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1953-1954 Orioles off-season moves

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  • 1953-1954 Orioles off-season moves

    The Bob Turley thread, in which a poster noted that the Orioles may have had recourse to using hype to attract fans in their first season, had me looking at what moves they made during the off-season.

    You would think that in inheriting the Browns, an owner would be tempted to "blow it all up and start over with a youth movement." But an analysis of their transactions shows that despite whatever reasons they may have had to acquire a player, in almost every case the transaction yielded an older, albeit more famous and gate-worthy, roster.

    February 5, 1954
    Traded Johnny Groth and Johnny Lipon to the Chicago White Sox. Received Neil Berry and Sam Mele.
    December 17, 1953
    Traded Bob Cain to the Philadelphia Athletics. Received Joe Coleman and Frank Fanovich.
    February 18, 1954
    Traded Roy Sievers to the Washington Senators. Received Gil Coan.
    March 28, 1954
    Purchased Ray Murray from the Philadelphia Athletics for $25,000.
    April 8, 1954
    Purchased Dave Koslo from the New York Giants.

    And the ultimate in my book: Sending down Eddie Mickelson and acquiring Eddie Waitkus. Waitkus was 34 y.o., would only hit 2 HR and drive in 33 runs for the O's. Not good production from a power position of 1B. 1954 would be his penultimate year. Not saying it was his fault for getting shot (it sure wasn't!) but you have to factor that in to at least make him an "old 34". Meanwhile Mickelson was 26, in his prime, had just finished an 80-game stint with the Little World Series-winning IL-AAA Rochester Red Wings and was in the midst of becoming "one of the premier minor league players of his era"* with a lifetime BA of .316 and slugging percentage of .475. Sorry for Mickelson that he didn’t get that opportunity in 1954 because he was never able to get back in the big leagues again until it was too late.

    On the flip side, it must have been a remarkable gate draw to have the famous** and good-looking Waitkus at 1B, plus the draw from curious nearby Philly fans.

    Other than off-loading the St. Louis gate draw of Harry Brecheen, most of the O's moves appear to be for gate and not to rebuild. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong in hiring some or all of your players for their marquee value. That's within the realm of legitimate business decision. However, I am just surprised that the Orioles were so nervous about gate and you didn't see a full-throttle youth movement, and instead a little of the opposite. That would have been a golden time to do it.

    *Tom Kayser, Texas League President

    ** He saw some of the bloodiest fighting of World War II with the U.S. Army in the Philippines, earning four Bronze Stars. Upon his return to baseball he quickly became a star for the Chicago Cubs. He also became a popular media figure, as he was well-educated and could speak several languages. The best-selling Bernard Malamud book The Natural (released in August 1952) was somewhat based on Waitkus. (Wikipedia)
    Last edited by Brownieand45sfan; 07-14-2010, 12:10 PM.

  • #2
    From what I can recall reading in the past, I don't believe it was about gate attractions but just about ridding themselves of connections to the woeful Browns.


    • #3
      Originally posted by dave_heller View Post
      From what I can recall reading in the past, I don't believe it was about gate attractions but just about ridding themselves of connections to the woeful Browns.
      Well that's been the party line, but if you look closely at the transactions, it doesn't add up. Long-in-the tooth and very identifiable Brownies were kept on roster longer than young Brownies. In addition to the transactions I mentioned above that you dont deal with, I would point out that Sievers, Larsen and Turley were traded before Vern Stephens, Kretlow, Wertz and other more senior players. Ironically some Brownies were dealt back for (Batts, Dyck and Courtney come to mind). In those cases they were *regaining* the Browns connection. I know they wanted to rid themselves of the Browns connection, but the record reflects an even higher priority: an almost 62-Mets like fetish for veterans and Marquee players.
      Last edited by Brownieand45sfan; 07-14-2010, 10:25 PM.


      • #4
        I believe you are right.
        Last edited by Mister_D; 07-23-2010, 11:35 AM.


        • #5
          I guess this note tells it all. Arthur Ehlers had a contract based on attendance. The Orioles needed the gate to keep the team going, and the new General Manager needed the gate to keep his pocket going. No doubts left. The gate was the goal.


          • #6
            Great find Mr. D!

            "Would not attempt a sudden rebuilding job by paying for ... untested [young players]".

            Not paying bonus babies was, in this case, another way of saying, "But we will pay for name players who can put butts in the seats right now."

            Also of note:
            1. Ehlers ran the Athletics' front office from 1951-53, with Jimmy Dykes as his manager.
            2. The choice of Ehlers was ironic because he was GM of another franchise that was rumored to move and in fact did move by October of '54. He had experience, sure, but it was not exactly a fresh start for the O's as if they had brought up a good minor league executive. (37-year old George Sisler Jr. would have been a great choice and would have given the Orioles some "legacy").
            3. Ehlers had not selected a manager on the article date and was giving every indication that he would give Marion consideration.
            4. Ehlers hired his friend Dykes. Which was necessary because Marion would not have liked these off-season moves at all.
            5. When they hired Dykes, and replaced Marion, that meant the Orioles were paying three managers.
            6. Each lasted only one season. Paul Richards, skipper of the Chicago White Sox, was hired to replace both men on September 14, 1954.
            7. What righted the Orioles for their spike year in '57 and then finally and famously in the 1960s, was of course the Oriole Way as taught by Richards, plus some snappy scouting by old Browns scouts (and St. Louisans) Jim Russo ("Superscout") and Fred Hoffman (Wally Bunker, Brooks Robinson, Boog Powell). These guys scouted so good, you didnt need bonuses!

            p.s. Though discussing Bob Turley in some detail, I note in the article that they are not calling him Bullet Bob, nor even mentioning his fastball as of yet.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Brownieand45sfan View Post
              Great find Mr. D!
              Thanks. It was just a great coincidence, since I wasn't looking for it.

              [*]Each lasted only one season. Paul Richards, skipper of the Chicago White Sox, was hired to replace both men on September 14, 1954.
              But Ehlers did an excellent job gate-wise. Why do you think they fired him? It was that Paul Richards became available then?

              p.s. Though discussing Bob Turley in some detail, I note in the article that they are not calling him Bullet Bob, nor even mentioning his fastball as of yet.
              Obviously they came up with the idea of making Turley their main attraction later on.
              Last edited by Mister_D; 07-26-2010, 10:20 AM.


              • #8
                Just speculation: The Orioles were worried about making a big initial impact, attendance-wise, the first year. You would think that as long as they drew more than the Browns drew in '53 they could call it a win. But they had to beat the Browns attendance, plus the '53 IL Orioles' attendance (figure unknown), plus make their payment on what they owed the bank to buy the team and fund start-up costs. And there might have been some naysayers who thought waiting for expansion would have been preferable. And some naysayers who thought keeping the IL Orioles might have been preferable, even if just out of loyalty to Jack Dunn III. (One of Jack, Mary, or Jack Dunn III had run the IL franchise in Baltimore since 1907, with the exception of the two years of the Federal League's existence). There was pressure from somewhere, it's plain to see. Otherwise, rebuilding would have been the order of the day.

                Yes, Ehlers (and Dykes) were successful at putting butts in the seats. Why they got rid of him? See my speculation below.

                The White Sox were in the middle of an excruciating six-consecutive third-place finish run and were probably in the mood to make a change and promote Marion out of the coaching box. The Orioles were interested in unloading one of their three managerial contracts, Marion being one. Richards wanted to be GM someplace (a role he must have had a hunch he was destined for). So a somewhat unholy swap was perpetrated, and Ehlers was out, despite doing exactly as he had been told. And his friend Dykes, too. The Orioles not only no longer had to pay Marion, they had Richards "two-for-one". A Marion/Richards/WhiteSox in the 50s expert could probably set us straight. And Marion is still alive, so I could probably muster up the courage to call and ask him.
                Originally posted by Mister_D View Post

                But he did an excellent job gate-wise. Why do you think they fired him? It was that Paul Richards became available then?

                Last edited by Brownieand45sfan; 07-26-2010, 09:18 AM. Reason: grammar


                • #9
                  I am a resident of Baltimore and my memory of talking to my elders growing up was that Paul Richards was viewed as a wonderkid and that's why the move was made. I have no idea why they would have hired Ehlers and Dykes as the A's were a terrible club in the early 50's.