The history of baseball in Baltimore since the St. Louis Browns moved to the city in 1954 has been well chronicled. However, until now, the great history of baseball in Baltimore prior to the return of Major League Baseball has gone largely unrecognized.
That is about to change with the release this fall of the documentary The Forgotten Birds.
The culmination of five years worth of research and interviews by director Paul Sekulich and writer Jimmy Keenan, the film will be premiered in Cooperstown at the Fourth Annual Baseball Film Festival from October 2-4.
Once upon a time, in 1884, the city of Baltimore actually had three professional baseball teams.
However, the most successful team of the era was the Baltimore Orioles, which won three straight National League championships from 1894-1896. The team included seven future Hall of Famers, including John McGraw, Hughie Jennings and Willie Keeler.
Following the 1899 season, Baltimore was one of three teams dropped from the National League. The city was without a team in 1900, but by 1901 had a squad in the new American League.
Unfortunately, manager John McGraw was constantly feuding with league president Ban Johnson and the situation caused headaches for the franchise.
During the 1902 season, McGraw left the franchise and became manager of the New York Giants. The day-to-day operations of the Orioles soon were taken over by Johnson and the league.
Following the season, the Orioles were moved to New York City and eventually evolved into the current New York Yankees.
This set the stage for an amazing 50-year stretch of baseball in Baltimore in which the International League Baltimore Orioles captured the interest of the city and fielded some outstanding baseball teams.
The stories of the franchise, set within the context of world events during the first half of the 20th Century, are chronicled in The Forgotten Birds.
This story was very nearly lost to a fire at Oriole Park on July 4, 1944. However, the memories were pieced back together through interviews with living players, sportscasters and players’ relatives as well as from books, scorecards and records, photographs and news clippings.
You can reserve a copy of the full-length DVD at http://www.forgottenbirds.com/.
Be sure to check back to Baltimore Sports Then and Now for more stories and details about The Forgotten Birds.
Historical information for this story comes from forgottenbirds.com.