Today in the 1898-1899 offseason, a remarkable thing happened: as the ownership groups in Baltimore and Brooklyn swapped part shares in each other’s clubs, the Orioles effectively merged with the Dodgers, with the class of the two ballclubs going to Brooklyn and the dregs staying in Baltimore — with the exception of star Baltimore third baseman John McGraw, who refused to leave. (Imagine if Jeffrey Loria traded a stake in the Marlins to Rogers Communications to obtain a stake in the Blue Jays, and you begin to get the idea.) The super-team in Brooklyn, formerly called the Trolley Dodgers, became known as the “Superbas.”
Up to that point, the Orioles had been arguably the best team in the National League for much of the decade, which is to say, the best team in baseball, because the National League was the only major league at the time. The Orioles finished first out of 12 teams from 1894-1896, and second in 1897-1898. The majority of their starting lineup — catcher Wilbert Robinson, shortstop Hughie Jennings, third baseman John McGraw, and outfielders Joe Kelley and Wee Willie Keeler, not to mention manager Ned Hanlon — went to the Hall of Fame. (Hanlon, Robinson, and McGraw largely made the Hall on their reputations as managers, though McGraw was also a superb player.) Then their team was eviscerated, and the Orioles disappeared through contraction the following year.
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