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Relocated MLB Teams: The St. Louis Browns

The St. Louis Browns were a baseball team that played in the American major leagues between 1902 and 1953. The team had been in existence since the late 19th century when they played in the Western League as the Milwaukee Brewers. The name Browns was adopted when the franchise moved to Boston in 1902 as part of the newly formed American League. “Browns” had been the original name of the Cardinals. The club’s ballpark was called the Sportsman’s park, which they shared for many years with their city rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. During the first two decades, the Browns were very popular in their hometown but were overshadowed by the highly successful Cardinals in subsequent years. The situation was so bad that the Browns are widely considered the most unloved baseball team in history. The Browns franchise is still in existence today and it is known as the Baltimore Orioles.

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The browns’ showings on the pitch were very dismal. During their 52 seasons in St. Louis, they finished last or second last 21 times and their average winning percentage was .433. Their biggest achievement was the 1944 pennant and even that came about when the league was weakened due to players leaving for the war. Today, the Browns are best remembered for the antics employed by Bill Veeck who owned the team from 1950. Besides his managerial abilities, Veeck was a crafty showman who had used his entertainment skills to pull crowds to games during previous stints with clubs such as the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. His most famous stunt during his ownership of the Browns was signing Eddie Gaedel, a 3-foot-7 midget who was sent on to bat during a game against the Detroit Tigers on August 18, 1951. Tigers pitcher, Bob Cain threw four straight pitches over Gaedel’s head as the crowd broke into laughter. The stunt was not well received by league owners and Gaedel was restricted from further appearances. Gaedel’s appearance was not the only time the Browns had fielded an unlikely player. In 1945, with most teams’ rosters depleted by the war, the Browns signed a one-armed batter named Pete Gray. Gray had lost his arm as a child when it got entangled in the spokes of a wagon. By wearing the batting glove on his finger tips with nearly all the padding removed, Gray could catch the ball with the glove on and quickly throw it with the glove off. He batted .218 and stole five bases, which was not a bad return given his handicap. Despite being an inspirational figure for many, the Browns still preferred a fully capable batter and when the war ended Gray’s career came to an end.

Why were the St. Louis Browns Relocated?

As would be expected of a team with the Browns’ mediocre record, attracting fans to games was a big challenge. During the 1935 season for example only about 81,000 fans turned up to watch the Browns at Sportsman’s Park. The team only exceeded the league’s average attendance in four seasons. When Bill Veeck took over as owner in 1951, there was hope that he would turn around the team’s fortunes but it proved a difficult ask. Besides the crowd entertaining stunts he employed, Veeck plotted to drive the Cardinals out of town, believing St. Louis was not large enough to support two major league teams. He began by signing former Cardinals stars such as Harry Brecheen, Vern Stephen and former manager Rodgers Hornsby. He also stripped Cardinals items from Sportsman’s Park which was owned by the Browns and redecorated it exclusively in Browns memorabilia.

The assault seemed to be working as the Cardinals, struggling with tax scandal and almost looked set to leave the city. However a bid from Gussie Busch, president of St. Louis based Anheuser-Busch Brewery was accepted which handed the Cardinals a lifeline in the city. Veeck realized that the Browns time in St. Louis had come to a close and sought to relocate to Baltimore. The league owners who were still angered by his publicity stunts refused to grant his relocation request, effectively forcing him to sell the team to Clarence Miles. Following the 1953 season, the team relocated to Baltimore and were renamed the Baltimore Orioles.

St. Louis Browns most Notable Players

Jim Bottomley 1B 1936-1937

Rogers Hornsby 2B 1933-1937

George Sisler 1B 1915-1927

Bobby Wallace SS 1902-1916

Barney Pelty RHP 1903-1912

Urban Shocker RHP 1918-1924

Hank Severeid C 1915-1925

Baby Doll Jacobson CF 1915-1926

Jimmy Austin 3B 1911-23, 1925-26, 1929

Wally Gerber SS 1917-1928

Sam Gray RHP1928-1933

Jack Burns 1B 1930-1936

Don Haffner 1B 1938-1943

George McQuinn 1B 1938-1945

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