The Orioles lost three straight to New York and three more to Boston. They fell out of first place for a day, then regained it. Before long the Beaneaters overtook them once more. The critics brayed that the Orioles had been playing out of their class.
Hanlon went to work. He needed pitching the most. Whatever Hanlon wanted, Harry von der Horst was happy to oblige. Hanlon had his eye on Kid Gleason, a gutty right-hander from the Camden, New Jersey, waterfront who had won ninety-nine games the past four seasons and was known to be unhappy in St. Louis. He joined the Orioles in July. Soon Hanlon bought a big left-handed workhorse, Charley Esper of the Senators, who had lost more games -- twenty-eight -- than anyone in the League the previous season.
More was to come. By season's end the Orioles had spent more to strengthen their team than had the other eleven ballclubs combined.
The Orioles stood two games behind the Beaneaters and one ahead of the Giants when the New Yorkers came to Baltimore in the searing days of August. Sadie McMahon was supposed to pitch, but his arm hurt, so Kid Gleason went to the rubber instead. He had a pleasant clean-shaven face and a boyish blond forelock. Not much bigger than McGraw, he was almost as tough. He never ducked a fight and could lick a man who was fifty pounds heavier.
As the game went on, the Orioles seemed different somehow. Maybe it was something Hanlon had said or the sense of helplessness that came in facing Amos Rusie. They stopped trying to knock the ball out of the lot, as when they had been losing, but returned to their strength, resting content with a succession of sharply hit singles. Willie Keeler got three of them, breaking out of a slump. (He had gone through four games in a row without hitting safely.) It seemed like ages since the Orioles had displayed such clean, scientific hitting. They showed ginger.
They won by 12 to 9 that day and by 20 to 1 the next afternoon, when Willie and Joe Kelley struck four hits apiece and Hughey Jennings got five. Sadie McMahon's arm ached but he pitched anyway, and exceedingly well. What glorious fun they were having. This, every Baltimorean knew, was why God had made baseball.
Harry von der Horst dined that evening with Eddie Talcott, the treasurer of the Giants, who had made his fortune on Wall Street. An old black man stationed himself beneath the open window of the restaurant. As Harry exhorted his friend from New York not to feel glum, a warbling came from the sidewalk below, to the tune of "Tit-willow":
A young man from New York, silent sat at his plate
Singing Oriole, Oriole, Oriole.
Why am I consigned to this awful hard fate?
Oh! Oriole, Oriole, Oriole.
Is it weakness of pitching or muffing, he cried;
Or a great run of base hits all on the wrong side?
Then he swallowed his napkin and slowly he died,
From Where They Ain't: The Fabled Life And Untimely Death Of The Original Baltimore Orioles Copyright © 1999 by Burt Solomon. Reprinted with permission.