Sports Reference Blog

1901-02 Orioles Removed from Yankees History

Posted by Mike Lynch on July 21, 2014

Baseball-Reference has made the move to dissociate the New York Yankees franchise from the 1901 & 1902 Baltimore Orioles (not connected to the current Baltimore Orioles franchise). This adjustment allows us to fall in line with the Yankees franchise itself and most references including Total Baseball, edited by MLB's official historian, John Thorn, who authored an interesting history of the move. Additionally, Pete Palmer & Gary Gillette, the men behind the ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia, consider them separate franchises. A few years back, Gillette kindly shared his reasoning with us:

"We discussed this at length when we did the first edition of our new encyclopedia in 2004. IIRC, the deciding factor was that the Baltimore franchise went bust during the season and was turned over to the league. After the season, the league then sold a new franchise to investors in New York City. We felt that wasn't really a relocation or a transfer; it was simply filling the gap in the league that was opened when the Orioles' franchise disintegrated.

Of the 39 players who appeared for Baltimore in 1902, only five appeared for New York in 1903. Jimmy Williams was the regular second baseman for both clubs. Herm McFarland, a utility player in '02, became a regular outfielder in '03. Ernie Courtney played one game for Balto. in 1902, then 25 for NY in 1903. Harry Howell was the only pitcher of consequence to make the transition. Snake Wiltse (4 G in '03) also appeared for both."


This move was precipitated by the BAL/NYY joint record approaching the milestone of 10,000 wins, which caused a reassessment of how we approach this move. Some of the results in the play index may still reflect the two franchises as being one, but we will be working to fix that in the near future.

130 Responses to “1901-02 Orioles Removed from Yankees History”

  1. Emmett McAuliffe Says:

    Bravo. And they need to do this to separate St. Louis Cardinals National League from St. Louis Browns American Association. Even merchandise sold at Busch Stadium today has "established 1892" all over it. This is what the Post-Dispatch had to say about the National League Browns, March 20, 1892:

    A Team Composed . Almost Entirely of
    New Players.

    "The st. Louis club for this year Is practically
    a new team so far as lts members are
    concerned. Only one man who played with
    the Browns In 1891 will be on the taam of 1892.
    This Is pitcher Breitenstein, and be played
    only a short time at the close of the season."

  2. oneblankspace Says:

    A similar question arises about the 1916 Cubs, who were essentially a merger of the 1915 Cubs and 1915 Whales (Federal League). I blogged about it a few years back.

    Chicago's Northside Baseball Team

    It is interesting to note that the Cu** are celebrating 100 years of Wrigley Field when the 1914 Cubs played elsewhere.

  3. Butch Haber Says:

    I'm Curious, Sean, When I Use Baseball Reference. Com To Look Up Stats For 1901-1902, Balt. Orioles, How Do I Do It? Under Yankees, Or Orioles? Reply, Please!! You Are The Greatest, Sean Forman!! You Belong In The Baseball HOF!! My Friends,
    Cliff Blau, And John Thorn, Are Also Great!!

  4. Butch Haber Says:

    BTW, Sean, How Do You Classify My Beloved Mont. Expos/Wash. Nats? As 1 Franchise, Right? Reply, Please!!

  5. Butch Haber Says:

    BTW, Sean, How Do You Classify My Beloved Mont. Expos/Wash Nats? As 1 Franchise, Right? Reply, Please!!

  6. Detroit Jake Says:

    Rich, you won! Tim (#75) you are an upstanding. BBRef could choose to be impartial by allowing the definition of franchise/team in its search tools and not defined by the temporary owner. F Bill James, F the Yankees, F the Ben Aff-soxs. Baseball existed before the MLB corporation. We do not need John Thorn to set definitions.

  7. Stentorian Says:

    I believe KJOK #100 makes a good point. Certainly the history of the Yankees franchise is inextricably linked to the 1901-02 Orioles club. However, the question of whether or not the Yankees business enterprise was an extension of the Orioles business enterprise is a separate question, and, in point of fact, a legal question. When a business is bought, sold, merged, etc. the assets of the business, including, but not limited to, employee contracts, leases, financial records, stock, etc. are part of the transaction. If this was the case in the instance of the move from Baltimore to New York one can conclude that the Orioles, in a legal sense, became the Yankees. If there exists insufficient evidence of this manner of transfer of assets it is fair to conclude that although a franchise shift occurred that a business transfer did not.

    While the various newspaper references are of interest, I doubt the reporters were doing anything more than reporting on the shift of the franchise. What I'm suggesting is that more intensive research is needed into mundane issues such as purchase agreements, bills of sale, corporate resolutions, etc. before a definitive, historical conclusion can be stated.

    What's better than baseball?

  8. William Says:

    @ Stentorian

    In the link I posted above, I reference two articles about court cases dealing with assets of the Orioles being placed into receivership.

  9. Cliff Blau Says:

    Going back to post #39, I don't see that John and I disagree, since he states in the linked article that the Baltimore club was sold to Devery and Farrell for $18,000, thus providing direct continuity of ownership. And all of the (very few) players under contract to Baltimore at the time of the sale became NY players. So he must agree with me that they were the same club.

  10. Steve Says:

    This has been a fantastic thread. I learned a lot. It is apparent to me that a good argument can be made for both positions. I do wonder why the 1901-02 Orioles were not separated from the Yankees long before now? If the "two franchise" argument is so compelling, why wait until 2014 to do the deed?

    The folks who can best shed light on the discussion are long since dead. Given the murkiness of the situation and the long time delay, I think this move does history a grave disservice.

    I get that the Yankees have their own internal reasons for doing what they do. It is a business decision from their perspective, hence their wishes should have no bearing on the situation.

  11. Dvd Avins Says:

    The team, the business, and the membership in an organization of teams are three different things. Technically, the word "franchise" refers to the last. And so technically, the Yankees and the early AL Orioles are the same "franchise". But in reality, people lump the three things together, which calls for decisions that can't be perfectly correct from all perspectives (Mr, Thorn's assertion of clarity notwithstanding).

    The decision here seems to be based on team (the players, mostly, though the laundry counts, too.) I'm OK with that, but perhaps it would be better of some of the folks who feel so sure they're right on both sides take a step back and realize the inherent problem in treating continuity a binary (yes or no) piece of information.

    From a business point of view, the Cubs date back to the Whales of the Federal League, not to the early NL Cubs. It's unlikely that continuity will ever be recognized as a single "franchise", but it would have been a good idea for the Cubs and MLB to make something more of it with the centennial of Wrigley Field.

  12. Dvd Avins Says:

    @100. Sorry, Kevin. You already said pretty much what I did, but I hadn't seen you post yet when I wrote mine.

  13. Deric Says:

    I think the whole problem stems from Thorn making up his own definition of what a franchise is. He says it has to be the same teams that are sold are brand new...doesn't hold water to me. He also says if the MAJORITY of players...(I'm not sure why he says that) doesn't transfer then it's a new team. Well it's obvious that the quality playerss did transfer and the ones that didn't pretty much never played again or retired or were sold previously to other teams. Ban Johnson in my opinion did a terrible job in the first place by letting two teams raid the Orioles to begin with.

    It is quite obvious that this is a continuous franchise and I don't see how that can be argued.

  14. Carlos3000 Says:

    Part of the problem with debate as a whole is exhibited here perfectly. When positions are taken and "evidence" is given to lend weight to the argument for the benefit of one side or the other, then it degenerates into a debate of, not the actual origin of the dispute, but rather the merit and context of that individual piece of "evidence". The ONLY thing that truly matters here is not, continuity of ownership, preponderance of players playing with NY in 03 that played with Baltimore in 02, nor newspaper writer's perspectives. It is simply this, were the Owners of NY in 1903 given access to assets (player contracts, equipment, other personnel etc...) and/or given the right of first refusal of those assets that belonged to Baltimore of 01 and 02. The answer to that question SHOULD be the ONLY determining factor. The reason for this seems simple, to me at least. There are only TWO options here. Either, 1903 New York was an expansion team, or they were a relocated franchise under different ownership. It seems pretty obvious to me that the evidence shows that NY was given right of first refusal of Baltimore's assets (the players they chose to keep) and therefore were not an expansion team , by definition. To me that is the crux of the matter and it renders all else irrelevant.

  15. Dvd Avins Says:

    Other considerations may be irrelevant to you, but when those assets were minimal--were nowhere near the bulk of what would allow new ownership to field a team as an ongoing business, I see no reason why that should be irrelevant to someone who is not you.

  16. Carlos3000 Says:

    Missing the point. Regardless of how minimal those assets were, in your opinion, the fact that those assets were "transferred" is the only issue of relevance. That, by definition, is the continuation of a franchise and not an expansion team that would start from scratch.

  17. Dvd Avins Says:

    I didn't _miss_ anything. Rather, I disagree. When the previous assets are effectively a throw-in to the new owners, they do not have the same significance as they would if that's what the team continued to be built on.

    Here, go set up a pizza place. I used to have a pizzeria client in this town. But building burned down and the oven was repossessed. The customer list was only an a computer that was lost in the fire and the old phone number's been reassigned. But they did have new tables and chairs on order when the fire happened, and since I want a new client in town, I'll arrange for the furniture to be delivered to you if you can open by April.

    Does that make your business the same as the last one?

    I'm not saying it's cut and dried. I"m saying that if you think cut and dried formulas cover all situations, it's you who's missing the point.

  18. Carlos3000 Says:

    But you are missing the point. When you are dealing with history, there needs to be some very distinctive parameters that should be adhered to. Once you say "well I don't think the players that were transferred were any good, so that changes everything", then it becomes subjective and not history but just opinion. So following your logic if one of those players developed into a HOFer then it would be a continuation of a franchise??? There are only 2 options. Either the 1903 Highlanders were an expansion/new team or they were a continuation of the Baltimore team. The fact that they had access to Baltimore's assets, no matter how underwhelming those assets may have been in your opinion, then they were a continuation of the previous team. I think it is telling that the farther removed from that time, the more revisionist this gets and the more that what was an accepted fact during the time-frame that it actually occurred and for many years afterwards gets ignored. To each his own, I don't really have a dog in this fight but subjectivity applied to history, while it does happen across all topics, is a pet peeve of mine. It either happened or it didn't and trying to apply subjective criteria is a slippery slope. IMHO.

  19. Stentorian Says:

    In view of the fact that the Baltimore assets and liabilities were disposed of in bankruptcy and never taken on by or awarded to New York (link 74 - thank you William) I must conclude that the Baltimore business entity never became the New York business entity and that the Yankees/Highlanders are not the extension of the Orioles. The fact that Ban Johnson may have arranged to have some of the former Baltimore players go to New York or that he had the New York owners buy the franchise spot in the American League previously held by Baltimore does not, in my view, constitute evidence of a continuity between the Baltimore and New York clubs sufficiently strong to warrant inclusion of Baltimore team records with New York team records. I certainly respect that many posters disagree and recognize the valid points raised, but I believe the salient issue is the disposition of all the team property, not just the disposition of the 5 players.

    I would, by extension, conclude that the Yankees/Highlanders have not yet achieved their 10,000th win or their 15,000th home run, and that the club is not an original American League entrant. I suppose they will have to be satisfied with being the most successful expansion team ever.

    This has been a great string. Let's get to the bottom of the Cubs/Whales/White Stockings issue.

  20. Joe C. Says:

    If continuity of the majority of the roster is such a key factor here, then I put forward the notion that the 1998 Marlins should be considered a separate and distinct franchise from the 1997 Marlins.

  21. Carlos3000 Says:

    Stentorian, very logical and strong points. That is what my point has been all along. That the only determination that SHOULD matter is if there was continuation from Baltimore to New York. If Ban Johnson had decided in 1902 that the troubled Baltimore franchise was going to be moved to NY all along and if they were given access/right of first refusal to Baltimore's assets, including the players, then NY can't be called an expansion franchise, but were in fact a continuation of Baltimore. It is very much one or the other and the relative merit of those assets is irrelevant. If that was not the case and the only tie was that Ban Johnson summarily assigned those five players to an "expansion" franchise, then I would have to agree with you, regardless if those five players included Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson. Joe C, LMAO, very well said and as a Marlins fan (can that still be plural) very sad but very true. :(

  22. Paul E. Says:

    This may muddle things even further. I remember at least during the early years of the current Baltimore Orioles franchise, they traced their line of continuity was from the pre-1903 Orioles, not from the St. Louis Browns. Thus, someone other than Ken Williams was the leading homerun hitter in their version of the franchise history. I don't know whether today they recognize any franchise records, if any, that are held by players from the Browns.

  23. Z Says:

    Given this can we start listing g Detroit as founded in 1894 since they never moved and are a continous franchise that entire time? Only founding member of the Western League to never move.

  24. Dave Hornstein Says:

    Dave From Detroit Says:

    This move is dishonest. The New York Yankees, originally called the Highlanders when they relocated from Baltimore, are clearly a continuation of the 1901-02 Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles franchise reverted to the American League midway through the 1902 season, then was sold to new owners who relocated it to New York for 1903. Because of the war between the American and American leagues, there was plenty of player movement at this time, jumping back between one league or the other. Because of this, only a few Orioles players were left for the new owners, and they kept a significant portion, then raided National League teams to fill out the rest of the roster. The continuity is clear.

    This is every bit as dishonest as the NFL not counting the records of the original Cleveland Browns as part of the Baltimore Ravens records, instead assigning them to the expansion Browns that came along a few years later. Here the continuit6y is obvious.

  25. Emmett McAuliffe Says:

    #122 Yes this is true. The Orioles recently put all their media guides online going back to 1954. The way they deal with records and history in some of those 1950s books is quite Schizophrenic at times.

    But I understand where they are coming from. The town that you are playing in should be one factor among many factors bespeaking continuity.

    Some of the minor league teams with great traditions were either merged or disbanded during World War I or during World War II. But does anyone want to say that, e.g. the Tampa Tarpons are two different franchises and their records should be separated?

  26. Hideisalive Says:

    This is correct, the current Orioles do not recognize the 1901/02 club, the St. Louis Browns, the 1901 Brewers, or the National League/American Association Orioles in their records. They do acknowledge that they are they same team as the St. Louis Browns...they just keep separate statistical records.

    I actually think its really a shame the Orioles don't acknowledge the National League squad. They should hang their pennants up somewhere in the stadium.

  27. Emmett McAuliffe Says:

    #126 Thanks for the comment.

    Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards has tons of stuff from the NL Orioles, 01-02 Orioles, and IL Orioles. And not much Browns stuff, except to illustrate the "1954 case". It's only natural. I wouldnt expect 01-02 Orioles memorabilia in Yankee Stadium's museum either. ("You mean da Yanks yous'd to be the freakin O's!!?".) The Orioles have never used Browns retro uniforms at Camden Yards. If they did, people would walk out.

    We statisticians can forget that baseball is made up of fans living in proximity to the home team. Without these fans, baseball would be nothing and we would not even be here (B-R).

  28. Hideisalive Says:

    Yeah the Sports Legends Museum is great, but its not run by the Orioles.

    As a side note: Its been very disheartening to learn how John McGraw acted during 1902.

  29. Stentorian Says:

    McGraw knew Ban Johnson was going to force him out, so he decided to cut his own deal and screw Johnson in return. McGraw beat the moguls at their own game. Somebody should make a movie about it.

  30. Emmett McAuliffe Says:

    Stentorian brings up jumping. Due to jumps, the 1902 St. Louis Browns got more of their continuity from the 1901 Cardinals: seven players including several Hall of Famers (but all seven being "All Stars" of their day), plus a manager chosen because of his familiarity with all seven. The result was entirely expected: the 1902 Cardinals dropped from .543 to .418, and the Browns increased from the Milwaukee Brewers team .350 up to .574. Now that is continuity .... proven!

    And if you trace the Cardinals back to the 1899 Perfectos, you will remember that that team was entirely made up of transferred Cleveland Spiders. The most blatant "franchise shift except in name only" of all time.

    Therefore the history of the Baltimore Orioles could well be looked at:
    present-1954 Baltimore Orioles
    1953- 1902 St. Louis Browns
    1900 to 1901 St. Louis Cardinals
    1899 St. Louis Perfectos
    1898-1891 Cleveland Spiders
    Here is where it gets tricky:
    you could either follow the Patsy Tebeau/Jimmy Macaleer/Henry Gruber (20-game winner) line which ends with the 1890 Players League Cleveland Infants (or rather begins with it).
    Or you could take the Cy Young/Ed McKean (scab??) line which takes the continuity back to the first Cleveland Spiders National League team of 1889 which actually has its origins in the Cleveland Blues that played both 1888 and 1887 in Chris Von Der Ahe's (et al) American Association. (Actually Cy Young was a rookie in 1890 and couldnt really be called a scab (-: )

    But the continuity of the Orioles certainly does go to at least to Cleveland national league 1891, if you count players as having anything to do with continuity, which I do not see how you cannot.

    I think a good solution might be to give the current day Milwaukee Brewers the 1901 American League records, 1900 American (minor) League records and the records of the Western League Milwaukee Brewers going back to 1894, for custody and stewardship.