By Ginger Duran
Baltimore must love brown. No, not UPS. Both the Orioles and the Ravens descended from teams named the Browns: the St. Louis Browns and the Cleveland Browns respectively. Here is a brief history of the Orioles family tree.
The Browns’ name was shortened from the Brown Stockings, the discarded nickname of the St. Louis Cardinals, the other major league team in the city. Over the years, the Browns would acquire the reputation for being a hard luck team, but one with a cast of colorful characters unrivaled in major league sports.
After the inaugural year, the team finished in solid second place with a record of 78-58 and the Browns began their long and eventually fruitless struggle to establish a consistent habit of winning.
World War II brought a change in fortunes for the Browns. While many of baseball’s biggest stars were off fighting, the Browns became contenders in 1944. They battled the Detroit Tigers for their only AL pennant with an 89-65 record, placing them into the World Series facing -- ironically -- the St. Louis Cardinals. They would lose the series to the Cards 4-2.
In 1945, with World War II wrapping up, there was a push to find good ballplayers wherever and whenever they could be found.
One of the players to be given a chance in the majors for the Browns was Pete Gray, who had lost an arm in a childhood accident. Despite his handicap, he was determined to play baseball. He learned to bat and throw left-handed, becoming a source of inspiration to many. His career lasted only one season with the end of the war and the return of the baseball stars.
Dizzy Dean, the popular St. Louis broadcaster and former Cardinal was hired by the Browns to drum up interest and support for the team. On Sept. 28, 1947, frustrated by their lack of ability, Dean pitched four innings of one game, allowing no runs and getting a single.
The Browns continued their losing streak into the 1950s when Bill Veeck purchased them. He hired pitching great Satchel Paige to shore up the teams prospects, but after one month and no improvement, he found a unique way to get the Browns notoriety. He hired Eddie Gaedel who stood all of 3-foot-7 and weighed 65 pounds. Other owners were not amused by the stunt and Gaedel made only one appearance at bat.
In 1951, the Browns discovered a silver lining in the dark cloud of their poor record. The silver lining was Ned Garver, with the Browns’ best pitching record, finishing with 20 wins and 12 losses. He became an All-Star on a last place team. Not all of Paige and Garver’s talent could save the Browns, however.
Veeck sold the Browns to Baltimore in 1953. On Sept. 28, 1953 before a sparse crowd of 3,174, the Browns lost their last game in St. Louis.
(This article appears in the Baltimore Sports News at: http://www.pressboxonline.com/story.cfm?id=2440 )