Top 100 Teams
International League (Triple-A)
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
Square in the middle of Baltimore’s amazing seven-pennant skein, the 1922 International League champions once again bludgeoned their competition behind a well-balanced attack. Leading the way was a whole host of fine hitters augmented by a splendid performance by the league’s best pitcher.
The city of Baltimore, Maryland fielded several teams in a variety of pro leagues in the 19th century. First, a team called the Lord Baltimores played three years in the National Association (1872-74), finishing a strong second in their first year. Next, a team called the Orioles played in the nascent American Association in the 1880s for several years, doing little to distinguish themselves. Finally, in 1892 a new Orioles club joined the National League. Here, the team would become one of the 19th century’s most powerful clubs.
Auspiciously beginning with a tail-ender in 1892, the Orioles, under the tutelage of manager Ned Hanlon, soon began their climb to the top. Behind the efforts of stars like Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw, Baltimore rose to eighth in 1893 before winning it all the next year. Further championships followed in 1895 and 1896. Not noted for their clean play, the Orioles clawed and scrapped their way to the top. Stories are told about their exploits, including tales about extra balls in the outfield grass, turns at third which cut inside the base by several feet and strategic holding of belts to prevent opposition runs. After a pair of close seconds in 1897 and 1898, the team dropped to fourth in 1899. The slide came because of a peculiarity of 19th century baseball – dual ownership. Baltimore and its sister franchise in Brooklyn were owned by the same man. Seeing more financial opportunities in the New York market, Baltimore’s best players were transferred north, allowing Brooklyn to cop the flag in 1899. When the National League opted to trim its roster from 12 to eight before the 1900 season, the Orioles were one of the four teams cut.
After a short stint in the American League, the Orioles joined the minors in the top ranked Eastern League in 1903. Although the team showed modest success in the first two decades of the 20th century, the club gelled immediately following World War I with a Top 100 championship in 1919. Success continued as the team duplicated the feat in the following two seasons.
The 1922 Orioles started well. On May 15, they were in second place (16-10), one-half game behind Toronto. Then they won seven of their next eight games to take over the top spot, which they never relinquished. By mid-June Baltimore began to pull away from the pack, taking four straight from second place Rochester. At the end of July, the Orioles were in front by 11 games and coasted home, finishing 10 games ahead of Rochester. They wound up with a 115-52, .689 record, four wins shy of the 1921 Orioles victory total. Baltimore was edged .302 to .301 by Rochester in the team batting race, and 993 to 991 in runs scored, but did lead in hits (1,734), total bases (2,505), doubles (281) and home runs (112). The Orioles also led in fielding (.964).
Baltimore won the Junior World Series for the second time in three years after it was revived in 1920, defeating American Association champion St. Paul (a Top 100 team), 5 games to 2. The Orioles had beaten the Saints in 1920, but lost to Louisville in 1921. The first four games in ’22 were played in Baltimore. The Orioles won the October 4 opener 9-4 after the Saints had taken an early 2-0 lead, behind pitcher-slugger Jack Bentley, who batted cleanup and played first base when not on the mound. St. Paul won the second game, 2-1, in a duel of lefthanders, Saints veteran Rube Benton and the Orioles’ 22-year-old Lefty Grove (always called Groves during his Baltimore career). Benton gave up only three hits and one walk. The game could have been a one-sided affair, but St. Paul was unable to cash in on multiple scoring opportunities. Grove gave up eight hits and although he struck out nine batters, he walked eight. St. Paul left 13 men on base. After a two-day break because of rain, Baltimore won a 13-10 slugfest before a full house of 14,500 fans. The Sporting News reported that an estimated 10,000 fans were turned away after the gates were closed. Bentley and St. Paul’s 26-game winner Tom Sheehan both were gone after three innings. The next day the Orioles won 7-3 on catcher Wickey McAvoy’s grand-slam homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Grove again was wild, walking seven in the five innings he worked and giving up all of St. Paul’s runs. After three days off because of travel and bad weather, the series resumed in St. Paul. When the next game was played, October 9, The Sporting News said the “weather (was) more suited to a mid-winter soccer game.” Jack Ogden struck out 11 and held the Saints to two hits, both singles, as Baltimore won 5-1 to take a four game to one series lead. In the sixth game, St. Paul kept the series going as one Rube (Benton) edged another (Parnham) 4-3. All of the Saints runs resulted from home runs. Ernie Krueger, a catcher playing left field because of injuries to St. Paul regulars, hit two of the three homers, including the solo tie-breaker in the bottom of the eighth inning. Baltimore ended the series the next afternoon with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory as Bentley once again bested Sheehan. Right fielder Jimmy Walsh won the game for the Orioles with a three-run homer in the top of the seventh.
Writing in The Sporting News, Baltimore correspondent Chuck Foreman said, “Every man on Jack Dunn’s team did well, but it was catcher Wickey McAvoy and pitcher Jack Ogden who surprised them all, from Dunn down. McAvoy probably is the most logical to be called the hero of the series, for it was his bat that won two games, started a rally that won another, and in the second game kept the Orioles from being shut out. Before the series started, Dunn announced that Lena Styles would catch most of the games and that McAvoy would be behind the bat only when Bentley pitched and Styles had to play first base.” In the first game, with the score tied 4-4 in the seventh and two men on base, McAvoy homered into the right field bleachers and the Orioles went on to win 9-4. “Fearful of the fans’ criticism if McAvoy was benched, Dunn used him in the second game and it was his single that enabled the Orioles to score their only run in the game.” As described above, his ninth-inning grand-slam won game four. In the fifth game, Wickey’s third inning triple ignited a five-run rally, all Baltimore needed for a 5-1 win. During the series he batted .320 (8-for-25), catching all seven games. In the regular season, McAvoy batted .310-10-58 in 101 games. A 27-year-old native of Rochester, NY, he broke into pro ball in 1913 with Berlin in the Canadian League and made his major league debut with the Philadelphia Athletics later that year. He was farmed out to Baltimore in 1914, but returned to get into eight big league games when the other Athletics’ catchers were injured. He was with Philadelphia all of 1915, Baltimore all of 1916 and most of 1917, the Athletics for ten games in 1917 and all of 1918-19. His major league career average was .199 in 235 games. He was released to Baltimore, but played in an industrial league in 1920-21. McAvoy was sold to Rochester in the middle of the 1923 season and played for Buffalo in 1924-25.
Bentley provided an interesting sidelight to the Junior World Series. Foreman wrote, “The series with St. Paul about finished Jack Bentley as far as Baltimore fans are concerned. Bentley, the prima dona Oriole, was banged by St. Paul for six hits and runs in the third inning of the third game and at the inning’s close the Saints were five runs in the lead. Dunn decided to yank him and substitute Ogden on the mound and send Bentley to first base. When Bentley’s turn at bat came he could not be found and the game was stopped. Dunn found Jack under the showers. The game could not wait for Bentley so (Dick) Porter hit for him and Styles continued at first base, while the fans in the in the stands voiced many things that did not sound well for the former popular star. Bentley gave as his alibi for not obeying Dunn’s orders that he did not wish to take a chance on ruining his pitching arm by playing first base after pitching in the October weather. He could not give a suitable excuse for leaving the field when he was supposed to bat though, and the event went down as another one of those frequent ‘misunderstandings’ between Dunn and his temperamental star. Bentley was booed by the crowd the next day, but managed to hold himself in check. Bentley’s days as an Oriole are ended. There is a rumor that (New York Giants manager) John McGraw has an agreement to take Bentley as soon as a deal can be made.” Two weeks later, the Giants purchased Bentley for $65,000 and two players.
The Sporting News reported that Bentley wanted a percentage of the sale price as a bonus and the club didn’t want to give it to him. Orioles vice-president Charles (Butch) Schmidt, an ex-Boston Braves first baseman, was negotiating for the club in the absence of Dunn, who was ill. Several sessions had gotten nowhere and Bentley and Schmidt agreed to meet again at a local hotel. Area sports writers were waiting in a nearby room and liquid refreshment (this was during Prohibition) was provided for them. The meeting dragged on and fresh supplies of beverages were needed for the press. Finally, one of the Orioles’ stockholders went into the conference room and said, “Butch, if he wants only $5,000 give it to him. If this keeps up much longer it’s going to cost us that much for drinks for those guys in the other room!” A few minutes later, Bentley got his money.
49-year-old Jack Dunn was in his 13th year as owner and manager of the Baltimore Orioles. He had purchased the franchise after the 1909 season with some financial assistance from Connie Mack and the Shibe Brothers, owners of the Philadelphia Athletics, and there was always a close relationship between the two clubs. The 1922 Orioles were the fourth of seven consecutive International League champions, the longest such winning streak in minor league history. (Dunn’s complete career is covered in the story of the 1919 Orioles, Top 100 team number 35.)
The entire 1922 infield and two of the three outfielders were holdovers from the previous season, as were five pitchers. This was possible in great part because at this time the Class AA teams were not subject to the major league draft. Dunn was able to keep his better players until he decided to accept an offer from a big league team.
Bentley, the first baseman-pitcher, was the team’s top hitter (.351-22-128), finishing second in the league in home runs, RBI and total bases (334), and third in batting average. On the mound he was 13-2, 1.73, the only pitcher in the league with an ERA under 2.00. When McGraw purchased Bentley’s contract it was with the avowed purpose of making him a full-time pitcher. (Bentley’s career is detailed in another of the Top 100 team reports.)
All of the other position players except Max Bishop and Dick Porter, who shared second base duties, batted over .300. Shortstop Joe Boley (.343-11-98) was sixth in the league in batting and outfielders Otis Lawry (.333-6-50) and Jimmy Walsh (.327-5-105) ranked seventh and eighth. Veteran third baseman Fritz Maisel batted .306-11-64 and led the team in stolen bases (30). The third regular outfielder, Merwin Jacobson, hit .304-6-71. (The careers of all these players are covered in detail in other Top 100 team resumes.)
The league’s most versatile player was 24-year-old William Graves (Lena) Styles who played at least one game at all nine positions during the 1922 season. His principal assignments were as the number two catcher behind McAvoy (52 games) and the first baseman when Bentley was pitching (36 games). He also played 40 games at the three outfield positions, 12 games at second base, 7 at shortstop and one each at third base and pitcher. He played more than one position in 11 games. In 148 games Styles hit .315-14-94, second on the team in home runs and fourth in RBI. In his book “The Home Team,” James Bready said of Styles, “Stormiest man on the team. He fought the enemy – Prohibition too.” He graduated from the University of Alabama and after playing two months for Atlanta (Southern Association) was purchased by the Athletics. He divided 1920 and 1921 between Philadelphia and Baltimore. After another season with the Orioles, he played for Newark in 1924, Newark and Toronto in 1925, Toronto in 1926-27-28 and Reading in 1929 before returning to the majors with Cincinnati in 1930-31. He then played for Dallas and Little Rock and managed in the Cotton States and Southeastern Leagues.
Baltimore’s leading pitcher was John Mahlon (Jack) Ogden, a 24-year-old right-hander from Philadelphia, PA. He posted a 24-10, 3.92 record, led the league in wins and innings pitched (310) and was second in complete games (26). He was born in Ogden, PA, a town that was named after his family and is no longer on the map. Ogden was a graduate of Swarthmore College and was signed by John McGraw in 1918. He went straight from the campus to the majors, pitching in 5 games (0-0, 3.12) before being farmed out to Newark. The Giants released him to Rochester in 1919 where he went 10-13, 2.37. The Sporting News said, “It was following the close of the 1919 season that Jack Dunn saw a chance to snare Ogden. Under Arthur Irwin (Rochester manager), Ogden failed to startle fandom. To the casual observer he appeared to be only a fair pitcher with a fair curve at best. But Dunnie went deeper into his ability and went to Irwin with an offer of $1,000 for the young collegian. It was accepted. The collegian proved the kind of pupil wise old Dunn loves. He never grew tired of trying to learn.” Dunn taught Ogden to turn his back on the batter when winding up so the man at the plate would find it more difficult to pick up the ball. “Ogden came north for the 1920 season with wonderful control, a dandy fast ball and a curve that swept by the batters with remarkable sharpness.”
Ogden led the International League the next three years in wins and innings pitched. In 1920 he went 27-9, 3.25 with 321 innings pitched and in 1921 he had the best year of his career, 31-9, 2.30 with 318 innings pitched. During the 1921 season Ogden won 18 consecutive victories. In nine of the games he gave up five or fewer hits. Both the 31 victories and 18 consecutive wins were 20th century league records at the time, but were surpassed two years later by teammate Rube Parnham with 33 wins, 20 in a row. Ogden remained with the Orioles through 1927, pitching for six of the seven consecutive championship teams. He topped the 20-game victory mark in six of his eight years with Baltimore and led the league in wins one more time with a 24-15 record in 1926. He was purchased by the St. Louis Browns prior to the 1928 season for $12,500 and two players. Ogden went 14-15, 4.15 in 1928, then dropped to 4-8, 4.94 in 1929. He was out of baseball in 1930, returning to pitch for Cincinnati in 1931-32 with little success. His major league totals were 25-34 with a 4.24 ERA. He went back to the International League in 1933 with Rochester and finished the season with Baltimore. His minor league record was 213-103, 3.36, all in the International League. He holds the league record for career victories.
Ogden stepped upstairs late in 1933 to become vice-president and business manager of the Orioles, a post he held through 1939. In 1940 he was assistant to Gerry Nugent, owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, functioning as the team’s farm director. Ogden owned and operated the Elmira club in the Eastern League in 1941-42. He then became a highly successful scout for the Braves, Reds and Phillies, signing 45 players who reached the majors. “Dick Allen was my best find,” he once told The Sporting News. “I scouted 90,000 players in my lifetime and Allen was the greatest I ever saw. It’s too bad he had so many difficulties.” Ogden never lost touch with amateur sports. From 1923-30 he coached the baseball team at the Swarthmore Preparatory School. In 1936-37 he coached baseball and basketball at the University of Baltimore and in the 1940s was baseball and football coach at Prospect Park, PA, High School. His younger brother, Warren (Curly) Ogden, pitched for the Athletics and Senators in the majors and for another of the Top 100 teams, the 1927 Buffalo Bisons. He, too, scouted in later years for the Phillies.
Baltimore’s other 20-game winner was hometown right-hander Harry Frank (22-9, 3.39), who led the league in games pitched (45). Grove had an 18-8, 2.80 record in his third year with the Orioles and led the league in both strikeouts (205) and bases on balls (152). Righthander Alphonse (Tommy) Thomas, another Baltimore native, was 18-9, 4.14. Neither Frank nor Thomas saw action in the Junior World Series. Parnham was 16-10, 4.39, pitched 23 complete games and led the team in shutouts (4). (The careers of these four pitchers also are covered in detail in other Top 100 Baltimore team reports.)
In legendary fashion, the Orioles won the next three flags before being ousted by another Top 100 club, the 1926 Toronto Maple Leafs. In the years following, success was hard to come by as the team only won a pair of pennants in the next 30 years. In 1954, the team was displaced to make room for the major league Orioles.
The 1922 Orioles, tucked in amongst the other six Baltimore champions, took their place among baseball’s best thanks to the efforts of the league’s best pitcher – John Ogden. Like other Baltimore players of this era, not only did he excel in this season, but over a long career, helping several other Oriole clubs join the ’22 squad on the list of baseball’s elite minor league teams.
|1922 International League Standings|
|1922 Baltimore Orioles batting statistics|
|Jack Dunn, Jr.||PH||1||.000|
|1922 Baltimore Orioles pitching statistics|