THE BALTIMORE ELITE GIANTS
The Baltimore Elite Giants were a professional baseball team that played in the Negro leagues from 1920 to 1950. The team and its fans pronounced the word “Elite” as “ee-light”. This is the same way that the name of the local Elite Tavern (owned by my father, “Bill” Glass) was pronounced, despite the fact that the slogan printed on the tavern’s matchbooks – “Where the elite meet to eat” – suggests the usual pronunciation of “ee-leet”.
THE FIRST ORIOLES
Baltimore had a gritty taste of baseball in the late 19th century with a team of hard-nosed Orioles who hit with their fists as often as they did with bats. The team read like a “Who’s Who” of 19th century stars, including Wee Willie Keeler, Wilbert Robinson, Hughie Jennings, John McGraw and Ned Hanlon. These Orioles joined the new American League as a charter franchise in 1901.
But behind the scenes, American League President Ban Johnson believed for his fledgling league to succeed he needed a team in New York City. With the help of two businessmen he maneuvered the Orioles out of Baltimore and into New York, where they eventually became the Yankees. The city of Baltimore would go another half-century without a major league team.
ST. LOUIS BROWNS
Meanwhile, about 800 miles to the west, the future Orioles were born when St. Louis joined the American League in 1902 with a team transplanted from Milwaukee (the original Milwaukee Brewers had been an American League charter franchise in 1901 but finished dead last). The team was christened the Browns in honor of the St. Louis Brown Stockings, an American Association team which had won four consecutive pennants in the 1880’s.
An executive with a flair for promotion named Bill Veeck bought the team in the early 1950’s, but his imagination could not hide reality – the team was in dire straits with minimal attendance and no money to attract or retain talent.
Veeck sold the team to a Baltimore conglomerate after the Browns played their final game on September 27, 1953, losing 2-1 to the Chicago White Sox.
The Baltimore Orioles picked up where the Browns left off, losing their inaugural game to Detroit, 3-0 on April 13, 1954. They would lose ninety-nine more games that season and finished 57½ games behind Cleveland (which set the American League record at the time of 111 wins).
Overall, since moving to Baltimore, the Orioles have had considerably more success than their St. Louis forefathers, winning eight division titles, six American League pennants and three world championships.
Featured Image: Oriole Park after 1944 fire, St. John’s Huntingdon Steeple – my family parish – in background
Logo of the Baltimore Elite Giants baseball team.
St. Louis Brown’s logo 1952 – 1953
The Baltimore Orioles “New” Cartoon Bird (2012 – present)