...The Original Baltimore Orioles
by Burt Solomon
Buy it from Amazon from Barnes & Noble
The Orioles won their eighteenth consecutive game on the sixteenth of September, in the first of a Sunday doubleheader in Cincinnati. (Only in the West did baseball share the Lord's day.) In the second game, the Reds filled the bases in the first inning when the runners on first and second started to steal. Robbie ran the ball out into the infield -- either man was a sure out. The runner on third base broke for home. Robbie did too -- and slipped on the wet grass. Everybody was safe, and a run was home.
Two innings later, Reds on second and third tried again to steal. Robbie ran the ball toward third base, for an easy toss, and flung the ball into the mud at John McGraw's feet. Later in the inning the runner at third put the Reds ahead, 4 to 3.
With two outs in the last inning, the score unchanged, Joe Kelley hit his second two-bagger of the game. Willie Keeler came to bat. He had already hit a single and a double. Three thousand cranks squealed. On the Baltimore bench, hopes ran high. Willie stood with perfect attention, his bat concealed behind his thin, determined frame. He swung. A grounder dribbled ingloriously to the second baseman. The winning streak ended.
The next six games, the Orioles won.
The Giants, every bit as adamant, passed the Beaneaters and kept in the Orioles' shadow. The Orioles were undeterred. They went to Cleveland needing one more victory to clinch the pennant. They lost the first game, then prepared to face Cy Young the next afternoon. He remembered everyone's weakness and calmly, undemonstratively, took advantage.
Back in Baltimore the excitement ran high. "The success of the Baltimores is the greatest advertisement the town ever had," a grain merchant informed a wandering scribe. At Ford's Grand Opera House, at Fayette and Eutaw streets, where Horace Greeley had been nominated for the presidency back in 'seventy-two, hundreds of cranks crowded beneath the frescoes and chandeliers of the recently modernized theater to watch the Compton Electric Base-Ball Game Impersonator. Using an ingeniously constructed curtain that featured a diamond, movable figures and bells of different tones, the game from Cleveland was played out on Ford's eminent stage as the news of it flowed in by telegraph.
The game was a crackerjack. Though Cy Young had won two dozen games, all season the Orioles had found him an easy mark. Charley Esper, reluctant to throw his stow pitch, was hardly better. Going into the fourth inning the score stood 5 to 5. With one man out and another on base, Willie Keeler came to bat. In the first inning he had bunted and scored. This time Young threw just what Willie wanted. He drove the pitch to the farthest reach of right-center field. He raced around to home plate, and beat the throw.
When the twenty-seventh Spider was dispensed with, and the score stood 14 to 9, the Orioles flung themselves into one another's arms. They danced around the bat bags and howled. Hanlon cast his dilapidated straw hat, which he had promised to wear until the championship was won, to the winds.
From Where They Ain't: The Fabled Life And Untimely Death Of The Original Baltimore Orioles Copyright © 1999 by Burt Solomon. Reprinted with permission.