- History of the Baltimore Orioles
The Baltimore Orioles (nicknamed The O's and The Birds) are a
Major League Baseballteam based in Baltimore, Maryland. They are in the Eastern Division of the American League. They are owned by attorney Peter Angelos.
The modern Orioles franchise can trace its roots back to the original
Milwaukee Brewersof the minor Western League, beginning in 1894 when the league reorganized. The Brewers were there when the WL renamed itself the American Leaguein 1900.
At the end of the 1900 season, the American League removed itself from baseball's National Agreement (the formal understanding between the NL and the minor leagues). Two months later, the AL declared itself a competing major league. As a result of several franchise shifts, the Brewers were one of only two Western League teams that didn't either fold or move (the other being the
Detroit Tigers). During the first American League season, they finished dead last with a record of 48-89. During its lone Major League season, the team played at Lloyd Street Grounds, between 16th and 18th Streets in Milwaukee.
As the baseball "war" heated up the American League began to challenge the senior circuit more directly. The American League already fielded teams in
Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, solid National League cities. It had planned to move the Brewers to St. Louis, but those plans fizzled.
t. Louis Browns
In 1902, however, the team did move to St. Louis, where it became the "Browns", in reference to the original name of the legendary 1880s club that by 1902 was known as the Cardinals. In their first St. Louis season, the Browns finished second. Although the Browns usually fielded terrible or mediocre teams (they had only four winning seasons from 1901 to 1922), they were very popular at the gate.
During this time, the Browns were best-known for their role in the race for the 1910 American League batting title.
Ty Cobbtook the last game of the season off, believing that his slight lead over Nap Lajoiewould hold up unless Lajoie had a near-perfect day at the plate. However, Cobb was one of the most despised players in baseball, and Browns catcher-manager Jack O'Connor ordered third baseman Red Corridento station himself in shallow right field. Lajoie bunted five straight times down the third base line and made it to first easily. On his last at-bat, Lajoie reached base on an error--officially giving him a hitless at-bat. O'Connor and coach Harry Howell tried to bribe the official scorer, a woman, to change the call to a hit--even offering to buy her a new wardrobe. Cobb won the batting title by just a few thousandths of a point over Lajoie (though it later emerged that one game may have been counted twice in the statistics). The resulting outcry triggered an investigation by American League president Ban Johnson. At his insistence, Browns owner Robert Hedges fired O'Connor and Howell; both men were informally banned from baseball for life.
After years of prosperity at the gate, in 1916 Hedges sold the team to
Philip Ball, who had owned the St. Louis Terriersof the defunct Federal League. Ball's tenure saw the Browns' first period of prosperity; they were a contender for most of the early 1920s, even finishing second in 1922. Ball, however, committed several errors that dogged the franchise for years to come.
Ball's first major blunder was allowing
Branch Rickey, the resident genius in the Browns' front office, to jump to the Cardinals because of a conflict of egos. In 1920 Sam Breadon, who had just purchased the Cardinals, convinced Ball to allow his team to share the Browns' home, Sportsman's Park. Breadon put the money from the sale of the Cardinals' Robison Fieldinto the minor league system, which eventually produced a host of star players that brought the Cardinals far more drawing power than the Browns.
The 1922 Browns excited their owner by almost beating the Yankees to a pennant. The club was boasting the best players in franchise history, including
George Sisler, and an outfield trio - Ken Williams, Baby Doll Jacobson, and Jack Tobin- that batted .300 or better in 1919-23 and in 1925. In 1922, Williams became the first player in Major League history to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season, something that would not be done again in the Majors until 1956.
Ball confidently predicted that there would be a World Series in Sportsman's Park by 1926. In anticipation, he increased the capacity of his ballpark from 18,000 to 30,000. There was a World Series in Sportsman's Park in 1926 - the Cardinals upset the Yankees. St. Louis had been considered a "Browns' town" until then; after 1926 the Cardinals dominated St. Louis baseball, while still technically tenants of the Browns. Meanwhile, the Browns rapidly fell into the cellar.
During the war, the Browns won their only St. Louis-based American League pennant in 1944. Some critics called it a fluke; most major league stars voluntarily joined or were drafted into the military; however, many of the Browns' best players were classified 4-F: unfit for military service. They faced their local rivals, the more successful Cardinals, in the
1944 World Series, the last World Series to date played entirely in one stadium, and lost 4 games to 2.
In 1945, the Browns posted an 81-75 record and fell to third place, 6 games out, again with less than top-ranked talent. The 1945 season may be best remembered for the Browns' signing of utility outfielder
Pete Gray, the only one-armed major league position player in history.
Bill Veeck's St. Louis Browns
Bill Veeck, the former owner of the Cleveland Indianspurchased the Browns. In St. Louis he extended the promotions and wild antics that had made him famous and loved by many and loathed by many others. His most notorious stunt in St. Louis was to send Eddie Gaedel, a 3 foot 7 inch, 65-pound midget, to bat as a pinch hitter. When Gaedel stepped to the plate he was wearing a Browns uniform with the number 1/8, and little slippers turned up at the end like elf's shoes. With no strike zoneto speak of, Gaedel walked on four straight pitches. The stunt infuriated American League President Will Harridge, who voided Gaedel's contract the next day.
Veeck also brought the legendary, and seemingly ageless,
Satchel Paigeback to major league baseball to pitch for the Browns. Veeck had previously signed the former Negro Leaguegreat to a contract in Cleveland in 1948 at age 42, amid much criticism. At 45, Paige's re-appearance in a Brown's uniform did nothing to win Veeck friends among baseball's owners. Nonetheless, Paige ended the season with a respectable 3-4 record and a 4.79 ERA.
Veeck believed that St. Louis was too small for two franchises and planned to drive the Cardinals out of town. He signed many of the Cardinals' most locally loved ex-players and, as a result, brought many of the Cards fans in to see the Browns. Veeck signed former Cardinals great
Dizzy Deanto a broadcasting contract and tapped Rogers Hornsbyas manager. He also re-acquired former Browns fan favorite Vern Stephensand signed former Cardinals pitcher Harry Brecheen, both of whom had starred in the all-St. Louis World Series in 1944. He stripped Sportsman's Park of any Cardinals material and dressed it exclusively in Browns memorabilia. He even moved his family to an apartment under the stands. Veeck's showmanship and colorful promotions made attendance at Browns games more fun and unpredictable than the conservative Cardinals were willing to offer.
Veeck's all-out assault on the faltering Cardinals almost worked. At the same time, they were finally feeling the effects of Rickey's departure in 1942. For a time in the early 1950s, it looked like the Cardinals were about to leave town. However, Cardinals owner
Fred Saigh, facing banishment from baseball for massive tax evasion, sold the team to the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Realizing that the Cardinals now had overwhelming resources at their command, Veeck then began to consider moving the Browns. The Browns had been candidates for relocation earlier: in 1941, the Browns had come close to moving to Los Angeles, nearly two decades before big league baseball eventually arrived in California. The American League even drew up a schedule including Los Angeles and had a meeting scheduled to vote on the relocation of the Browns, but the bombing of Pearl Harborkilled the move.
Veeck attempted to move the Browns back to Milwaukee (where he had owned the Brewers of the American Association in the 1940s), but the move was blocked by the other American League owners, seemingly for reasons that were more personal than business related.
Veeck then tried to move the Browns to Baltimore himself. However, he was rebuffed by the owners, still seething by the publicity stunts he pulled at the Browns home games. Meanwhile, Sportsman's Park had fallen into disrepair. Veeck was forced to sell it to the Cardinals since he couldn't afford to make the necessary improvements to bring it up to code. With his only leverage gone and facing threats of liquidating his franchise, Veeck was all but forced to sell the Browns to a Baltimore-based group led by attorney
Clarence Milesand brewer Jerry Hofberger. With Veeck "out of the way", the American League owners quickly approved the relocation of the team to Baltimore for the 1954 season.
Unlike other clubs that transferred in the 1950s, retaining their nickname and a sense of continuity with their past (such as the Brooklyn-Los Angeles Dodgers), the St. Louis Browns were renamed upon their transfer, implicitly severing themselves from their history. In December 1954, the Orioles further distanced themselves from their Browns past by making a 17-player trade with the
New York Yankeesthat included most former Browns of note still on the Baltimore roster. Though the deal did little to improve the short-term competitiveness of the club, it helped establish a fresh identity for the Oriole franchise. Many older fans in St. Louis remember the Browns fondly, and some have formed societies to keep the memory of the team alive. The club was in St. Louis for 52 years. As of the 2006 season, the club had been in Baltimore longer than they were in St. Louis.
Soon after taking over, the Miles-Hofberger group renamed their new team the Baltimore Orioles. The name has a rich history in Baltimore, having been used by Baltimore baseball teams since the late 19th century.
In the 1890s, a powerful and innovative
National LeagueOrioles squad included "Wee" Willie Keeler, Wilbert Robinson, Hughie Jenningsand John McGraw. They won three straight pennants, and participated in all four of the Temple CupChampionship Series, winning the last two of them. That team had started as a charter member of the American Association in 1882. Despite its on-field success, it was one of the four teams contracted out of existence by the National League after the 1899 season. Its best players (and its manager, Ned Hanlon) regrouped with the Brooklyn Dodgers, turning that team into a contender.
In 1901, Baltimore and McGraw were awarded an expansion franchise in the growing American League, but again the team was sacrificed in favor of a
New York Cityfranchise, as the team was transferred to the city in 1903. After some early struggles, that team eventually became baseball's most successful franchise - the New York Yankees.
As a member of the high-minor league level
International League, the Orioles competed at what is now known as the AAA level from 1903-1953. Baltimore's own George Herman Ruth - nicknamed "Babe" - pitched for the Orioles before being sold to the AL Boston Red Soxin 1914. The Orioles of the IL won nine league championships, first in 1908, followed by a lengthy run from 1919 to 1925, and then dramatically in 1944, after they had lost their home field Oriole Parkin a disastrous mid-season fire. The huge post-season crowds at their temporary home, Municipal Stadium, caught the attention of the big league brass and helped open the door to the return of major league baseball to Baltimore. Thanks to the big stadium, that "Junior World Series" easily outdrew the major league World Series which, coincidentally, included the team that would move to Baltimore 10 years later and take up occupancy in the rebuilt version of that big stadium.
The new AL Orioles took about six years to become competitive. By the early 1960s, stars such as
Brooks Robinson, John "Boog" Powell, and Dave McNallywere being developed by a strong farm system.
Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson
In 1966, the Orioles traded pitcher
Milt Pappas(and several others) to the Cincinnati Redsin exchange for slugging outfielder Frank Robinson. That same year, Robinson won the American League Most Valuable Player award, thus becoming the first (and so far only) man to win the MVP in each league (Robinson won the NL MVP in 1961, leading the Reds to the pennant). In addition to winning the 1966 MVP, Robinson also won the Triple Crown (leading the American League in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in.) The Orioles won their first ever American League championship in 1966, and in a major upset, swept the World Series by out-dueling the Los Angeles Dodgers aces Sandy Koufaxand Don Drysdale.
Pappas went 30-29 in a little over two years with the Reds, before being traded. Although he would go on to have back-to-back 17-win seasons for the
Chicago Cubsin 1971 and 1972, including a no-hitterin the latter season, this did not help the Reds, who ended up losing the 1970 World Series to Robinson and the Orioles. This trade has become renowned as one of the most lopsided in baseball history, including a mention by Susan Sarandonin her opening soliloquy in the 1988 film " Bull Durham": "Bad trades are a part of baseball. I mean, who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas?"
Glory Years (1966-1983)
The Orioles farm system had begun to produce a number of high quality players and coaches who formed the core of winning teams; from 1966 to 1983, the Orioles won three World Series titles (1966, 1970, and 1983), six American League pennants (1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1979, 1983), and five of the first six American League Eastern Division titles. They played baseball the "Oriole Way", an organizational ethic best described by longtime farm hand and coach
Cal Ripken, Sr.'s phrase "perfect practice makes perfect!" The "Oriole Way" was a belief that hard work, professionalism, and a strong understanding of fundamentals were the keys to success at the major league level. It was based on the belief that if every coach, at every level, taught the game the same way, the organization could produce "replacement parts" that could be substituted seamlessly into the big league club with little or no adjustment. This led to an unprecedented run of success from 1966 to 1983 which saw the Orioles become the envy of the league, and the winningest team in baseball.
During this stretch, three different Orioles were named
most valuable player( Frank Robinson-1966, Boog Powell-1970, Cal Ripken, Jr.-1983), pitchers combined for six Cy Young Awards ( Mike Cuellar-1969, Jim Palmer-1973, 1975, 1976, Mike Flanagan-1979, Steve Stone-1980), and three players were named rookies of the year ( Al Bumbry-1973, Eddie Murray-1977, Cal Ripken Jr.-1982).
During this rise to prominence, "Weaver Ball" came into vogue. Named for fiery manager
Earl Weaver, "Weaver Ball" is defined by the Oriole trifecta of "Pitching, Defense, and the Three-Run Home Run."
When an Oriole GM was told by a reporter that Earl Weaver, as the skipper of a very talented team, was a "push-button manager" he replied "Earl built the machine and installed all the buttons!"
As the Robinson boys grew older, newer stars emerged including multiple
Cy Young Awardwinner Jim Palmerand switch-hitting first baseman Eddie Murray. With the decline and eventual departure of two local teams - the NFL's Baltimore Colts and baseball's Washington Senators, the Orioles' excellence paid off at the gate, as the team cultivated a large and rabid fan base at old Memorial Stadium.
Collapse and redemption
After winning the World Series in 1983, the Orioles' organization began to decline. In 1986 the Orioles recorded their first losing record since 1967. The Orioles started the 1988 season unceremoniously by losing the first 21 contests, and ended the year at 54-107, the worst record for the franchise since 1939. The next year, the O's sported a new look, replacing the cartoonish bird with a more realistic one. The 1989 squad, led by surprise ace Jeff Ballard, rebounded to finish in 2nd place behind the
Toronto Blue Jayswith an 87-75 record, staying in contention until the last week of the season and earning the nickname "Why Not?" Orioles. Two years later, Cal Ripken, Jr.won MVP honors in the final season at Memorial Stadium.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
In 1992, with grand ceremony, the Orioles began their season in a brand new ballpark,
Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and thus retiring Memorial Stadium in the major league baseball world. The name of the new park though did have much controversy in it. Many felt that since the Orioles' new home was so close to Babe Ruth's birthplace that the new park should have been named after Ruth instead of being indirectly named after the Earl of Camden, Charles Pratt, who was a Britisher who never set foot on American soil. There was also the superficial connection to the fact that Ruth played for the Orioles early in his career, but the Orioles team that Ruth played for was in no way related to the Orioles team that moved to Baltimore from St. Louis.
Peter Angelosbought the Baltimore Orioles, which returned the team to local ownership. However, Angelos' ownership resulted in a number of controversies. The Orioles also hosted the 1993 All Star Game.
1995: Ripken Breaks the Record
In the season when baseball returned from the devastating players' strike,
Cal Ripken, Jr.finally broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak of 2,130 games. This was later voted the all-time baseball moment of the 20th Century by fans from around the country in 1999. Ripken would finish with 2,632 straight games, finally sitting on September 20, 1998.
Pat Gillickas GM for the Orioles in 1996. Gillick went on to bring in several premium players like B.J. Surhoff, Randy Myers, and Roberto Alomar. Under Gillick and manager Davey Johnson, the Orioles finally returned to postseason play by winning the American League's wild card spot in the 1996 season. The team set a major league record for home runs in a single season, with 257, and upset the Cleveland Indiansin the Division Series before falling to the New York Yankeesin a controversial American League Championship Series (famous for the fan, Jeffrey Maier, interfering with a ball and allowing the Yankees to win game 1). The Orioles followed up by winning the AL East Division title in 1997, going "wire-to-wire" (being in first place from the first day of the season to the last). After eliminating the Mariners in four games in the opening round, the team lost again in the ALCS, this time a heartbreaker to the underdog Indians, in which each Oriole loss was by 1 run. After the Orioles failed to advance to the World Series in either playoff, Johnson resigned as manager following a dispute with Angelos, with pitching coach Ray Miller taking his place.
1998/1999: Beginning of a downturn
With Miller at the helm, the Orioles found themselves not only out of the playoffs, but also with a losing season. When Gillick's contract expired in 1998, it was not renewed. Angelos brought in
Frank Wrento take over as GM. The Orioles added volatile slugger Albert Belle, but the team's woes continued in the 1999 season, with stars like Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar(who joined his brother Sandy Jr. in Cleveland), and Eric Davis leaving in free agency. After a second straight losing season, Angelos fired both Miller and Wren. He named Syd Thriftthe new GM and brought in former Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove. In 1998, the Orioles updated the Bird in their logo, and then once again in 1999 to bring it to its present form.
Going into the 2007 season, the Orioles will have had nine consecutive sub-.500 seasons due to the combination of lackluster play on the team’s part, a string of ineffective management, and the ascent of the Yankees and Red Sox to the top of the game - each rival having a clear advantage in financial flexibility due to their larger media market size. Further complicating the situation for the Orioles is the relocation of the
Montreal Exposfranchise to nearby Washington, D.C.- for which Angelos has demanded compensation from Major League Baseball. The new Washington Nationalsthreaten to carve into the Orioles fan base and television dollars. There is some hope that having competition in the larger Baltimore-Washington metro market will spur the Orioles to field a better product to compete for fans with the Nationals.
Beginning with the 2003 season, big changes began to sweep through the organization to try to snap the losing ways. General manager Syd Thrift was fired and to replace him, the Orioles hired
Jim Beattieas the Executive Vice President and Mike Flanagan as the Vice President of Baseball Operations'. After another losing season, manager Mike Hargrovewas not retained and Yankees coach Lee Mazzilliwas brought in as the new manager. The team signed powerful hitters in SS Miguel Tejada, C Javy López, and former Oriole 1B Rafael Palmeiro. The following season, the Orioles traded for OF Sammy Sosa.
The 2005 season may go down as one of the most controversial in the Orioles' history. The Orioles began the season with a tremendous start, holding onto first place in the AL East division for 62 straight days. However, turmoil on and off the field began to take its toll as the team started struggling around the All-Star break, dropping them close to the surging Yankees and Red Sox. Injuries to
Luis Matos, Javy López, Brian Roberts, Sammy Sosa, and Larry Bigbiecame within weeks of each other. The team was increasingly dissatisfied with the front office's and manager Lee Mazzilli's "band-aid" moves to help the team through this period of struggle. Various minor league players such as Single-A Frederick outfielder Jeff Fiorentinowere brought up in place of more experienced players such as David Newhan, who batted .311 the previous season.
July 15 2005, Rafael Palmeirocollected his 3,000th hit in Seattle; but 15 days later he was suspended for a violation of MLB's drug policy, after testing positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol. The Orioles continued tumbling, falling out of first place and further down the AL East standings. This downfall cost Lee Mazzillihis managerial job in early August, allowing bench coach and 2003 managerial candidate Sam Perlozzoto take over as interim manager and lead the team to a 23-32 finish. The Orioles called up Dave Cash from the Ottawa Lynxto serve as the team's first base coach.
Collapse of the season
The Orioles' 32-60 second half record is, from a percentage standpoint, the worst in baseball history after playing .600 ball for the first 70 days Fact|date=February 2007. The club's major offseason acquisition,
Sammy Sosa, posted his worst performance in a decade, with 14 home runs and a .221 batting average. The Orioles did not attempt to resign him, considering his exorbitant salary, his miserable performance, and his stormy relationship with batting coach Terry Crowleyand teammates including Miguel Tejada. The Orioles also allowed Rafael Palmeiro to file for free agency and publicly stated they would not resign him. On August 25, pitcher Sidney Ponsonwas arrested for DUIand on September 1the Orioles moved to void his contract (on a morals clause) and release him. The Major League Baseball Players Associationfiled a grievance on Ponson's behalf and the case was sent to arbitration and has yet to be resolved.
Front office changes
Following the disappointing 2005 season, it was clear major changes needed to be made within the Orioles. In the front office, Executive VP
Jim Beattiewas not re-signed, allowing Mike Flanagan to become the sole GM of the Orioles. Shortly after, Jim Duquettewas hired as Vice President of Baseball Operations, which was Flanagan's previous position. Duquette made it clear at his signing that he reported to Flanagan, so the "two-headed GM" will not exist anymore. The Orioles also fired assistant General Manager Ed Kenneyand asked for the resignation of Dave Ritterpusch, Director of Baseball Information Systems.
Coaching staff changes
There were also drastic changes in the Orioles coaching staff. Perlozzo was named the new manager, and unlike Mazzilli, was given full freedom to name his coaching staff. Perlozzo led off strong by convincing Atlanta pitching coach
Leo Mazzone, who had revolutionized the careers of many pitchers in Atlanta, to become the pitching coach for the Orioles. He retained hitting coach Terry Crowleyand first base coach Dave Cash. Former base coach and 1983 World SeriesMVP Rick Dempseyreplaced the late Elrod Hendricksas the bullpen coach, with Tom Trebelhornresuming third base coach. Perlozzo rounded out his staff with former Cubs and Phillies manager Lee Eliaas the bench coach.
The roster changes of 2005 were prefaced with Peter Angelos' comments: "We are coming back strong next year. I know you have heard that tune before, but this time it will literally come true." The Orioles allowed
Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and B.J. Surhoffto become free agents. They also set their wishlist: An everyday first baseman, an experienced starter, a closer, a defensive catcher, outfield help, more defense, and more speed. However, their offseason moves showed no differences from past years. The Orioles were not able to re-sign closer B.J. Ryan, who signed a landmark deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. They were also locked out in bids to sign first baseman Paul Konerko, outfielder Johnny Damon, and starter Paul Byrd. The Orioles were rumoured to have a deal with outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, but his agent balked, supposedly at language regarding the physical, which was deemed by legal experts to be rather standard, and Burnitz signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Orioles chose not to enter the bidding for players like A.J. Burnettand Kevin Millwood, whose asking prices were far beyond what the Orioles were willing to pay. The only target the Orioles managed to sign was catcher Ramon Hernandez.
Locked out of pursuits to sign top-tier players, the Orioles decided to make several moves to allow minor league prospects more time to develop. This led to bringing in players like
Jeff Conineand Kevin Millar, both of whom are known for their positive presence in the clubhouse. The Orioles also made several trades to bring in needed players. They first traded disgruntled reliever Steve Kline for LaTroy Hawkins, then traded for outfielder Corey Patterson, who brought speed and defense to the outfield, and traded former closer Jorge Julioand John Mainefor experienced starter Kris Benson. The Orioles also addressed future free agents by extending the contract of outfielder Jay Gibbonsand third baseman Melvin Mora, and recently signed a contract extension with second baseman Brian Roberts. The team's Opening Day roster featured top prospect Nick Markakis, a potential A.L. "Rookie of the Year", the best young position player the Orioles' farm system has produced since Brian Roberts. Markakis represents the revival of the Orioles' once proud farm system, which features four players listed in Baseball America's 2006 list of the top 100 prospects in minor league baseball.
The Orioles' lack of movement over the course of the offseason frustrated many, including
Miguel Tejada. This led to him stating, controversially, that he "wanted to play for a winner", and "perhaps a change of scenery is needed." The Oriole front office began to talk to many teams interested in Tejada as a trade. It was rumored that the Boston Red Soxoffered All-Star outfielder Manny Ramírezfor Tejada, though no Orioles officials confirmed this. There were also talks of Mark Priorbeing offered for Tejada. After several weeks, teammate Melvin Morafacillitated a conference call between the Orioles and Tejada where Tejada backed down and said his comments were intended to motivate the Orioles to make more moves in free agency.
2006 Regular SeasonThe Orioles finished the up and down 2006 season with a record of 70 wins and 92 losses, 27 games behind the AL East leading Yankees.
"Free the Birds"
2006 also marked the Orioles ninth straight losing season, causing much of the Baltimore fan base to become disgruntled with the team's ownership.
Fan bitterness was not limited to the team's poor performance on the field. With Washington finally getting a baseball team of its own, many longtime Baltimore fans became disturbed over the ownership's continued refusal to put the word "Baltimore" back on the Orioles road jerseys, as well as their refusal to refer to the team as the "Baltimore Orioles." A grass-roots movement called "Free the Birds" was organized by local sports talk radio station WNST-1570, spearheaded by its owner "Nasty" Nestor Aparicio. The nephew of former Oriole shortstop and Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio, "Nasty" Nestor had been an outspoken critic of Angelos for a number of years. For weeks, WNST aggressively promoted an unprecedented protest rally that was to take place on September 21st, during a mid-week afternoon game against the Detroit Tigers at Camden Yards. The protest was not so much aimed towards the team itself, as it was the club's owner, Peter Angelos. Approximately 1,000 fans participated in the protest rally, and sat together in the left field sections of the stadium's upper deck. There were conflicting news reports over the actual number of participants. Some news organizations had it at "hundreds." Aparicio maintains that it was in the thousands.
During the fourth inning of the game, at exactly 5:08 p.m., Aparicio led a "walkout", with the protest fans leaving the game in unison. The precise time of departure, 5:08, was significant in that "5" stood for Brooks Robinson's number and "8" for the number worn by Cal Ripken Jr. Many of the protesters wore black T-shirts that read "Free the Birds", a phrase that was chanted loudly through the walkout. "We have a chance to make a memorable civic statement about how we, as fans, are fed up with the embarrassment that the Orioles have become," Aparicio said after the walkout. Peter Angelos had a different take on the rally. "Whoever joins that protest has no comprehension of what it costs to run a baseball team," Angelos said. Referring to Aparicio, Angelos added, "he is a very unimportant person who has delusions of grandeur."
News of the protest was covered nationally, appearing on sites such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Fox Sports, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, ABC, CBS Sportsline, USA Today, and The Sporting News. In the weeks following the rally, Aparicio created a website in honor of the rally, and declared to his listeners that he would form a union in protest of Angelos and his ownership of the franchise. Aparicio likened it to what "many in the asbestos lawsuits did a number of years ago" (a knock on the litigation that led to Angelos' success as a trial attorney). "And what could Peter Angelos possibly say to disparage the same kind of union that made him a wealthy man", said Aparicio after launching his website.
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