Those legendary O's of '94

Monday Book Reviews

August 26, 1991|By John Goodspeed

PENNANT SOUVENIR OF THE BALTIMORE BASE BALL CLUB. Compiled by D. Dorsey Guy, illustrated by J. Carrell Lucas. Originally published by George A. Meekins, Baltimore. Replica published by Triple Play Press, 1196 Schaffer Dr., Frederick 21702. 66 pages. $6.50, including postage and handling. IF YOU'RE a Baltimore Orioles fan -- and few in these parts aren't -- you'll probably wind up thinking that 1991 is the year to forget for everything except Cal Ripken's hitting. So why not console yourself with a reminder of the year 1894, a year the Orioles won the pennant?

For that I recommend this replica of a little book that was published that year, "Pennant Souvenir of the Baltimore Base Ball Club." The original, of which the only known copy is in the Library of Congress, was written and compiled by D. Dorsey Guy, a Baltimore journalist of the period, and illustrated with cartoons by J. Carrell Lucas, a member of the Baltimore family still prominent as merchants of office supplies. It has been one of the rarest of all baseball mementos. The Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y., has never owned an original, according to Clark Evans, a Library of Congress librarian, resident of Frederick and publisher of the replica.

The O's of 1894 were in the 12-team National League, which was the only major league in successful operation through the 1890s and which then included clubs in Cleveland and Louisville. The Birds, more often referred to then as the Baltimores, won 89 of 128 games in '94. They then lost four straight to the second-place New York Giants in the Temple Cub playoffs, then the closest thing to a World Series. That final result is not mentioned in the souvenir book, but hey, the Baltimores copped the regular-season gonfalon. And that is almost certainly more than the 1991 club will manage. The year 1894 was a time to "Let Everybody Hurrah!" as a Baltimore newspaper headline suggested. It was an innocent era.

The Orioles of 1894 are legendary. Six of the regulars are in the Hall of Fame -- John McGraw (third base), Hughey Jennings (shortstop), William H. (Wee Willie, "Hit 'Em Where They Ain't") Keeler (right field), Wilbert Robinson (catcher), Dan Brouthers (first base) and Joe Kelley (left field). The manager was Ned Hanlon, himself once a star outfielder in an era when a fielder wore no leather glove or a very small one.

Guy's short biographies of the 1894 O's include heights and weights and show that the immortal Keeler, at 5 feet, 6 inches and 150 pounds, was not in fact a Wee Willie compared to most of his teammates. He's not called Wee Willie in the souvenir book, nor is there any mention of his remark about hitting 'em where they ain't. But Keeler batted .432 in 1894. That's right -- .432.

A new introduction in the "Pennant Souvenir" replica is by James H. Bready, Baltimore journalist and author of the most authoritative of all histories of the Orioles, "The Home Team," also a "must" for baseball fans.

Read Bready's book when you finish the souvenir to revel in the full glory of those old-time O's. They remained a power in the National League until the turn of the century. Then the franchise was moved to New York in the new American League and the team eventually became (can you stand it?) the Damnyankees. Baltimore remained a minor-league team until 1954, but we will not, of course, ever again be so demeaned.

Will we?

John Goodspeed writes from Easton.

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