Posts tagged National League Baltimore Orioles

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.

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.

My Interview With Brett Hollander WBAL Radio

WBAL's Brett Hollander

My interview with Brett Hollander on WBAL radio was broadcast before the Orioles/Angels game a week ago Saturday.  Mr. Hollander is the host of WBAL’s Sportsline, which is broadcast weeknights from 6 to 9 pm on 1090 AM.  Brett also runs feature stories during the weekend before Orioles games, which is when my interview originally aired. The interview aired a second time during one of  his shows last week.

We covered a lot of ground – talking about Deadball, how I came up with story line for the novel, the history of baseball in Baltimore, the World Champion National League Orioles of the 1890s, and many of the famous lost Baltimore Ballparks such as Union Park, old Orioles Park (American League Park), and Memorial Stadium.

In case you missed it, here’s the link to the interview posted on WBAL.com:

My Interview With WBAL’s Brett Hollander

Man am I a fast talker!

Thanks for the opportunity, Brett!