When The Birds Were Boss
See the Orioles, parading down Charles Street at Madison. See the fans, rushing out to greet them (women and children first). It's April 17, 1954, and Baltimore's love affair with its new baseball team is in full bloom.
Never mind that those Orioles of yesteryear were no better than today's sorry bunch. (The '54 Birds won exactly 54 games and lost 100). The city was just happy to have a big-league team, following a half-century of minor league ball, and officials staged a parade for the players when the club arrived in town.
For keen-eyed readers, that's a smiling Clint Courtney, riding shotgun, in the lead car. Good thing it's a convertible. Courtney, the Orioles catcher, was a tobacco-chewing, Louisiana farm boy who was strong as an ox and who smelled like one, too. On road trips, Old Scrap Iron visited stockyards in Chicago and Kansas City, looking to beef up the herd on his 200-acre spread.
"Clint would stomp around in that cow manure, wearing his only suit, then come straight to the park," Orioles' shortstop Ron Hansen once said. "The stink didn't bother him."
Fans could have cared less. They had a team, one that would evolve into champions in the years to come. Would that this year's faithful could expect the same.