Sports

More About The Baltimore Orioles

Last week’s By the Numbers column took a look at 20 factoids about the Baltimore Orioles. Many thanks to one reader who pointed out a glaring omission.

As Dave Sloan wrote, the Orioles also have a connection to Babe Ruth. Well, not these Orioles, but their predecessors of the early 1900s, who happened to be one of the greatest minor-league teams in history.

In 1913, Ruth started his professional career when he was signed by Orioles owner/manager Jack Dunn. The most commonly accepted explanation for how Ruth got his nickname is that other Orioles players started referring to him as “Jack Dunn’s baby.” In 1914, with Dunn facing financial pressure from a Federal League team in town, Dunn sold Ruth to the Red Sox.

If not for the Federal League (which operated for two years as a competing major league), Ruth likely would have stayed in Baltimore for several years. Unlike today, the minor leagues were independent contractors who would compete with major-league clubs for talent. They might keep their best players for many years, rather than simply training them for the majors. One of the great under-reported stories of baseball is the huge impact the Federal League had during its two seasons.

For example, the Federal League created a salary war with the major leagues, and once the league folded, major-league clubs slashed player salaries. Today, it would be called collusion; back then it was simply business. Anyway, that was an direct cause of the widespread throwing of games throughout the decade that culminated in the Black Sox Scandal.

But I digress.

Jack Dunn built a powerhouse in Baltimore. During the 1920s, his teams won seven straight International League pennants, usually by a country mile. From 1920-24, Lefty Grove went 109-36 for the Orioles before becoming one of the greatest major-league pitchers in history.

Anyway, Jack Dunn (and Babe Ruth) are a big part of Baltimore’s baseball history and certainly warranted a spot in the column.