Humiliated, Baltimore stormed back in '95, repeated as champion . . . and lost the playoffs again, to Cy Young and the Cleveland Spiders, the only club more ornery than Hanlon's.
Disgrace before comeback
Mount Vernon Place. Even Charles "Duke" Esper, a big, lazy left-hander with a Rollie Fingers mustache, managed to shed 20 pounds -- without shaving.
Second baseman Heinie Reitz wrote his manager from California that he was "in great shape" and "full of pepper," enclosing a sketch of himself shaped like a hot tamale. Outfielder Walter "Steve" Brodie, a character of sorts, spent the off-season tussling with a black bear he had bought to keep fit. Brodie donned a catcher's mask and chest protector, muzzled the bear and wrestled it daily in his back yard in Roanoke, Va.
Hanlon noted their determination and bought the boys new uniforms: white jerseys, black caps and black sweaters with a large orange "B" over the heart. He also continued trading up. The Orioles signed Joe Corbett, 20, brother of heavyweight "Gentleman Jim" Corbett, after learning that Joe pitched as hard as the champion punched. But the biggest catch was "Dirty Jack" Doyle, a first baseman who arrived from the hated Giants. In true Baltimore tradition, Doyle liked to trip base runners, give them a hip and hold them by the belt.
That the Orioles were among those he had hoodwinked made Doyle fearful of joining the club, until McGraw suggested they show him the town. For a week, the players wined and dined Doyle until, in Ganzhorn's bar, he leaned on the foot railing, pulled a wad of bills from his trousers and proclaimed, "Let's have something -- it's on me. I am an Oriole now."
Doyle learned quickly what that meant: Rough as they were on opponents, the Orioles were merciless on each other. Errors were not tolerated; players shamed the culprit with a barrage of stinging insults.
"There never was harmony on that team when they got on the field," Doyle said, years later. "Every player seemed to be the manager. A man who didn't make a hit was roasted by everyone when he returned to the bench."
Sometimes, fisticuffs ensued. "We fought each other, but such rows were the result of some player making a mistake," McGraw said. "Woe betide the player who failed us."
Pitchers were most often censured. Once, when Corbett walked the bases loaded against Brooklyn, Jennings screamed at him: "Get out! You are no better than any of the other pitchers."
Enraged, Corbett heaved the ball into the stands, letting three runs score.
Even mild-mannered Robinson took umbrage with a teammate's poor play. Several times in the summer of '96, when an Orioles pitcher was on the ropes, Robby shouted, "I don't propose to spend a week here!" Then he hurled his catcher's mitt into the air in disgust and headed for the bench, where he stewed for the rest of the game.
Like most Orioles, Robinson was proud and obstinate -- traits that would serve the players long after their baseball days.
Robinson died of a brain hemorrhage in 1934, shortly after collapsing to the floor. Though his arm was shattered in the fall, Robby gamely shrugged it off. His final words:
"This broken arm doesn't hurt me. I'm an old Oriole. Wrap it up and let me stay here."