Sunday, January 11, 2015

I Didn't Know He Played For: Baltimore Orioles

Last week we started a look at a new series called "I didn't know they played for..." with a look at the minor league history of my home town, Reading, PA.  This week we take a look at the major league history of the Baltimore Orioles organization.

The Baltimore Orioles started as the St. Louis Browns.  (Of course you knew that because I'm sure you vividly recall the well written, exhilarating article about the history of team names).  The Browns did not have the greatest history but they did have quite a few recognizable names play for the team including George Sisler, Don Gutteridge and Pete Gray.

The team moved to Baltimore in 1954 (which you of course also knew because you read this blog every week, right?) Since moving to Baltimore the Orioles team has become one of the key identifying features of the city.  The fresh crab cakes from the inner harbor, the historical ships and the great shopping district are just as identifiable for the area.

The Orioles teams have had some of the greatest players of all time represent their team proudly.  Frank and Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken are the most identifiable.  Every organization has players that come through town on the way to making their mark some where else.  Sometimes the player is near the end of their career and are trying to make one last playoff run or World Series appearance.  These players are often remembered as a member of another organization but nevertheless appeared as a Brown or Oriole at some point.  Here are some of the players that you may not remember as having played for the Browns or Orioles.

Jiggs Donahue:
The name Jiggs Donahue may not resonate through the history of the game today but he played a very big part in one of the greatest upsets of all time.  The 1906 Cubs are still considered one of the greatest teams of all time.  They breezed through the National League before they ran into the crosstown rival White Sox, lovingly referred to that year as the "Hitless Wonders".  They were anything but hitless in the World Series.  Donahue was a driving force in that series playing like a man possessed.  A man who had only 25 extra base hits all year long ended up with two doubles and a triple in the upset win and drove in 5 runs.  In all Donahue played six years with the White Sox, his best being 1905.  Before he was a White Sox he was a member of the St.Louis Browns. Or more precisely, the original Milwaukee Brewers of 1901 who moved to St. Louis in 1902.  One of the contract jumpers from the National League at the start of the American League, Donahue signed with Milwaukee for 1901 and hit .316 in 37 games.  He played with the team in St.Louis in their first year there but appeared in only 30 games and hit .237.  In 1903 he was sent to the minors but resurfaced with the White Sox for 1904.

Bill Dinneen:
The first World Series in 1903 featured some of the greatest names of all time: Jimmy Collins, Fred Clarke, Tommy Leach, Honus Wagner and Cy Young.  The man who made the difference among all these  legends was Bill Dinneen.  Dinneen won three of the five games needed by the Red Sox to capture their first ever World Series title.  He continued to pitch for the Sox until 1907.  In June 1907, as the Sox were retooling for what would become the 1912-1918 dynasty, they sent their former pitching hero to the Browns for Beany Jacobson and $1500 dollars.  Dinneen would play two and a half years with the Browns before retiring.  He would go 27-24 with a 2.57 ERA in St.Louis.  Not bad considering how terrible most of those Browns teams were. Actually, the 1908 Browns also featured Rube Waddell, the former A's star, and put up a fight in the close American League race. Dinneen would go on to be a successful Major League umpire for many years after his playing days.

Charlie Root:
Despite not having won a World Series title since 1908 and not having reached a World Series since 1945, the Cubs were regularly in contention between 1908 and 1945.  Charlie Root was the ace of the Cubs' pitching staff on 4 World Series teams (1929, 1932, 1935 and 1938).  Despite being known as the man who gave up Babe Ruth's called shot, Root had a very good career, ending with a 201-160 record.  Root started with the Cubs in 1926 but before he was a Cub he was a Brown.  Root appeared in 27 games for the 5th place Browns in 1923, going 0-5 with a 5.70 ERA.  Obviously the Browns needed pitchers who could win so Root was sent back to the minors where he resurfaced three years later.

Jim Bottomley:

As hard as it may be for modern fans to believe, the St.Louis Cardinals were once the doormat of the National League.  As they came out of the darkness and into contention Jim Bottomley and Rogers Hornsby were the keys to the offense.  Bottomley even won an MVP award in 1928 as the Cardinals returned to the World Series.  But as always happens, the years go on, age catches up with the players and younger players come along.  When it was time for Bottomley to give up the first base bag he was not done with his career.  The Cardinals traded Bottomley to the Reds and after a few years finished his career with the lowly Browns.  In 2 years there he hit .285 (not bad but well below his .310 career average) and drove in 107 runs (less than what he used to accomplish in just one year with the Cardinals). Bottomley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.

Dizzy Dean:

Dizzy Dean is synonymous with the St.Louis Cardinals "Gashouse Gang" of 1934.  Dean was later a legendary broadcaster and was always known for his goofy persona.  What few people know is that the great Dean tried a come back in 1947.  He pitched 1 game for the Browns in 1947.  In 4 innings he allowed three hits and a walk but no runs and did not get a decision.

Eddie Lopat:
The Yankees, who dominated the game in the late 1940s and 1950s are mostly remembered for their offensive names like DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Bauer, Gordon and Rizzuto.  Often forgotten are their three aces of Allie Reynolds, Vic Raschi and Eddie Lopat.  In the 8 years that Lopat pitched in the Bronx, the Yankees won 5 World Series.  As the Yankees went for the 1955 AL pennant Lopat's record sat at 4-8.  The Yankees sent Lopat to the Orioles for pitcher Jim McDonald.  Lopat would pitch in only 10 games for the O's and went 3-4.  At the end of the season Lopat was released and retired.

Dizzy Trout:
Dizzy Trout worked with Hal Newhouser to lead the Tigers pitching staff of the 1940s.  Trout pitched in the World Series for the 1940 and 1945 for the Tigers and, although not as successful as Newhouser he was a fan favorite.  What few remember is that Dizzy, father of Steve Trout, ended his career with the birds.  Trout disappeared from the game after the 1952 season but resurfaced in Baltimore at the age of 42 in 1957.  Trout appeared in 2 games for the O's  and retired only one of the five batters he faced.  He allowed 4 hits and 3 runs in 1/3 of an inning for an ERA of 81.00.

Whitey Herzog:

Whitey Herzog was a Hall of Fame manager mostly with the Royals and Cardinals though he also spent time with the Rangers and Angels.  As with almost all managers, they had to be players somewhere before they became managers.  Herzog played for several teams but he played more in Baltimore than for any other team.  Herzog played two seasons (1961 and 1962) with the Orioles and hit .280 in his time there

Harvey Haddix:
Harvey Haddix was an All Star, Gold Glove winner and famously pitched 12 perfect innings before losing the game in the 13th.  He saw a lot of success with the Cardinals and Pirates, even winning a World Series title with the Pirates in 1960.  What few remember is where Haddix ended up.  In 1964 and 1965 Haddix pitched in Birdland.  After the 1963 season as the Pirates were looking for a youth movement Haddix was sent to Baltimore. He went 5-5 in 1964 and 3-4 in 1965.  His contract was sold to the Braves after the 1965 season.  Too bad.  Had he hung on one more year in Baltimore he would have gotten another World Series ring.

Enos Cabell:
Enos Cabell is one of the all time great players in the history of the Astros organization.  As Cabell matured as a player, the Astros matured as a team.  Before Cabell became an Astros legend he helped the Orioles make the playoffs.  He first appeared in the majors for three games in 1972.  His playing time increased to 30 games the next year and 80 games in 1974.  When the O's took on the A's in the 1974 ALCS Cabell saw action in three games although the A's went on to their third straight World Series win.  In December of that year Cabell was traded with Rob Andrews to the Astros in exchange for Lee May and Jay Schlueter.  It worked out for Cabell. The Astros would eventually retire his number.

Rick Burleson:
The name Rick Burleson may not stand out to casual fans, but Red Sox Nation certainly remembers him and the fans of the Angels should remember him too.  He played a big part in the success of both organizations.  The Rooster came up with the Red Sox in 1974 and finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting (he was behind Mike Hargrove, Bucky Dent and George Brett).  In 1975 the feisty Burleson combined with Denny Doyle as the middle infield in the Red Sox first World Series team since 1967.  After his time in Boston he went on to help the Angels organization for 5 years, even playing a big part in the  classic 1986 ALCS between the Halos and the Red Sox.  Burleson became a free agent after the 1986 season.  The Orioles hadn't quite figured out what direction they were heading and despite having a young Bill Ripken in their minor league system they signed Burleson.  In 1987 Burleson would play 62 games and hit .209.  He would retire after the 1987 season.

Dwight Evans:
Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Fred Lynn.  It's a hell of an outfield but it didn't leave room for one of the most important pieces of the 1975 Red Sox.  Dewey Evans was too good to sit on the bench so Yaz moved to First Base to make room.  From 1972-1990 Evans patrolled the Fenway outfield and was there for every near victory and painful defeat.  He made one of the most unbelievably spectacular catches in the 1975 World Series.  When the Reds rallied in 1975 Game 7 Dewey watched it.  When Buckner let the ball trickle through Dewey saw it.  And when McGwire, Canseco and the Bash Brothers destroyed the Red Sox Dewey was there.  He played 2505 games in a Red Sox uniform.  After 19 years of service in the Boston organization the Red Sox were ready to move on with Mike Greenwell, Ellis Burks and Tom Brunansky.  After the 1990 season the Red Sox released Evans.  He felt he still had something left to contribute so he went to Baltimore, who experts felt were close to a big rebirth.  Instead 1991 was the tipping point downward for Baltimore.  Prior to the season they had sent three minor leaguers (Pete Harnisch, Steve Finley and Curt Schilling) to Houston for Glenn Davis.  Davis played in only 49 games that year.  Evans managed to play in 100 games and finished with a respectable .270 but his RBI (38) and Home Runs (6) were way below his standards.  Evans retired at the end of the season.

Lonnie Smith: 
Everywhere Lonnie Smith went World Series appearances (usually wins) would follow.  Philadelphia (1980), St. Louis (1982) Kansas City (1985), Atlanta (1991, 1992). Everywhere except Baltimore.  Smith had signed with the Pirates in  1993 after a successful stay in Atlanta.  At the trade deadline, with the Orioles feeling they might still catch the Blue Jays,  the Orioles sent 2 minor leaguers to the Pirates for Smith.  It wasn't a Glenn Davis bad trade (the two minor leaguers never made an impact in the majors) but Smith only played in 9 games for the O's that year.  They did not catch the Jays.  Smith played in 35 games for the O's in the strike shortened 1994 season.  When the game returned in 1995 Smith did not.  He retired.

Sid Fernandez:
Doc Gooden, Ron Darling and David Cone got the headlines as the stars of the pitching staff for the Mets of the 1980s,.  Sid Fernandez quietly succeeded.  Fernandez pitched 10 years for the Mets and won just short of 100 games for the Mets, not including the post season.  When his contract with the Mets ended after the 1993 season, Fernandez signed with Baltimore.  Sid finished at 6-6 with a 5.15 ERA in his first AL year.  He started the next season at 0-4 with a 7.39 ERA and was released on July 10, 1995.

Joe Carter:

For a short while, a very brief period, there was a nice little rivalry brewing between the O's and Jays in the AL East.  From 1989 to 1993 the Orioles and Jays were fighting for the top perch.  Fans in Baltimore hated their northern neighbors and Joe Carter was the leader, the icon of that group.  After the 1997 season Carter was a free agent and he signed with the Orioles.  His stay was brief, only 85 games, and he hit only .247 but he did hit 11 Home Runs.  At the trade deadline, with the Orioles' inflated payroll and reduced results, Carter was traded to the Giants for a minor league prospect.

Ozzie Guillen:
The Orioles in the mid/late 1990s were so close to winning.  They had come up just short in 1997.  The off season of 1997-1998 was a disaster.  Their manager, an organizational legend as a player who had just won Manager of the Year, left.  With the front office realizing that their team was old and with a small window left to win the Orioles decided to mortgage the future and bring in as many veteran stars (regardless of age) as possible.  Joe Carter and Doug Drabek were signed.  Looking for a Short Stop that would allow Cal Ripken to move to Third Base, the Orioles signed Ozzie Guillen. Ozzie played all  of 12 games for the O's in 1998(mostly as a backup for Mike Bordick) and hit .083 in just 18 plate appearances. Guillen was released by the Orioles on May 1 and signed with the Braves.

Casey Blake:
Casey Blake developed into a strong defensive third baseman and good middle of the lineup hitter for the Indians and Dodgers.  When Cleveland nearly reached the 2007 World Series, Blake was at the hot corner.  When the Dodgers lost back to back NLCS to the Phillies in 2008 and 2009, Blake played a big part.  Blake's road to success was not quite that easy.  Along the way he passed through the Phillies, Tigers, Yankees and Blue Jays systems eventually ending up with the Twins.  After a short stay there Blake was waived by the Twins and on September 21, 2001 the Orioles took a chance.  Blake played in 6 games for the O's  He had 2 hits in 15 At Bats (.133) but one of those two hits was a Home Run.  Blake also stole two bases.  At the end of the year Blake was waived by the Orioles and reclaimed by the Twins ending his tenure with the O's.

The Glenn Davis trade mentioned today was one of the worst trades in baseball history.  Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley were sent to the Houston Astros.  How many All Star Appearances did these three combine for and how many times did they  play on a World Series team?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
It is often said that the Dodgers purchased the Reading team for Carl Furillo and the air conditioned bus.  The team was not overloaded with great talent but the 1941 Reading Brooks did send a few players (other than the obvious Furillo) to the Major Leagues:
Al Campanis: Played 7 games in 1943 for the Dodgers.
Paul Cheverinko: Had already spent his time in the majors by 1941.  He played a combined 42 games in 1937 and 1938 for the Dodgers.
Buck Etchison: Would not play for Brooklyn but spent 1943 and 1944 in Boston with the Braves.  This included 109 games in the war reduced ranks of the Major Leagues.
Heinie Heltzel: Played 29 games for the 1943 Braves and 11 games for the 1944 Phillies.
Lyle Judy: Similar to Cheverinko, Judy had already played in the majors.  He spent all of 8 games with the Cardinals in 1935.
Joe Walsh: Pitcher Joe Walsh had also already spent his time in the Majors by 1941.  He appeared in 8 games for the Boston Braves in 1938.


  1. Good article. You are right, some players I had no idea they were associated with the O's.
    I never new Bill Dinneen was a player. Just associated his name with being an umpire.
    Ed Lopat I always think of the Yankees and Dizzy Trout the tigers.
    Whitey Herzog and Enos Cabell I do associate with the O's.
    I had no idea that Joe Carter played for the O's. That was the biggest surprise of the blog.
    Truly unfortunate that Ozzie Guillen had to be associated with the O's.
    I consider myself a true fan of the tigers and Phils but I have no recollection of Casey Blake playing for either team. He definitely did not make an impression with me.

    My guess is 8 All Star appearances and 3 World Series appearances.


  2. I remembered some names from past articles (because I read everything you write obviously! ;) ) but didn't know they played in Baltimore. Well written piece. You can tell you're a fan when the tone you write with is a little lighter. ;)


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