orioles. That franchise, incidentally, was moved to New York, but the Yankees were never the Orioles! Rather the Orioles joined the International League, where they remained for 51 years!
Oriole Park on 29th Street, where the International League Orioles played
until the ball park burned down the night of July 4, 1944. They then moved
to Baltimore Municipal Stadium, which was converted into a baseball park
 in ten days under the supervision of Orioles Business Manager Herb
Armstrong. The AAA Orioles outdrew ten of the Major League clubs
that season!
        Furthermore, before the original American League Orioles, there were the National League Orioles from 1892 to 1900! To complete this historical outline, Baltimore’s first professional baseball team made its debut in 1872, when they obtained a franchise in the second year of the National Association of Profession Baseball Players, the first organized baseball league, commonly referred to as The National Association. They were known then as “the Canaries,” also referred to as the “Yellow Stockings” or the “Lord Baltimores.”                    
        Their three-year history in that league ended rather ignominiously and even scandalously, so that organized baseball did not return to Baltimore until 1882, when the city joined the newly formed American Association, which was started to rival the seven-year old National League. It was in 1883 that they became known as “the Orioles,” and Baltimore’s professional baseball team, whatever the league, has been called that ever since.
        There is another aspect to my argument that needs to be pointed out. Who owns a team’s nickname? Since I’m not an intellectual properties attorney, there are legal issues here about which I’m not qualified to speak.  But I can express my opinion about the moral/ethical implications. As a PR person, I worked hard to build the loyalty of our fans. The Orioles were their (the fans') team. They were Baltimore’s team. They were the Baltimore Orioles.
        Perish the thought, but if the franchise is ever moved, I think it would be wrong for the owners, be they new or the same individuals, to take the nickname with them. The nickname belongs to the community, in my opinion. If it doesn’t, it should. I realize that other communities could name their team “the Orioles,” but that should not preclude a new Baltimore team from becoming the new Baltimore Orioles, if that’s what the fans want.
        Maybe there’s a time factor here that should be figured into any decision related to a community’s claim to the nickname of its sports teams. If a city has been linked to a team’s name as long as Baltimore has to the Orioles, the fans of that city should have the first claim to that name as long as they want.
        When Walter O’Malley moved the Dodgers to Los Angeles, he had the legal right to move the franchise, but I don’t think he had the moral right to call them the Dodgers. Because of their long association with Brooklyn, they should have been called something else. To the Brooklyn fans, they were their Dodgers!  Nor should the team records of the two franchises be combined! The Brooklyn Dodgers had their records and the Los Angeles Dodgers have theirs.  Brooklyn fans can take no civic pride in L.A.’s accomplishments.
        If in the unlikely event that Brooklyn should ever again acquire a Major League franchise, and if the fans so desire, they should have the right to call themselves the Brooklyn Dodgers again. I feel the same way about the Athletics and the Braves and every other team that moves. The name belongs to the community! Baltimore got it right, so let's not muddy the Crab Town waters by saying the Orioles were once the Browns. No! The Orioles were always the Orioles.
        So when Horace Stoneham, at the encouragement of Walter O’Malley, moved the New York National League franchise to San Francisco, even though he continued to be the owner, and even though he may have trademarked the name of the team, they ceased to be the New York Giants. Again, the records of those two franchises should not be combined.
        In the case of the Browns, the franchise was acquired by new owners, and as stated above, the Browns ceased to be. It would have been wrong, in my opinion, for Baltimore to call its new team “the Browns.” The Browns belonged to St. Louis, and that’s where their memory, as the Browns, should rest in peace. The franchise was buried in St. Louis, not in Baltimore.
        The Baltimore Orioles were never the Browns! Who will join me in spreading that word?

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