Diamond Anniversary: Baltimore Orioles, 1954 Cactus Cup Champions
Feb. 6, 2014
The Orioles are celebrating their 60th anniversary in Baltimore during the 2014 season. The diamond anniversary recognizes the St. Louis Browns' 1954 move to Baltimore, where they became the Orioles. Throughout the 2014 season, Roar from 34 will take a trip down (not-my-own) memory lane and bring stories from the Orioles' inaugural 1954 season. Happy Diamond Anniversary, Baltimore.
It took four seasons before the Baltimore Orioles had a non-losing record (76-76 in 1957) and seven seasons before the team posted a winning record (89-65 in 1960). Nevertheless, fans at Memorial Stadium found themselves celebrating a championship in the middle of the 1954 season: The Cactus Cup.
Representatives from Yuma, Ariz., home of the O's during their first Spring Training in 1954, visited Baltimore that summer to celebrate the team having the best training record of any major league club. It was a symbolic gesture on the part of a city that - if this Sporting News excerpt from March 3, 1954 is to be believed - embraced the Birds during their one and only Spring Training there.
"Not only is Baltimore fandom overboard for its Birds, but this spring site of Yuma is just as enthusiastic. The Chamber of Commerce, with Ken Baker, promotion, and Ray Cowley, manager, can't do enough for the Flock. Bill Snyder of KIVA-TV plugs baseball every night on his show; Al Tilley, manager of the Flamingo Hotel where most of the players and officials are quartered, meets every little request; the local Yuma Daily Sun, of which Jones Osborne is editor and publisher, with Cecil James his sports writer-cameraman, leads off with headline banners on the Orioles, and over 300 fans have visited the park daily just for routine workouts.
"As a result of early enthusiasm, Ehlers (club manager) expects that the Orioles will draw an average of 5,000 fans for their seven exhibition games here with the Giants, Indians and Cubs."
If you ask me, the coolest part of those syrupy paragraphs is the fact that the O's stayed at a place called the Flamingo Hotel. Because the Internet has everything, I was able to track down a Flamingo Hotel postcard (credit: Flickr, William Bird).
Major League Baseball fielded 16 teams in 1954. Four of those teams trained in Arizona and formed the original Cactus League: the Chicago Cubs (Mesa), New York Giants (Phoenix), Cleveland Indians (Tucson), and your Baltimore Orioles. The addition of the Orioles gave Arizona enough teams to form a "league." The name "Cactus League" stuck and still stands to this day.
The Orioles' presence in Yuma, where they held their first Spring Training workout on Feb. 22, 1954, was a matter of honor. St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck agreed to move the team from San Bernardino, Calif., to Yuma for 1954. He sold the Browns to Baltimore following the end of the 1953 season, and the O's honored the deal.
Current Orioles manager Buck Showalter might relate to the Spring Training experience of the '54 Orioles. Showalter was part of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks' first Spring Training in Yuma in 1997. He didn't stay at the Flamingo (I'm guessing).
So the O's were Cactus Cup champions in 1954. They outpaced the Cleveland Indians and New York Giants, two of their Spring Training counterparts in Arizona who later played in the 1954 World Series.
We'll always have the Cactus Cup, O's fans.