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70 Years of Orioles Magic Moments...10 Years at a Time: 1954-1963

February 13, 2024

Two days after the St. Louis Browns finished the 1953 season in last place, American League owners approved the sale and transfer of the franchise to Baltimore, putting the city back in the big leagues for the first time since 1902.

The newly renamed Baltimore Orioles moved into Memorial Stadium, thus beginning a 70-year love affair with Charm City. Good times were lean in the early years; it would take seven years for the team to post its first winning season.

The Orioles eventually would produce three World Series titles, numerous memorable players including a manager and five players whose Hall of Fame careers led to their numbers being retired, and countless magic and improbable moments, including the 2023 AL East Division title.

Now, with a new 30-year lease for Oriole Park at Camden Yards that will take the club through its 100th season in Baltimore, the Orioles are poised to create even more memories in the years ahead.

But first, let’s take a look at the highlights of the first 70 years – memorable moments from seven decades of Orioles Baseball. We’ll look at the players and events that shaped “Orioles Magic” 10 years at a time.

We’ll also include some moments we didn’t know were going to be so memorable at the time.

First up:


2/22/1954: The Orioles, transplanted from St. Louis to Baltimore five months earlier, begin their first spring training in Yuma, AZ, under manager Jimmy Dykes. It would be the Orioles’ only year in Yuma.

4/13/1954: The Orioles play their first game ever, losing 3-0 at Detroit’s Briggs Stadium. Don Larsen, who will go on to lose a club-record 21 games, allows three solo homers. First baseman Gil Coan singles for the first Orioles hit; Larsen doubles for the first extra-base hit.

4/14/1954: The Orioles win their first game ever, 3-2 at Detroit, as Duane Pillette goes the distance. The O’s score three runs in the 1st inning. Maryland native Bobby Young doubles and scores the club’s first run on Gil Coan’s single.

4/15/1954: After a 51-year absence, big league baseball returns to Baltimore as a crowd of 46,354 watches the Orioles beat White Sox, 3-1, in the first game played at Memorial Stadium. Bob Turley is the winner, and Clint Courtney and Vern Stephens hit home runs.

7/30/1954: Bob Kennedy’s bases-loaded home run off New York’s Allie Reynolds – the first grand slam in Orioles history – keys a 10-0 win over the Yankees at Memorial Stadium. Playing their 39th home game, the Orioles top the best season attendance ever by their predecessors, the St. Louis Browns, whose top season total was 712,918 in 1922. The Orioles have drawn over 720,000 to this point; they’ll finish their first season drawing 1,060,910 fans.

9/14/1954: Paul Richards, “the Wizard of Waxahachie (TX),” is announced as the Orioles’ manager and general manager for 1955, replacing Jimmie Dykes and Arthur Ehlers, respectively. Richards will guide the Orioles as GM through the ’58 season and manage the team until mid-September ’61, laying the groundwork for “the Oriole Way” of doing things the same from the minor league clubs to the majors.

11/18/1954: New GM and Manager Paul Richards makes the biggest trade in Orioles history, a 17-player swap with the Yankees that takes nearly two weeks to complete. Coming to Baltimore: Harry Byrd, Don Leppert, Jim McDonald, Bil Miller, Willy Miranda, Kal Segrist, Hal Smith, Gus Triandos and Gene Woodling. Going to New York: Mike Blyzka, Ted del Guerico, Jim Fridley, Billy Hunter, Darrell Johnson, Dick Kryhoski, Don Larsen and Bob Turley. The deal is completed on 12/1. Triandos becomes a three-time All-Star and Miranda the first in a long-line of slick-fielding shortstops for the Orioles; Larsen pitches a World Series perfect game and Turley wins a Cy Young for New York.

5/30/1955: Twelve days past his 18th birthday, Brooks Robinson signs his first professional contract with the Orioles. Assistant general manager Art Ehlers flies to Robinson’s hometown of Little Rock, AR, and gets the future Hall of Fame third baseman to sign for $4,000.

9/17/1955: 18-year-old Brooks Robinson, in his first pro season, is recalled from Class B York of the Piedmont League and goes 2-for-4 with an RBI in his big league debut in a 3-1 win over Washington before 5,486 at Memorial Stadium. In five more games that season, the future Hall of Famer goes 0-for-18 with 10 strikeouts. Twenty-two years and one day later, 51,798 fans will pack Memorial Stadium for “Thanks Brooks Day.”

5/18/1957: The White Sox lead 5-4 with two outs in the 9th at Memorial Stadium and are seconds away from a pre-arranged 10:20 pm curfew to allow them to catch a train to Boston. Pitcher Paul LaPalme only has to hold the ball or throw it in the dirt to leave with a win. Instead, Orioles first baseman Dick Williams hits the first pitch of the 9th inning for a home run to tie the game, 5-5, and the curfew ends the game. It is replayed from the start later in the season and the Orioles win.

7/8/1958: Memorial Stadium hosts its first and only All-Star Game. The Orioles have two players on the American League squad -- starting catcher Gus Triandos goes 1-for-2, but reliever Billy “Digger” O’Dell is the hero as he retires the last nine National League batters on 27 pitches for a save and earns the unofficial “MVP” Award as the AL wins, 4-3. Baltimore native Eddie Rommel, a 13-year pitcher and 21-year umpire in the majors, calls balls-and-strikes.

9/20/1958: Knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm pitches the first no-hitter in Orioles history, beating the New York Yankees, 1-0, at Memorial Stadium. Gus Triandos’ 30th home run of the season – an AL record for catchers at that time – accounts for the game’s only run.

2/28/1959: The Orioles open their first spring training at Miami Stadium, which will serve as their spring home through 1990. The facility has only the stadium field; Earl Weaver will add a “little field” – an infield tucked inside the left field foul area – in 1969 in his first full season as manager.

4/26/1959: The Orioles score two runs in the 9th inning of the first game and one run in the 9th of the nightcap to sweep their first doubleheader from the Yankees in New York. It’s also the Birds’ first three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. In doing so, the Orioles record goes to 9-5 – the first time in their first five seasons that the team is more than two games over .500.

5/19/1959: Billy O’Dell’s 120-foot home run provides all the runs he needs in a 2-1 win over Chicago at Memorial Stadium. O’Dell’s bloop over first base hits the embedded wooden foul line and bounces over the head of charging White Sox right fielder Al Smith, rolling into the corner as O’Dell scampered home with a two-run, inside-the-park homer.

6/2/1959: While pitching at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, Hoyt Wilhelm is besieged by a “gnat attack” in the first inning. Flit and sprays are ineffective, and the bugs are finally blasted away by fireworks that were to be used after the game. Wilhelm allows a run in the first but goes the distance for a 3-2 win, with Gus Triandos driving in the tie-breaking run in the 9th inning.

6/9/1959: The Orioles beat Cleveland, 7-3, before 46,601 fans on Interfaith Night at Memorial Stadium, to tie the Chicago White Sox for first place. It is the first time in the Orioles’ six seasons that they have ever been in first place after the second day of the season.

8/6/1959: The Orioles and White Sox play 18 innings to a 1-1 tie in a game called after 4 hours and 8 minutes at 12:13 AM because of Baltimore City’s midnight curfew. Billy O’Dell allows five hits in eight innings before giving way to Hoyt Wilhelm, who allows only two hits in 10 innings. Chicago’s Billy Pierce goes 16 innings allowing 11 of the Orioles’ 12 hits, including Willie Tasby’s two-out single in the 8th that scored pinch-runner Albie Pearson with the tying run.

5/27/1960: Clint Courtney uses an oversized catcher’s mitt designed by Manager Paul Richards to help handle Hoyt Wilhelm’s knuckleball. Wilhelm goes the distance and Courtney does not commit a passed ball in the Orioles’ 3-2 win over the Yankees – their only win in the Bronx all season. Courtney’s glove – 1 ½ times the size of a standard catcher’s mitt and about 40 ounces heavier – is later outlawed by baseball’s rules committee.

7/15/1960: Brooks Robinson becomes the first Oriole to hit for the cycle, going 5-for-5 with three RBI in a 5-2 win at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Robinson singles in the 1st and 5th innings, homers in the 3rd and doubles in the 7th before completing the cycle with a 9th-inning triple. Six other Orioles have hit for the cycle since.

8/28/1960: The Orioles lead the White Sox 3-1 behind Milt Pappas before Chicago’s Ted Kluszewski hits a three-run homer in the 8th inning to put the Sox ahead. But third base umpire Ed Hurley called time just before the pitch because two Chicago players (Earl Torgeson and Floyd Robinson) preparing to enter the game defensively are warming up outside the bullpen area in Memorial Stadium’s foul territory. With the homer negated, Kluszewski flies out to end the inning, and the Orioles go on to win, 3-1.

10/2/1960: After finishing as high as 5th place once in their first 6 seasons in Baltimore – and no higher than 6th in their previous 15 seasons as the St. Louis Browns – the Orioles clinch 2nd place with a 2-1 win over the Senators at Griffith Stadium in Washington, DC. Jackie Brandt’s 8th inning homer puts the Orioles ahead as they finish with a winning record for the first time, 89-65.

5/9/1961: In a 13-5 win, Jim Gentile hits grand slams in the first and second innings at Metropolitan Stadium, becoming only the third major leaguer to hit two grand slams in a game and the first to do it in consecutive innings, going deep off the Twins’ Pedro Ramos in the 1st inning and Paul Giel in the 2nd. He adds a sacrifice fly later to set the club record with nine RBI in a game, later tied by Eddie Murray (8/28/84) and Ryan Mountcastle (4/11/2023).

8/26/1962: The Orioles cap a five-game sweep of the Yankees with a 2-1 win at Memorial Stadium, as Robin Roberts outduels Whitey Ford. Brooks Robinson and Jim Gentile homer for the Orioles and Tony Kubek goes deep for New York, accounting for all the scoring. The game takes 1 hour, 44 minutes.

5/26/1963: Wes Stock becomes the only Orioles pitcher ever to win both games of a doubleheader as the Orioles sweep the Indians in Cleveland. Stock enters in the 5th inning of the first game with the O’s trailing 6-3 and leaves after working two perfect innings and the O’s ahead 7-6 in a 10-6 win. In the second game, he pitches the final three innings, allowing a hit and a walk as the Orioles break a 1-1 tie in the 8th and go on to win, 6-1.

11/19/1963: After Eddie Stanky turns the job down, the Orioles promote first base coach Hank Bauer to replace Billy Hitchcock as manager. Bauer will serve 4 ½ seasons as manager, guiding the club to its first American League pennant and World Series title in 1966.