It is a tragedy that the Orioles franchise ignores the legendary National League squad that preceded it. I often take too long to get to the point, getting caught up in setting my framework first: Let me cut straight to the chase, I propose the Orioles construct a monument to them and host a throwback night.
At the end of the 19th century the field of the original Orioles Park was grace by the pioneering Hall of Famers John McGraw, Wilbert Robinson, Joe Kelly, Wee Willie Keeler, Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings and manager Ned Hanlon. They were one of the top teams in the young National League including a stretch of three straight pennants from 1894 to 1896.
Along the way Wilbert Robinson and John McGraw are said to have left their mark on the city by inventing duck pin bowling.
In 1898 they won 96 games in a 149 game season. Then something strange happened. You see, the Orioles owners also owned the Dodgers. Ownership raided the Orioles roster, transferring players to Brooklyn. The Orioles were tenacious though, and still won an impressive 86 games in 1899. But it didn't matter. Just one year removed from a staggering .677 winning percentage they were contracted by the league.
In response John McGraw abandoned the National League, forming the American League Orioles that existed from 1901-1902 before their roster was in turn raided* and the team failed and was bought by NYC interests...eventually becoming the Yankees (I am aware of Baseball Reference's assertion that they are entirely separate entities. I disagree. The Yankees disagree. But that's another debate)
Much could be written about how baseball screwed over the city of Baltimore worse than the NFL ever did. The city didn't have a team for 53 outside a couple Federal League seasons...and that league was wrecked by their lawsuit with the big leagues too...but that's not why I'm writing this.
It makes no sense that the Orioles in no way honor or recognize the National League Orioles for their legendary players, impressive achievements, the mark they left on baseball...or really that they even exist. You perhaps have heard the terms “Baltimore chop” and “Inside baseball” coined around the NL Orioles...but did you know they also termed “The Oriole Way?”
Indeed...the Orioles' web page that lists Orioles Hall of Famers bizarrely lists just John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson...but only for their years with the AL Orioles. Robinson spent 12 years with the NL Orioles, but the Orioles list him as just “1902.” John McGraw defined baseball over nine seasons with the NL Orioles, batting .336/.461/.410 but the Orioles only credit him for managing the AL squad for a year and a half.
This is odd. Even if you agree with Baseball Reference's assertion that the 1901/1902 Orioles are not officially part of the Yankees they are certainly associated with them. They played two unremarkable seasons and moved on. If you're going to acknowledge them why not the NL squad?
The Orioles must step up and honor the NL Orioles. They defined the early days of baseball...and their history is not claimed by anyone else so there's not really anything stopping them. The great story of these men and their contributions to baseball and the city of Baltimore run the risk of being forgotten.
I would be highly pleased if the Orioles constructed a monument somewhere in the stadium honoring this great team. It doesn't have to be anything crazy. I think that a mural bringing the team to life, accompanied by a plaque honoring them would be appropriate. Perhaps they could create three pennants to fly at the mural.
This would obviously be a move done out of reverence than profit, but the team could stand to make some money doing a turn-back-the-clock night. It could be a whole production, they could give away straw boater hats. I can say with certainty that I'd be first in line to buy a hat with the cursive “B” logo on it, or a retro style baseball button up sweater. So, there's some motivation here for the Orioles to do this other than it just being the right thing to do.
Baseball is a love with its history. To continue to ignore such a legendary team is unacceptable.
*HOF Joe “Iron Man” McGinnity had the honor of leaving for NY Dodgers during the NL purge, coming back to play for the AL team...then leaving again in the NL Giants purge.