Baltimore Orioles History: Rival Groups Camp Out at Ballpark

Just because the Baltimore Orioles had been dropped from the National League following the 1899 season did not mean that use of their former ballpark would be easily granted. On this day in 1900, two factions camped out in the Union Park Ball Grounds, looking to control the premises.

During the 1890’s, the Baltimore Orioles were one of the prouder franchises in the game. They won three consecutive pennants from 1894 through 1896, and contended for the National League virtually every year. Nonetheless, following the 1899 season, the National League contracted the Orioles, along with three other teams, as they dropped down to eight franchises. However, as of this date in 1900, that announcement had yet to be made official.

With that being the case, several players, along with manager Ned Hanlon, had opted to go to the Brooklyn franchise. Meanwhile, star third baseman John McGraw, along with several other players, were looking to find a way to keep baseball alive in Baltimore. To that end, the two rival factions set up camps on this day in 1900, with Hanlon and his players camped around first base, and McGraw’s compatriots around third.

Around that time, Cap Anson had been looking to resurrect the American Association, and sought to put a team in Baltimore. McGraw, who worked to line up financial backing, came to learn that the lease for the ballpark had expired, and was no longer held by Hanlon. As such, he secured it for the potential Baltimore franchise.

That set off an interesting chain of events. Angered, Hanlon put armed guards at the gates to the park to keep McGraw and his players out. As McGraw had the lease, league secretary Philip Peterson climbed the fence, pummeled one of the guards, and left in his pocket a court order that kept Hanlon from removing any property from the grounds.

In the end, this battle was for naught. After the Philadelphia franchise was unable to find grounds for a stadium and backed out, the eighth team, Providence, also left the Association. Anson was forced to call off his league, leaving Baltimore without a franchise that year.

When the American League came to fruition in 1901, the Orioles were resurrected once more. However, they had a new stadium, playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. McGraw was at the helm, leading them to a 68-65 record. After another season in Baltimore, however, the team moved to Manhattan, where they became known as the Highlanders.

As for the Union Park Ball Grounds? Professional baseball would not be played there again. Today, the grounds are home to apartment buildings and a parking lot, an ignoble fate for a former baseball stadium, and one that housed some of the more legendary players of its time.

The Union Park Ball Grounds may be gone, but they had an interesting final chapter, as on this day in 1900, rival factions from the Baltimore Orioles camped out in the park, seeking to gain control of the stadium.

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