Top 100 Teams
International League (Triple-A)
By Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, Baseball Historians
|1919 Baltimore Orioles|
From 1919 to 1925, the International League’s Baltimore Orioles put together the most impressive dynasty the minors had ever seen. The team was led by an energetic owner, who also served as general manager in addition to leading the club from the dugout. Helping him was an outstanding third baseman who served him well on all his championship clubs.
The city of Baltimore, Maryland, can trace its baseball roots back to 1860. Here, the Excelsior club hosted their Brooklyn namesakes, losing to the best team in the country, 51-6. By the end of the decade, two other clubs were dominating baseball in the Maryland city. The Pastime club (formed in 1867) was strictly an amateur outfit, but the Maryland club, starting in 1869, was one of the first dozen pro teams in the country. After initial success, both teams struggled in 1870 as the Pastimes went 9-22-1 while the Marylanders only won nine of 27 games.
From 1872 to 1902, Baltimore fielded teams in five different major leagues. After the 1902 season, the fifth manifestation - the American League Orioles - moved to New York. In Brooklyn, Ned Hanlon, the manager of the great National League Orioles (the fourth major league Baltimore team), was unhappy with the situation in Brooklyn where he was part-owner of the National League franchise. He tried to get his partner, Charles Ebbetts, to move that club to the now vacant Baltimore territory. Ebbetts refused, so Hanlon did what he thought was the next best thing - he purchased the Montreal franchise in the Eastern League, the strongest minor league at that time, and moved it to Baltimore. With one of the Baltimore favorites of the ‘90s, Hugh Jennings, as manager, the new Orioles did well in the first four seasons, but never quite won a pennant. They came very close in 1905, losing by a half-game to the Providence Clam Diggers, piloted by Jack Dunn. When Jennings left to manage Detroit in 1906, Hanlon needed a new pilot and hired Dunn away from Providence. Hanlon couldn’t possibly have known that this act was the beginning of one of the great dynasties of minor league history.
John Joseph Dunn was born in Meadsville, PA, October 8, 1872. One of the first things people noticed about Dunn was his high-pitched voice. When he was agitated - as he frequently was when arguing with umpires - his voice became more shrill in direct proportion to the increase in his anger. A right-handed pitcher, he reached the majors with Brooklyn in 1897. Two years later, he won 23 games to help Hanlon win his first Brooklyn pennant. Dunn’s arm went bad the next season and he switched to the infield. His last major league campaign was 1904 when he hit .304 in 64 games for John McGraw’s champion New York Giants. He took over the Providence reins in 1905. Dunn was still playing second base and batted .301 with a league-high 157 hits for his 1905 champions. In his first year at Baltimore, the Orioles came in sixth (68-69) in a tight Eastern League pennant race. The next season he led Baltimore to its first Eastern League flag. In 1909, the Orioles plunged to seventh place.
After the 1909 season, Dunn purchased the Baltimore club from Hanlon. Minority investors were Connie Mack and the Shibe brothers, owners of the Philadelphia Athletics. There was heavy traffic in players between the two teams in the ensuing years. The Orioles finished in the first division in each of the next four years. Dunn’s last year as a player was 1911. 1914 brought hard times to Dunn. The outlaw Federal League invaded Baltimore with a team called the Terrapins and built a new park across the street from Dunn’s facility. Competing with the “third major league,” the Orioles’ attendance plummeted. Dunn was forced to borrow money from Mack and from Joseph Lannin, owner of the Boston Red Sox and Providence (International). During the Federal League war, Lannin also helped other distressed International League clubs. Early in 1914, Dunn had signed a talented young pitcher from Baltimore’s St. Mary’s Industrial School, a Roman Catholic home for wayward boys. The pitcher’s name was George Herman (Babe) Ruth and it soon became obvious that Dunn had acquired a prize prospect. As the season progressed, things got worse financially even as the Orioles were running away with the International League pennant race. Midway through the season, one home game drew a paid attendance of 50. Going farther into debt, Dunn was forced to sell his better players. According to Fred Lieb in his book, “The Baltimore Orioles,” Dunn first offered Ruth to his old friend Mack. “Jack, you have a great young pitcher in Ruth,” Mack told Dunn. “But I can’t give you what he is worth. My players have me broke. (Paying them high salaries to keep them from jumping to the Feds.) Why don’t you go to Joe Lannin. He’s still got a lot of money. See what he’ll give you for Ruth.” Dunn did just that and early in July sold Ruth, pitcher Ernie Shore and catcher Ben Egan to the Red Sox. He also sold five other players to major league teams. Baltimore faded to sixth place, finishing 20-˝ games behind pennant-winning Providence. In 1915, Dunn packed up his franchise and moved to Richmond, VA. When the Federal League went out of business after the 1915 season, Dunn sold the Richmond franchise to local investors, then bought the Jersey City club and announced he was moving it to Baltimore.
Lieb wrote, “In giving out the statement of the peace terms, the major league and Federal negotiators said: ‘The Baltimore Federal League club will be taken care of through amalgamation with the Baltimore International League club.” Jack Dunn squealed bloody murder. ‘After what I’ve been through, I’m not amalgamating with anybody. Nobody is horning into my club.’ Ed Barrow, the International League’s fighting president, gave out a similar bellicose statement from New York…. ‘They won’t take care of the Baltimore Federals at our expense or at the expense of one of our clubs. We were no party to this peace agreement.’ The big leagues had no way of enforcing this phase of the peace treaty. Everybody was taken care of but the Baltimore club and its stockholders. They were decidedly left out on a limb. Out of this unhappy situation grew the most famous litigation in baseball history, a Sherman anti-trust suit by the Baltimore Federal directors against the major leagues.” In 1922, the case reached the United States Supreme Court. In the unanimous decision, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, the court decreed that baseball was not a business engaged in interstate commerce, a ruling that has never been overturned by the courts or by Congress.
Starting in 1916, Dunn’s Orioles played at the Federal League ballpark, which he renamed Oriole Park, and he began to rebuild the team. Baltimore finished fourth in 1916, and third in 1917 and 1918. In the 1918 season, shortened to 128 games because of World War I, the minors’ leading pitcher was Orioles’ 19-year-old left-hander Ralph Worrell who had a 25-10, 2.44 record. Tragically, Worrell died in the influenza epidemic that swept the nation late that year. Baltimore won the pennant in 1919, beginning a reign of seven years as International League champions, the longest string in baseball history, each season winning 100 or more games. They didn’t fare quite as well in post-season competition, taking only three of six Junior World Series from the American Association champions (no series was played in 1919). One big reason for Dunn’s success was that, during this period, the three top minors were not subject to the draft of their players by major league clubs. Dunn was able to keep his best players and he treated them well, paying major league salaries to his stars. When the Orioles played in Jersey City and Newark, for example, they stayed at the first class McAlpin Hotel in New York until the New Jersey clubs successfully complained to the league.
Tragedy struck the Dunn family in 1923. While the Orioles were in spring training, Dunn’s son, Jack, Jr., 27, died of pneumonia on March 18. Dunn had reared his son in the game and Jack, Jr. was the club’s secretary and business manager. He also had inherited his father’s eye for talent, having signed one of the greatest Orioles, Lefty Grove. Lieb writes, “At the very time Jack, Jr., was buried, his son, Jack III, almost died of mastoiditis. Only a delicate but highly successful operation saved the life of Dunn’s grandson. Dunn never recovered from his son’s death.” Nonetheless, he continued to run the Orioles. Next to the ball club and his family, Dunn’s greatest pleasure in life was raising hunting dogs. On October 22, 1928, it was announced that Dunn, only 56, had passed away suddenly. He was exercising his dogs near his home in suburban Towson, when he suffered a heart attack and fell from his horse. Death was instantaneous. Thus ended what Lieb called “the golden era of Oriole International League baseball.” Jack Dunn III ultimately inherited the Orioles from his grandmother in 1943 and after World War II became the team’s president and general manager. When the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954 they purchased the minor league Orioles from Dunn. Jack Dunn III joined the American League Orioles front office and, for many years through 1987, was a vice-president and club director.
For most of the 1919 season, the International League pennant race was confined to two teams, the Orioles and the defending champion Toronto Maple Leafs. Baltimore pulled ahead in the last month and finished with a 100-49, .671 record, eight games in front of Toronto. The Orioles led the league in batting (.299), runs (859), hits (1,524), total bases (2,032), doubles (231), triples (83), home runs (a modest 37) and stolen bases (241).
Baltimore’s best player was third baseman Frederick (Fritz) Maisel who batted .336, led the league in runs (135) and doubles (44) and finished second in stolen bases (63). Maisel was one of many area players signed by Dunn. Except for the San Francisco Seals, no top minor league team had more local players over the years than the Orioles. The speedy Maisel was known as the “Catonsville Flash.” He had played for the Orioles in 1911-12-13 and in 1913 led the International League in runs (119 in 111 games) before Dunn sold him to the New York Yankees where he stole 25 bases in only 51 games. In 1914 Maisel led the American League with 74 stolen bases, the Yankee record until Rickey Henderson swiped 80 in 1985. He played for New York through 1917, then one year for the St. Louis Browns. In the majors he batted .242 with 194 stolen bases in 591 games. Dunn had sold Maisel to New York for $12,500 and bought him back for $2,000, a nice profit. Fritz played for Baltimore for ten years in his second tour of duty, also serving as team captain. He was one of only two players who were on all seven of the Orioles championship teams, the other being shortstop Joe Boley. In his minor league career he hit .303 in 1,801 games with 421 stolen bases. When Jack Dunn died, Maisel was appointed Baltimore’s non-playing manager and piloted the Orioles for four seasons with two second place and two third place finishes. Maisel was chief of the Baltimore County Fire Department for many years and scouted for Baltimore from 1954 until his death in 1967. Maisel’s younger brother, George, an outfielder, played for the Browns, Tigers and Cubs during four seasons from 1913-22, and for the Orioles in 1912-13. Fritz’s son, Bob Maisel, was sports editor of the Baltimore Sun.
The 1919 International League batting champion was 5’6”, 135-pound Baltimore outfielder Otis Lawry who hit .364 and stole 56 bases in 133 games. He also led league’s outfielders in assists (35). In his book “The Home Team,” James Bready calls Lawry, “Long on speed and guts.” Lieb says, “Otis used to drive umpires wild by trying to call strikes and balls from left field.” Lawry, from China, Maine, broke in as a second baseman with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1916-17, batting .190 in 71 games. He joined the Orioles late in 1917, hitting .396 in 29 games. In 1918, he batted .317 and led the International League in stolen bases (35) and hits (149). Lawry remained with the Orioles until 1924 when he was traded to Jersey City. In 1,270 minor league games he hit .320 with 284 stolen bases.
Center fielder Merwin Jacobson led the International League in hits (203) and total bases (277) and was third in batting (.351).
Two rookies played key roles for the 1919 Orioles. One was 21-year-old shortstop Joe Boley, born John Peter Bolinsky in Mahanoy City, PA. His only previous pro experience was 33 games for Harrisburg in the New York State League in 1917. Boley hit .301 in 137 games for Baltimore. He was an outstanding fielder. Bready says, “His hands were two scoops, he could stop anything.” In his eight seasons with the Orioles Boley led league shortstops in fielding three times, in putouts three times and in assists twice. He was also an excellent hitter, batting under .300 only once, .291 in 1924. After Joe hit .343 for the Orioles in 1922, Dunn reportedly raised his salary to $9,000, more than many major leaguers were making. Dunn finally sold Boley to the Athletics after the 1926 season for $65,000. The deal reunited Boley with his Baltimore infield partner (1919-23) and close friend, second baseman Max Bishop who had gone up to Philadelphia three years earlier. Boley and Bishop played together on the Athletics’ championship teams of 1929-30-31. He led American League shortstops in fielding in 1930 (.970). Because of his late arrival, he played only six years in the majors, batting .269. When Boley passed away in 1962, his A’s teammate Bing Miller told The Sporting News, “Joe didn’t have a very good arm, but he could get the ball away in a hurry. With the start he made to get the ball, he could throw out even the fastest runners. He took great pride in judging hitters, saying that no one ever hit a ball in back of him.”
The other important rookie, making his pro debut, was hometown pitcher Harry Frank. A little right-hander, Frank won 24 and lost only 6 with a 2.79 ERA. He led the league in won-lost percentage (.800) and games pitched (48), and was second in wins. Starting and relieving, he pitched 255 innings. In five full seasons with the Orioles he had a 93-36, .721 record, was a three-time 20-game winner and led the league in games pitched three times. A control specialist, he walked an average 2.4 batters per nine-inning game. His arm gave out and after a 6-12 year with Baltimore and Jersey City in 1924, he retired from baseball. In later years, he was a New York state horse racing official.
Right-hander Rube Parnham, in the third of his eight-year Baltimore career, went 28-12, 2.44, leading the league in wins, strikeouts (187) and innings pitched (350).
The 1919 Orioles set the stage for a septet of champions which would see no equal because of the simple fact that six of the group finished in the Top 100. In winning the first of the string, the 1919 team also set a mark of their own by becoming the first International League team to win 100 games.
|1919 International League Standings|
|1919 Baltimore Orioles batting statistics|
|1919 Baltimore Orioles pitching statistics|