Baltimore has seen its share of championship teams, but it has also seen a host of major league teams coming and going
by Stuart Kirsch
When thinking about east coast major league sports cities, Baltimore is not the first to come to mind. Yet it does hold a Title Town distinction of hosting two championship teams simultaneously in 1971. That is all the more impressive considering Baltimore has had a more tumultuous, love-hate relationship with its major professional sports teams (and owners) than its I-95 neighbors. In the late 19th century, the Baltimore Orioles were a force in baseball, winning three straight National League pennants and two Temple Cup championships behind Hall of Famers Wee Willie Keeler and John McGraw. But 1899 contraction eliminated the club. A new Orioles franchise was born two years later in the nascent American League, yet after another two years, these Orioles would fly away to the north to become the New York Highlanders and eventually the Yankees. Minor league teams held the Orioles name for half a century until the St. Louis Browns moved back to Crabtown as the MLB Baltimore Orioles team we know today. Around the same time, the modern NFL was being shaped and the Baltimore Colts, led by Johnny Unitas, was one of the premier teams. But 1983 saw the Colts leave Charm City for Indianapolis. Baltimore regained a franchise 13 years later when Art Modell moved the Cleveland Browns to town and became the Ravens. The Baltimore Bullets were an early team in the NBA, and in a telling fact, they were the last NBA franchise ever to fold, ending operations in the 1954 season. A decade later, the Chicago Zephyrs moved to Baltimore as the next iteration of the Bullets, only to move to the DC suburbs in 1973 and transform eventually into the Washington Wizards. Other than a single year of the Baltimore Blades of the WHA, the city has never hosted a major league hockey team.
Yet with all the comings and goings, Baltimore has hoisted a fair share of major league championship trophies. The lone basketball championship in Baltimore history came thanks to the 1947-48 Baltimore Bullets of the then BAA, two years before it became the NBA. The team was led by Hall of Famer player-coach Buddy Jeannette. Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer played on all three Orioles World Series teams, winning in 1966, 1970, and 1983. The O’s won the American League Pennant three straight years from 1969 to 1971, but only captured the one title. Stars of the 60s and 70s Orioles included fiery manager Earl Weaver, barrier-breaker Frank Robinson, Brooks “the Vacuum Cleaner” Robinson, defensive specialist Mark Belanger, and slugger Boog Powell. Pitchers Palmer, Mike Cuellar, and Dave McNally each won twenty games in the 1970 championship season, and did again, along with Pat Dobson in 1971. The 1983 team saw the beginnings of a new generation of Orioles heroes Cal Ripken, Jr. and Eddie Murray. The Baltimore Colts won back-to-back NFL championships in 1958 and 1959, under the coaching of Weeb Ewbank and led by Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, and Lenny Moore. The team lost the NFL championship in 1964 as well as Super Bowl III to Broadway Joe Namath’s New York Jets. The team’s last Baltimore hurrah came in January of 1971 when Unitas and John Mackey spearheaded the victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. The Colts joined the reigning champion Orioles as Baltimore held two trophies at once. In the new Baltimore NFL generation, the Ravens have claimed two Super Bowl championships. GM Ozzie Newsome and coach Brian Billick built a defense-first team featuring Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson and beat the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV in 2000. In Super Bowl XLVII coached by John Harbaugh, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice led the offense while Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata fronted the defense that defeated brother Jim Harbaugh’s Niners.
Can Baltimore regain its Title Town status as the Ravens run roughshod over the NFL?
As the 2019 NFL season wraps its final weeks, Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson has become the frontrunner for league MVP honors and the Ravens have won ten straight games after starting the season 2-2. Jackson is a unique weapon that John Harbaugh has worked to maximize the effectiveness of his skill set. Mark Ingram is a powerful running back that balances Jackson’s quickness. Jackson throws to an array of young receivers, notably tight end Mark Andrews and wideout Hollywood Brown. Veteran DB Earl Thomas joined the defense that has done more than enough to keep opponents off the board as the offense chugs along. Currently the top seed in the AFC, the Super Bowl odds for the Baltimore Ravens are a league favorite +220.
Since their last World Series title, the Orioles have slipped from upper echelon of teams, making the playoffs only five times in the last 36 years, spending much of the last decade in the cellar of the American League East. Stars like Mike Mussina, Miguel Tejada, Matt Weiters, and Manny Machado spent time as mainstays of the organization, which is now coming off two straight 100-loss seasons. Owner Peter Angelos has not been a popular owner with his fan base since buying the team in 1993, and his involvement in baseball decisions has been regularly derided. The team’s roster entering the season is without star power, and they have traded some of their biggest names this offseason. Unsurprisingly, the odds for a 2020 Baltimore Orioles World Series championship are +10000.
Can the Ravens and Orioles parlay two Baltimore titles?
With a strong championship favorite in the Ravens and a longshot in the Orioles, the odds for a Baltimore Title Town double play are +32220.