Civic history has always been something I’ve been interested in. Growing up in Baltimore, I always loved going to the historical homes and little museums scattered across the city. There was one historic site that I always loved attending—that of Babe Ruth’s home. Ruth—a Baltimore native—lived and played in the city until being sold to the Boston Red Sox in 1914. His home has been transformed into a quaint little museum filled with Ruth memorabilia and various other baseball accoutrements. The exhibits went beyond the fact that Ruth was a great baseball players; letters from friends and family reaching all the way back to his early years in Baltimore were on display. Whenever I went to this museum as a kid, it made me realize how intertwined the history of Baltimore is with baseball’s most famous star.
With this in mind, I’m curiousabout the influence that sports franchises have on the history of a city—in this case the Orioles’ influence on Baltimore. There’s a wide array great historical scholarship on baseball—by no means is it being ignored. However, in the wake of the massive narratives we’re all familiar with, smaller stories and anecdotes are left behind. A friend recently forwarded me a thread from a baseball forum discussing an Orioles pitcher from the 50’s named Steve Dalkowski. Apparently a career minor leaguer who never pitched in the major leagues, Dalkowski had the ability to throw a baseball more than a hundred miles per hour—an astounding feat. However, Dalkowski had no ability to control the location of his pitches, and this ultimately held him back. Never having heard this story before, I was fascinated. Not only that, but the thread was filled with ex-teammates of Dalkowski relating anecdotes from their times together. Through this forum, a tiny piece of baseball history that had otherwise been forgotten by the mainstream was completely rebuilt. This is what I want to investigate: through baseball message boards and forums, how is the history of the Baltimore Orioles reconstructed through the sharing of these stories? How do these stories affect the history not only the Orioles, but also the city of Baltimore itself? Ultimately, do these stories and anecdotes ultimately provide greater historical enrichment or are they merely fun little side stories?