Posts tagged Baltimore Orioles

Babe Ruth’s Band At St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys

In February 1914, George Herman “Babe” Ruth signed his first professional baseball contract in the office of Brother Paul Scanlon, the Superintendent of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Babe Ruth’s parents had signed their son over to the Xaverian Brothers when he was eight years old and Brother Paul, as superintendent of the school and Ruth’s legal guardian, was required to sign the player contract on his behalf. Present at the signing that day, in addition to Ruth and Brother Paul, were Jack Dunn, owner of the International League Baltimore Orioles, and Brother Gilbert, the Athletic Director at nearby Mount St. Joseph’s (High School) College (he was a friend of Dunn’s). Prior to that meeting, Dunn and Brother Gilbert had introduced Dunn to Brother Matthias Boutlier (or Boutelier), who was instrumental in helping Ruth develop his baseball skills. Ruth’s contract set his salary at $600 for the season.

Former Site of St. Mary's Industrial School and Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland, April 2015

Former Site of St. Mary’s Industrial School and Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland, April 2015

The Baltimore Sun reported the signing on February 15, 1914:”[t]he Oriole magnate signed another local player yesterday. The new Bird is George H. Ruth, a pitcher, who played with teams out the Frederick road. Ruth is six feet tall and fanned 22 men in an amateur game last season. He is regarded as a very hard hitter, so Dunn will try him out down South.” On March 2, 1914, prior to Ruth’s departure for Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Dunn’s Orioles held spring training, Brother Paul took Ruth on a tear-filled tour of St. Mary’s so that Ruth could say goodbye to his friends at the school. Brother Paul then accompanied Ruth to Union Station in Baltimore, where he departed for North Carolina, on what was the first of Ruth’s many train rides.

The Famous Bands Of St. Mary's Industrial School, Postcard (T & M Ottenheimer, Baltimore)

The Famous Bands Of St. Mary’s Industrial School, Postcard (T & M Ottenheimer, Baltimore)

Although Ruth later would become the most famous export of St. Mary’s Industrial School, at the time of his departure, it was the St. Mary’s Bands that perhaps had brought the school the most fame in Baltimore and around the country (John Phillips Sousa is said to have stated that St. Mary’s was the best high school band he had ever heard).

St. Mary's Industrial School Souvenir Program, Annual Concert, April 24, 1914 Image Huggins and Scott Auctions)

St. Mary’s Industrial School Souvenir Program, Annual Concert, April 24, 1914 Image (Huggins and Scott Auctions)

On April 24, 1914, just a month and a half after Ruth departed the school, St. Mary’s held its Annual Concert. Included in the school program was a now-famous photo of Ruth and his teammates, who in 1914 were league champions (according to the photo). The photo depicts the team grouped in front of the school’s bandstand or gazebo. Exactly five years to the day after that concert was performed, a fire started by a errant piece of coal destroyed most of the buildings at St. Mary’s.

St. Mary's Industrial School Baseball Team Photo 1914 (Image Huggins and Scott Auctions)

St. Mary’s Industrial School Baseball Team Photo 1914 (Image Huggins and Scott Auctions)

The fire destroyed the main school building, although the chapel that sat at the corner of South Caton Avenue and Wilkins Avenue was spared.

St. Mary's Industrial School in 1919, After the Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

St. Mary’s Industrial School in 1919, After the Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

At the time of the devastating fire, Ruth was a member of the New York Yankees and well on his way to becoming a baseball legend. When Ruth learned of the fire he was determined to find a way to rebuild the school. Although it is not clear who’s idea it was, Ruth helped the school raise money through a tour by the St. Mary’s Industrial School Band. Brother John Sterne, who as an adolescent attended St. Mary’s, played in the band on that tour and years later recounted the event: “[d]uring the last road trip of the 1920 season, Babe sponsored the St. Mary’s Band to travel with the Yankees as ‘Babe Ruth’s Boys Band.’ Giving concerts at the ball parks before the game, the boys would later circulate among the patrons, collecting change and bills in their sailor hats. Not only was a goodly sum of cash received, but the free publicity was invaluable. By this effort, the Babe gave much back to his alma mater, of which he was always proud.” Cairnes, Phillip F. (Brother Gilbert), Young Babe Ruth, His Early Life and Baseball Career, From the Memoirs Of A Xaverian Brother, McFarland 1999, p. 11.

St. Mary's Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth's Band

St. Mary’s Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth’s Band

Brother Paul, who was school superintendent at the time of the fire, accompanied the St. Mary’s Band on that trip. As part of St. Mary’s efforts to raise funds, the school produced a Private Mailing Card that pictures the St. Mary’s Band near the baseball field where Ruth once played. The bandstand, where Ruth posed for the 1914 team photo, is visible in the background of the card as well.

Reverse Of St. Mary's Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth's Band

Reverse Of St. Mary’s Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth’s Band

The reverse of the Private Mailing Card includes a printed acknowledgement from Brother Paul, thanking patrons for contributing funds for rebuilding the school. One example of that card, which is pictured above, has a personal note from Brother Paul dated March 3, 1921, thanking “Miss Cramer” for a one dollar donation. Brother Paul adds, “Shall have our little boys pray for your intention. May God bless you.” Brother Paul remained at St. Mary’s until 1925, and three years later was named Superior General of the Xaverian order.

Newspaper Enterprise Association Photo of St. Mary's Industrial School, Baltimore, Maryland, August 17, 1948

Newspaper Enterprise Association Photo of St. Mary’s Industrial School, Baltimore, Maryland, August 17, 1948

With the help of Ruth the school was rebuilt and continued to serve wayward boys of Baltimore another 30 years. On August 16, 1948, Ruth died in New York City and at St. Mary’s the following day, a special prayer service was held for Ruth at the school’s chapel. A NEA wire photo captures the moment. The photo’s description, set forth on the back of the photo, states: “BALTIMORE, MD. — Sorrowful boys at St. Mary’s Industrial School kneel at the altar in the school’s chapel for morning prayers after they were informed that Babe Ruth, a graduate of the institution and one of its greatest benefactors, had died. In center is Brother Herbert who taught at the school when Babe Ruth attended. At extreme right is Brother Charles, superintendent of the school.”

Newspaper Enterprise Association Photo Description of August 17, 1948 St. Mary's Industrial School Photo

Newspaper Enterprise Association Description of August 17, 1948 Photo, St. Mary’s Industrial School

St. Mary’s Industrial School closed in 1950, and the facility later was reopened as Cardinal Gibbons High School (as an aside, it was Cardinal Gibbons who performed Ruth’s Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Mary’s in 1907). Cardinal Gibbons High School closed in 2010. The property is now being redeveloped by St. Agnes Hospital. It is perhaps fitting that, once Babe Ruth died, the school that helped make him who he was, was shuttered as well. Newspaper accounts do not mention whether Babe Ruth’s Band played one last time in his honor the day he passed.

Belair Road And North Avenue – The First Intersection Of Beer and Baseball in Baltimore

The hardscrabble intersection of Belair Road and North Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, has no marker noting the importance of the area to the history of Baltimore baseball, or to the history of Baltimore beer, for that matter. However, Eagle Brewery and Malt House, which once stood in the northwest quadrant of that intersection, has deep baseball roots.

Detail from E. Sachse, & Co.'s Bird's Eye View of the City of Baltimore, 1869. (Library of Congress) (courtesy Ken Mars) (http://www.loc.gov/resource/g3844b.pm002540/#seq-1)

Detail from E. Sachse, & Co.’s Bird’s Eye View of the City of Baltimore, 1869. (Library of Congress) (courtesy Ken Mars)

Built on the former site of Richardson’s Oil Cloth Mill, the brewery was started by John Henry Von Der Horst in 1866 as part of the J. H. Von Der Horst Brewing Company. In 1880, John Von Der Horst gave his son, Henry R. “Harry” Von Der Horst, an interest in the brewery and renamed the company J. H. Von Der Horst & Son Brewing Company. With profits from the Eagle Brewery, Harry Von Der Horst in the early 1880s purchased a franchise in the American Association, a new major league hoping to rival the National League.

Baltimore Orioles American Association Scorecard 1884 (courtesy of Ted Patterson)

Baltimore Orioles American Association Scorecard 1884 (courtesy of Ted Patterson)

Unlike the National League, however, the American Association permitted its franchises to sell beer at their home games. Harry Von Der Horst installed a beer garden in his ballpark and encouraged fans to remain even after the game had ended to consume more beer. Although the American Association Orioles (they were the first professional Baltimore baseball team known as the Orioles) never placed higher than third during their decade in existence, the sale of beer at the games proved quite profitable.

Baltimore Orioles American Association Scorecard 1884 (courtesy of Ted Patterson)

Baltimore Orioles American Association Scorecard 1884 (courtesy of Ted Patterson)

In 1892, with the demise of the American Association, Harry Von Der Horst’s Orioles entered the newly-expanded National League, and just two years later, in 1894, brought Baltimore its first ever professional baseball championship.

Baltimore Orioles, 1897, John McGraw at bottom left (laying down) and Wilbert Robertson second row, third from right

Baltimore Orioles in 1897 (Manager Ned Hanlon pictured in suit)

Eagle Brewery and Malt House was bounded by Belair Road and Vonderhorst Lane (now Homestead Street) to the East, Sinclair Street to the North, Patterson Park Avenue to the west, and North Avenue to the South.

Maryland Map Circa 1892 (courtesy of Ken Mars)

Maryland Map Circa 1892 (Johns Hopkins University) (Courtesy of Ken Mars)

By the 1880s, Eagle Brewery was one of the largest in the city. According to the book Baltimore: Its Past and Present, A Souvenir Of The 27th Convention of the United States Brewer’s Association (A. Von Degen, 1887), the main brewery building was erected in 1880, was five stories high, and included three large steel boilers.

Von Der horst Brewery Circa 1880s (courtesy of Ken Mars)

Von Der horst Brewery Circa 1880s (courtesy of Ken Mars)

Eagle Brewery also had its own six-story malt house which produced 100,000 bushels of malt each year, and a five story ice house which provided refrigeration through the use of two DeLaVergne steam-driven ammonia compressors. The brewery’s annual production was 40,000 barrels.

Von Der Horst Brewery Circa 1890

Von Der Horst Brewery Circa 1890s

The two drawings above depicts the brewery as it looked fronting Belair Road, just south of what is now Homestead Street (formerly Vonderhorst Lane). The picture below shows that plot of land as it appears today, at the intersection of Belair Road and Homestead Street. The street address is 1920 Belair Road (formerly 10 Belair Avenue Extended).

Former Site of Eagle Brewery and Malt House, Baltimore, Maryland

Former Site of Eagle Brewery and Malt House, at intersection of Belair Road and Homestead Street, Baltimore, Maryland

There are no buildings from the Von Der Horst brewery at the site today. A portable building located at the former entrance to the brewery on Belair Street is owned by Power House World Ministries, which also owns several other buildings across from the site on Belair Road.

Power House World Ministries Building on Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland

Power House World Ministries Building on Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland, Across the street from the former site of Eagle Brewery.

On the day I visited the site with Ken Mars, a Baltimore baseball historian, the head of that church, Bishop James A. Winslow, Jr., was whacking weeds on the property. Bishop Winslow hopes to acquire other properties on the block to help fulfill his noble mission of serving those who “are less fortunate and have been beaten down by life.”

Bishop James A. Winslow, Jr. and Baseball Historian Ken Mars.

Bishop James A. Winslow, Jr. and Baseball Historian Ken Mars.

Behind the former entrance to the brewery on Belair Road is the Allender Bus Company, located at 2301 Sinclair Lane.

Sinclair Street, Baltimore, Maryland

Allender Bus Company, 2301 Sinclair Lane, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Site of Eagle Brewery

The Allender Bus Company sits on the portion of the property that once included the five story brewery building and the six story malt house.

Allender Bus Company, 2301 Sinclair Lane, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Site of Eagle Brewery

Allender Bus Company, 2301 Sinclair Lane, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Site of Eagle Brewery

The tract of land that fronts Belair Road sits at a higher elevation than the tract where Allender Bus Company is located. At about this spot once sat the five-story ice house, which had deep vaults located several stories below ground. One can only wonder what an excavation of this area might reveal.

Former Site of Eagle Brewery, between Belair Road and Sinclair Lane

Former Site of Eagle Brewery, between Belair Road and Sinclair Lane

Running parallel to Homestead Street is the former Goetze Meat Plant. A Baltimore landmark that remains to this day is the large, metal Goetze sign that sits along Sinclair Lane, just south of the railroad tracks.

Geotze Meat Plant and Sign, Baltimore, Maryland

Geotze Meat Plant and Sign, Baltimore, Maryland

Homestead Street today is really nothing more than an alley, now closed off and impervious to vehicular traffic.

Homestead Lane (Formerly Vonderhorst Lane), Baltimore, Maryland

Homestead Street (Formerly Vonderhorst Lane), Baltimore, Maryland

In 1929, during the height of prohibition, the Baltimore City Council voted to change the name of the street from Vonderhorst Lane to Homestead Lane because local residents did not like the road, or the surrounding area, being linked to the former brewery.

Homestead Lane and Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland

Homestead Lane and Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland

However, perhaps as a homage to the former landmark, the city changed only a portion of the street and left a one block stretch of Vonderhorst Lane east of Belair Road on the map and at the site.

Vonderhorst Lane and Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland

Vonderhorst Lane and Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland

Across the street from the former brewery on Belair Road is a sign for Vonderhorst Lane, which marks a right of way which now is nothing more than an alley.

Vonderhorst Lane, Baltimore, Maryland

Vonderhorst Lane, Baltimore, Maryland

The eastern end of Vonderhorst Lane terminates at Baltimore Cemetery, which perhaps is appropriate because Baltimore Cemetery is the final resting place for the Von Der Horst family.

Eastern Terminus of Vonderhorst Lane, Baltimore, Maryland

Eastern Terminus of Vonderhorst Lane, Baltimore, Maryland

In 1894, John Von Der Horst died and was interred in a mausoleum near the entrance to Baltimore Cemetery.

Von Der Horst Mausoleum, Baltimore Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

Von Der Horst Mausoleum, Baltimore Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

Also interred in the family vault is John’s wife Johanna, and his son John H. Von Der Horst, Jr., and his wife Mary.

The Von Der Horst Vault, Baltimore Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

The Von Der Horst Vault, Baltimore Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

After his father’s death in 1894, Harry Von Der Horst inherited a large portion of the brewery and formed Von Der Horst Brewing Company. In 1898, Harry Von Der Horst moved to New York, where he was part owner of the Brooklyn Superbras (which included several former Oriole players, including manager Ned Hanlon). In 1899, Von Der Horst Brewing Company became part of the Maryland Brewing Company, a consolidation of 16 or 17 Baltimore breweries. Harry Von Der Horst retained a share of that company, but eventually sold his shares to the Gottlieb-Bauernschmidt-Strauss Brewing Company. By 1904, Gottlieb-Bauernschmidt-Strauss had ceased making beer at the Eagle Brewery site and leased the former Von Der Horst property to Wilson Distilling Company.

Wilson Brewery Whiskey Label

Wilson Distilling Company Whiskey Label

Harry Von Der Horst died in New York in 1905, and is interred in the Von Der Horst vault along with his wife Emma, and his daughters Charlotte and Louise.

Von Der Horst Cress

Von Der Horst Cress on the Door to the Family Mausoleum

As for the former brewery site, during prohibition, the property was used to make alcohol products not intended for human consumption, although stories in the Baltimore Sun talk of bootlegging raids on the premises. In the 1930s, a car dealership, Backus Chevrolet, opened at the site, and in 1938, H.J. Weissner converted the dealership to a used car lot. In the 1980s a Church’s Fried Chicken restaurant was located at the site.

Former Site of Entrance to Eagle Brewery and Malt House, Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland

Former Site of Eagle Brewery and Malt House, and Wilson Distilling Company, Belair Road, Baltimore, Maryland

During his time as a baseball executive in Baltimore, Harry Von Der Horst brought the city three baseball championships, in 1894, 1895, and 1896. He also owned and/or helped construct three ballparks to house his teams. The first was Oriole Park (Oriole Park I), known as Huntington Avenue Grounds and American Association Park), at the southeast corner of what is now East 25th Street and Barclay Street. The American Association Orioles played there from 1883 to 1889. The second was Oriole Park II, located at the southwest corner of what is now Greenmount Avenue and East 29th Street, where the American Association Orioles played from 1890 to 1891. The third was Oriole Park III, also known as Union Park and the Baltimore Baseball and Exhibition Grounds, where American Association Orioles played in 1891. The National League Orioles played at Union Park up through the 1899 season.

Baltimore Skyline As Seen From Von Der Horst Mausoleum in Baltimore Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore Skyline As Seen From Von Der Horst Mausoleum in Baltimore Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore Cemetery sits on one of the highest spots in the City of Baltimore, approximately three miles northeast of Camden Yards, the home of the current Baltimore Orioles. Although the neighborhood has changed dramatically since Harry Von Der Horst’s death, it seems fitting that the city skyline is readily visible from the front steps of the final resting place of the man who first brought together Baltimore baseball and beer.

John McGraw’s and Wilbert Robinson’s Former Baltimore Homes Damaged By Fire

Chances are most people who live in the 2700 block of St. Paul Street in Baltimore, Maryland, have no idea that the two houses on their block that caught on fire on February 7th were once owned by two future baseball Hall of Famers, John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson.

2700 Block of St. Paul Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Where Wilbert Robertson and John McGraw Once Lived

2700 Block of St. Paul Street in Baltimore, Maryland. Where Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw Once Lived

McGraw and Robinson lived next door to each other at 2738 (McGraw) and 2740 (Robinson) St. Paul Street.

2738 and 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Where Wilbert Robertson and John McGraw Once Lived

2738 and 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Where John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson Once Lived

Both McGraw and Robinson played for the world champion Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s, when the team was a National League affiliate.Both players also were partners in the Diamond Cafe, located just two miles south of their homes, at 519 Howard Street in Baltimore. The Diamond is considered one of the first sports bar in the country.

Baltimore Orioles, 1897, John McGraw at bottom left  (laying down) and Wilbert Robertson second row, third from right

Baltimore Orioles, 1897, John McGraw, at bottom left (laying down) and Wilbert Robinson, second row, third from right

Robertson bought his house at 2738 St. Paul Street in 1898. McGraw bought the adjoining house at 2740 that same year. Robinson lived in the house with his wife and children. McGraw lived next door with his first wife, the former Minnie Doyle, and McGraw’s brother Mike. See The Real McGraw, by Mrs. John J. McGraw (p 112), The houses were located only two blocks north and four blocks east of the Orioles home ballpark, Union Park.

Rear of Row Houses at 2740 and 2738 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Former Homes of Wilbert Robertson and John McGraw.

Rear of Row Houses at 2740 and 2738 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland. Former Homes of Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw.

On February 7, 2015, a fire broke out in one of the homes and quickly spread to the other. Five people, including two children were injured in the blaze, although none appeared to be life threatening. Robertson’s home at 2740 St. Paul Street sustained the bulk of the damage. All of its front windows have been boarded up and the city has condemned the property because of the damage.

Fire Damaged House at 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Wilbert Robertson.

Fire Damaged House at 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Wilbert Robinson.

2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Circa 2013

Before the FIre, 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Circa 2013

Hopefully both buildings can be saved and restored. Although neither house is listed on any historic register, they should be given their connection to two Baltimore’s greatest baseball players.

Fire Damage To 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Forrmer House of Wilbert Robertson

Fire Damage To 2740 St. Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Forrmer House of Wilbert Robinson

Several other homes of former National League Orioles Hall of Famers still stand in Baltimore City. These include Joe Kelley’s former home at 530 East 22nd Street, which is located next to St. Ann’s Catholic Church, where John McGraw married his second wife Blanche Sindall, on January 8, 1902.

Former Home of Joe Kelley

530 E 22nd Street, Baltimore, Maryland (three story tan brick row house). Former Home of Hall of Famer Joe Kelley

A former boarding house where John McGraw and Hughie Jennings both lived also still stands, at 12 West 24th Street (just six blocks west of Union Park’s former site).

Former Boarding House at 12 West 24th Street , Baltimore, Maryland, Where John McGraw and Hughie Jennings Once Roomed

Former Boarding House at 12 West 24th Street , Baltimore, Maryland, Where John McGraw and Hughie Jennings Once Roomed

Another house where Jennings once lived also still stands, but just barely, at 529 East 23rd Street.

529 East 23rd Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Hughie Jennings

529 East 23rd Street, Baltimore, Maryland, Former Home of Hughie Jennings

As Joni Mitchell once famously sang, “you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”

Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings

Former Orioles and Baseball Hall of Famers Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings

The past, as seen through these buildings, is with us today. Like Al Kaline’s boyhood home, these buildings are an important part of Baltimore’s history. They should be preserved and their history celebrated. Unfortunately, the passage of time and a lack of vision have  a way of allowing structures like these to slip away.

Thanks to local Baltimore baseball historian Ken Mars for contacting me about the fire.

Celebrating New Beginnings at Union Park’s Former Site

East 25th Street, Baltimore, former site of Union Park

East 25th Street, Baltimore, former site of Union Park

The mission of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center is to create and maintain equal housing opportunities for low-and moderate-income people in and around the City of Baltimore. A 501(c)(3) non profit organization, St. Ambrose’s main offices are located at 317 E 25th Street, adjacent to the former site of Union Park, once the home of the World Champion 1890’s Baltimore Orioles.

To celebrate the renovation of their historic structure, St. Ambrose is holding an open house on Monday March 31st in conjunction with the Baltimore Orioles’ Opening Day. St. Ambrose also will celebrate the baseball history that surrounds the historic structure in which it resides. St. Ambroses’ offices are housed in the distinctive red brick building that appears just to left center of the above photograph. St. Ambroses’ offices also can be seen in the the photograph below, with the building’s distinctive pitched roof appearing just to the right of the third base grand stand.

Union Park, Baltimore, Home of the National League Orioles, circa 1897 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

Union Park, Baltimore, Home of the National League Orioles, circa 1897 (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

I am honored to be a guest at the open house this Monday,  where I will talk about the history of the Union Park and give perhaps a few mini tours of the site, explaining where the ballpark once sat. I also will have available for sale and signing copies of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel.

Before heading to the Orioles game Monday, or to pregame festivities at Pickles Pub, stop by the former site of Union Park, where the 1894 Baltimore Orioles brought home Baltimore’s first baseball championship, 120 years ago this year, and 60 years before the current-day Orioles arrived in Baltimore in 1954.

For more information about St. Ambrose and the open house, visit the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center website. I certainly hope to see you there

The 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles As Seen Through The Sporting Life

Union Park and the National League Baltimore Orioles of the 1890’s play a prominent role in my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, and it is not often that I come across artifacts from the team or that era. When I do, they typically are way out of my price range. But as luck would have it, I was able to purchase at auction recently four copies of the Sporting Life that feature the 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles on the front cover, as well as a page out of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featuring a preview of the Orioles and the New York Giants in the Temple Cup.

The Leslie’s newspaper page is extraordinary for it’s pictorial history of early baseball star including Orioles Hall of Famers Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Ned Hanlon, plus several New York Giants who appear in the team photo including John Ward, Amos Rusie, and Roger Connor.

1894 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

The Orioles won the National League pennant in 1894, the first year of a dynasty that would last almost until the team’s demise at the end of the century. The Orioles won three consecutive pennants from 1894-1896. This is reflected in the October 3, 1896, Sporting Life below depicting a Baltimore Oriole player standing next to Uncle Sam on top of the world with the inscription “the world is mine.”

October 3, 1896 Sporting Life

The 1897 season saw a turn of fortune for the Orioles, who lost the pennant to the Boston Beaneaters by two games that year (they came in second behind the Boston Beaneaters in 1898 as well). The May 18, 1897, Sporting Life foreshadows the Orioles fall from the top of the world that season, with a depiction of Uncle Sam presenting a Baltimore baseball player a letter that reads, “Uncle Sam – Some of the other clubs want the pennant this year. Respectfully yours: Uncle Nick.” The caption at the bottom of the page states: “Uncle Sam – Well son, what are you going to do about it.”

May 18, 1897 Sporting Life

The 1899 season would be the last for the National League Baltimore Orioles. The July 15, 1899, Sporting Life depicts Orioles Player/Manager John McGraw, who is said in the caption to be “The brilliant player and capable manager of Baltimore.” Although McGraw would remain in Baltimore as player/manager of the American League Orioles in their inaugural 1901 season and part of the 1902 season, McGraw would move to New York to manage the Giants towards the end of the 1902 season. It was in New York where McGraw achieved his most notable fame, where he is recognized as one of the greatest managers of all time.

July 15, 1899 Sporting Life Featuring John McGraw

On February 24, 1900, when the Sporting Life below was issued, Willie Keeler was still identified as an outfielder for Baltimore, however, by then he had been playing for the Brooklyn Superbas since 1899, alongside fellow former Orioles Joe Kelley, Aleck Smith, and Hughie Jennings. Additional former Orioles Harry Howell, Frank Kitson, Joe McGinnity, Jerry Nops, Gene DeMontreville, and Jimmy Sheckard joined Brooklyn after the 1899 season.

February 24, 1900 Sporting Life Featuring Willie Keeler

Of course it helped that the former owner of the National League Baltimore franchise, Harry Von Der Horst, also owned the Brooklyn franchise, back in the days of syndicate baseball. The Superbas would win the pennant in 1899 and 1900 thanks in part to the contribution of the old Orioles, including former Orioles Manager Ned Hanlon who joined the Superbas at the helm in 1899.

Touring The Lost Ballparks of Baltimore

Looking for a baseball fix this off-season? Can’t get enough of the Baltimore Orioles? Read on.

While conducting research for my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel I became quite familiar with the lost ballpark sites of Baltimore, including Union Park, home of the 1890’s world champion National League Baltimore Orioles, and American League Park, home of the 1901-02 American League Baltimore Orioles and the 1903-1914 International League Orioles – including Babe Ruth (a previous ballpark known as Oriole Park once sat at the same location as American League Park and was where the American Association Baltimore Orioles played from 1890 until May 1891). Union Park and American League Park were located just four blocks apart, Union Park at the southwest corner of East 25th Street and Guilford Avenue, and American League Park at the southwest corner of East 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue.

Baltimore's Union Park

In addition to Union Park and American League Park, two other ballparks were once located nearby. Terrapin Park (also known as Oriole Park), home of the 1914-15 Federal League Terrapins, the International League Orioles, and the 1938-1944 Negro American League Baltimore Elite Giants, was located directly across the street from American League Park at the northwest corner of East 29th Street and Greenmount. Memorial Stadium (and its earlier incarnation known as Municipal Stadium) home of the International League Orioles (1944-1953) and the “new” American League Orioles (1954-1991) was located .7 miles north and east of American League Park on 33rd Street.

Over the past few years, I occasionally have given tours of the old ballpark sites to die-hard Orioles fans and history buffs. This fall, I continued that tradition. In October, Bruce Brown, a friend and fellow SABR member toured the sites of Union Park, American League Park, and Terrapin Park.

Bruce Brown Standing in the Approximate Location of American League Park's Home Plate

And most recently, this past November, I made the same trek to Baltimore with friend and fellow author Austin Gisriel (Safe at Home, A Season in the Valley). Austin and I also toured the former site of Memorial Stadium, which Austin chronicled on the SABR blog Seamheads (see Seamheads.com).

Author Austin Gisriel at the Former Site of Union Park. The Building in the Background Once Sat Just To the Right of Union Park's Third Base Side Grandstand (see above picture of Union Park)

If you are interested in a tour of these sites, let me know. Just send me a comment to this posting (you may need to click on the title to this post – “Touring The Lost Ballparks of Baltimore” and scroll to the bottom of the page for the reply option) or send me a note on my facebook page – David B. Stinson. If there is enough interest, I’ll arrange a tour. With winter soon upon us, a tour of Baltimore’s lost ballpark sites could provide that much needed off-season baseball fix. In the meantime, below are four entries from my companion blog deadballbaseball.com with pictures and information about these lost ballpark sites. Enjoy!

Union Park

American League Park

Terrapin Park/Oriole Park

Memorial Stadium

Go O’s!

Signing At The Smithsonian This Sunday October 21st

I’ll be making my second appearance in D.C. at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History this Sunday October 23rd, signing copies of Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel next to the gift shop on the second floor near the museum’s entrance just off the National Mall. I was there last month as well and had a chance to meet many in-town and out-of-town baseball fans who stopped by the table. Here is a link to the event: Smithsonian Institution Events Calendar

Manning the Table at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History with Calvin On September 21st

The thought originally was that, with the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles both in the playoffs, pennant fever would be sweeping the D.C. Metro area, making sales of Deadball easier than selling bottled water in the Sahara. Well, for those Nats and Orioles fans who now find themselves already missing the national pastime and longing for pitchers and catchers to report (122 days), be sure to stop by and pick up a copy of Deadball for your baseball fix.

And here’s a shout-out to Rose, one of the Smithsonian’s guards, who was stationed near the Mall exit last month. A fine lady with the wonderful gift of gab.

Me and Smithsonian Museum Guard Rose

John McGraw and St. Ann’s Catholic Church, Baltimore

Three miles north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, at the intersection of Greenmount Avenue and East 22nd Street, is St. Ann’s Roman Catholic Church.

St. Ann's Catholic Church, Baltimore, Maryland

The church is forever tied to Baltimore baseball history as the place where former Oriole and baseball Hall of Famer John McGraw married his second wife, Blanche Sindall, on January 8, 1902.

Interior View of St. Ann's Church Where John McGraw Married Blanche Sindall

St. Ann’s plays a prominent role in two of the latter chapters of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. However, in the interest of not spoiling the the story line, I will leave it at that. For those of you who already have read my book, here is a look at the church described in Deadball.

The Gothic-revival church is constructed of grey stone and white marble.

Side View of St. Ann's Church

The church has two steeples, one soaring high above the church to the right of the front entrance and a second, of lesser height, behind and to the left of the entrance.

The Two Steeples of St. Ann's Church

A pointed stone archway made of alternating blocks of marble and stone frames a set of red painted doors decorated with ornate iron hinges. A simple, yet elegant rose window, framed by a similar stone archway centered above the entrance adds an understated flourish to the front of the church.

Front Entrance to St. Ann's Church

The white plastic lettering of the church’s marquee sign next to the sidewalk announces that the church is “Anchored In Faith.”

Marquee Sign, St. Ann's Church

The reference to “anchored” is a pun, for resting alongside the cornerstone to the right of the entrance way is a large, gold-painted, allegorical anchor once belonging to Captain William Kennedy.

Captain William Kennedy's Anchor

Commander of the Baltimore clipper ship “The Wanderer,” Kennedy prayed for safe return when caught in a storm off the coast of Vera Cruz. He promised to build a church should his prayers be answered. They were, and Kennedy kept his promise, providing the land and money to build St. Ann’s. The good Captain is buried beneath the main floor of the church, along with his wife, both of whom died in 1873, the year the church was built.

Final Resting Place of Captain William Kennedy and his Wife

Behind the church on East 22nd Street is the rectory.

St. Ann's Rectory - The Anchorage

Next door to the rectory is  a three story tan brick row house with a first floor stone. It is the former home of Oriole Hall of Famer Joe Kelley.

Former Home of Hall of Famer Joe Kelley

Joe Kelley and several of McGraw’s teammates were in attendance at his wedding that day, including Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, Steve Brodie, and Hughie Jennings.

Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Joe Kelley, and Hughie Jennings

In her memoir The Real McGraw, Blanche McGraw noted that St. Ann’s was overflowing with people for the 6 pm wedding, which was conducted by St. Ann’s Pastor, Father Cornelius Thomas, who himself was a big baseball fan.

A “church of baseball” or at least a “church with a baseball connection,” St. Ann’s can be visited on the web at anchoredinfaith.com.

Frederick Keys, Rudy and Me, This Saturday!

For those of you looking for a way to spend the last official weekend of summer watching baseball, come out to the Frederick Keys on Saturday September 1st. Gates open at 5 pm.

I will be there selling and signing copies of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel.

Also there signing autographs at Harry Grove Stadium will be Daniel Eugene Ruettiger – the inspiration behind the movie “Rudy.”

Should be a good night for baseball as the Keys are in the hunt for a playoff spot. The Keys are a minor league affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

Deadball Confirmed As Beach-Reading Worthy

Yesterday, Pete Kerzel of the Mid Atlantic Sports Network (known as MASN for those of you in the D.C./Baltimore area) posted a “Flashback” story on MASN’s “Orioles Buzz” page about the 1890’s World Champion Baltimore Orioles and included with it a favorable review and recommendation of my book Deadball.  In his article, Mr. Kerzel notes that he read Deadball while on vacation in Ocean City, Maryland – the rooftop pool at Captiva Bay on 85th Street, to be exact. I have to admit that while at the beach myself last week (further south in Tybee Island, Georgia), I looked to see what those around me were reading. Although I didn’t actually expect to see someone reading my book, it didn’t stop me from looking.

Many thanks to Mr. Kerzel, not only for his excellent article on the old Orioles and his kind review and  recommendation of Deadball, but also for confirming that Deadball is beach-reading worthy!

Here’s a link to Mr. Kerzel’s MASN Article.