DECEMBER 7, 1941 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI • The St. Louis Browns was a struggling franchise in the standings and the box office throughout most of the time it shared St. Louis with the Cardinals. The team drew just 193,000 fans in 1940, about 2,500 a game. It was not unusual to have fewer than 1,000 people in the stands. The paid attendance on September 11, 1940 was 472. Needless to say owner Donald Barnes wanted a change of scenery. This is how Pearl Harbor affected baseball — almost.
It had been rumored for years that if the Japanese hadn’t bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on this date in 1941 – which ushered the United States into World War II – the Browns would have moved to Los Angeles more than a decade before the Dodgers did. Some said it was a “done deal.”
Researchers at the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) decided to investigate. What they found out is… maybe.
Read SABR’s Business of Baseball Committee paper “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Coliseum” by Norman Macht for all the details. In a nutshell the committee looked into a Los Angeles Examiner report in 1946 that the deal only needed formal approval from major league baseball at its winter meetings starting December 9, 1941. Pearl Harbor was attacked on the 7th.
One theory for why little was known about the almost move is that after the move fell through the Browns ownership were all hush-hush so the St. Louis faithful wouldn’t be offended.
The Browns ended up moving to Baltimore in 1953 and became, and remain, the Orioles.
“A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Coliseum,” by Norman Macht, Outside the Lines, Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), July 20, 2008
NOVEMBER 17, 1953 | LOUIS, MISSOURI • The story from November 17, 1953 in baseball history is – Browns fade to black. Stockholders of the beleaguered franchise voted to change the team’s name from the St. Louis Browns to the Baltimore Orioles.
The name change was the final step in the transition from former owner Bill Veeck to a new group of owners which would start the 1954 baseball season near the shores of Chesapeake Bay rather than the banks of the Mississippi.
The Browns began as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901 – a charter American League franchise – not to be confused with the present day Brewers. The team stayed only one year in Milwaukee, moving to St. Louis in 1902 and becoming the Browns, which was the color of their uniforms.
In all the years spent in St. Louis (and one in Milwaukee) the Browns went to the post-season once. They won the American League Pennant in 1944, losing the World Series to the cross-town St. Louis Cardinals.
The franchise’s change of scenery did them good. The Baltimore Orioles have been to the post-season more than a dozen times since moving to Baltimore. They won the World Series in 1966, 1970 and 1983.
The story from November 17, 1953 is Browns fade to black, and the Orioles come out a winner.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 18, 1953
World Series results year-to-year
More on the St. Louis Browns
AUGUST 6, 1952 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – Satchel Paige got a rare start on this date in 1952, and ended up in one of the greatest pitching duels of all-time.
Despite the consensus among players, black and white, who played with and against him that he was the greatest pitcher of his day, Paige didn’t make the majors until after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.
Paige had been playing professional baseball in the Negro Leagues since the mid-1920’s. He was finally invited to play for the Cleveland Indians in 1948. He was 41.
Paige pitched mostly relief. But on August 6, 1952, now with the St. Louis Browns, he got the start against Detroit Tiger right-hander Virgil Trucks. They were two cagey veterans; though Paige had 10 years on Trucks. Virgil was 35 years old. Satchel was 45.
They matched each other pitch for pitch, inning for inning. Trucks pitched 9 scoreless innings. Paige pitched 12 and won 1-0.
Satchel Paige’s long overdue major league career lasted six seasons. He went 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA in his first year, helping the Cleveland Indians win the 1948 World Series. He retired in 1953 at the age of 46, but came back to pitch in one game in 1965 at the age of 58. His career mark was 28-31, but three of those years were with the Browns who usually lost 100 games a year. He finished with a career Earned Run Average of 3.29.
August 6, 1952 Tigers vs Browns game stats
*1945 | ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI – Pete Gray may have had his best day on this date in 1945. He helped the St. Louis Browns sweep a doubleheader from the New York Yankees 10-1 and 5-2. Gray had three hits and two RBI in the opener. He scored the winning run in the second game, and hauled in three great catches in the outfield. Maybe not the stuff of legend, except Pete Gray had one arm.
He was born Peter J. Wyshner in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania in 1915. He lost his right arm in a farm accident at age six. He played two solid seasons for the Class A Memphis Chicks in 1943 and ’44. The St. Louis Browns purchased his contract and brought him up to the big leagues in 1945. Gray’s major league career was just 77 games. He hit just .218 but had a .959 fielding percentage playing mostly left or center.
If not for World War II, which was still going on when the season started, when many regular players were in the military, it’s quite certain Gray would never have stepped between the lines during a major league baseball game. Still, Peter Gray made it to “The Show,” something millions can only dream about.
One-Armed Wonder: Pete Gray, Wartime Baseball, and the American Dream, by William C. Kashatus, McFarland & Company, 2001