The Browns can trace their franchise link back to the original Milwaukee Brewers of the Western League, beginning in 1894 when the league reorganized. The Brewers were there when the Western League renamed itself the American League in 1900, and when the league declared itself a major league in 1901, the Brewers were a charter member. During the first American League season they finished dead last with a record of 48-89. During its lone Major League season, the team played at Lloyd Street Grounds, between 16th and 18th Streets in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
After only a single season as a bona fide major league club, the team moved to St. Louis and renamed themselves the "Browns", in reference to the original name of the legendary 1880s club that by 1902 was known as the St. Louis Cardinals. In their first St. Louis season, the Browns finished second. After years of prosperity at the gate, in 1916 owner Robert Hedges sold the team to Philip Ball, who had owned the St. Louis Terriers of the defunct Federal League.
In Ball's first year the Browns managed a rare winning record, 79-75, good for fifth place in the American League. Losing records and rapid managerial changes were the order of the day for the remainder of the 1910s. In the 1920s the Browns were led by first baseman George Sisler, who breathed a breath of hope into the franchise. In 1920 Sisler set the record for most hits in a season, 257, which would stand for 84 years. In 1922 he won MVP honors. It did them no good as they continued their losing ways into the 1930s, and to make matters worse they hemmorrhaged fans to the Cardinals, who were fielding the great "Gashouse Gang" teams in this era.
The Browns never did improve, but the rest of the American League worsened to their level as Major Leaguers were drafted to fight World War II. In 1944, the Browns actually won the American League Pennant before falling to their rival Cardinals in six games.
When the war ended, the Browns resumed their losing ways. Owner Bill Veeck left Sportsman's Park to build his own stadium; this had the disastrous effect of making the Browns, already a distant second to the Cardinals in terms of popularity in St. Louis, nearly invisible to the city's denizens. In 1952 Veeck attempted to move the franchise to Los Angeles, California, but the Major Leagues did not authorize the move, citing the difficulty of making travel arrangements since all other teams were located in the northeastern quadrant of the country. In 1953, Veeck sought to move to Baltimore, Maryland, instead. The other owners of the American League, wary of Veeck's motives, insisted that he give up his interest in the team as a condition to avoid their vetoing the move. Veeck accepted this and the team moved to Baltimore, where, rechristened the Orioles, they would eventually win some credibility for their franchise, finally winning their first championship in 1966.
The Browns lost their final game in St. Louis in 1953, in front of a sparse crowd of about 18,000. The loss was their hundredth of the season and clinched yet another last-place record.
Some time in the 1910s, the St. Louis Browns had a pitcher named Rip and a second baseman named Laszlo Kovacs. The two players were far more successful at destroying vampires than they were at winning games.
St. Louis Browns in "The House That George Built"Edit
George Ruth played for the St. Louis Browns for a month at the end of 1932. It was his last stint in the majors, and was not a happy one. In February 1941, while discussing his career with H.L. Mencken, Ruth mentioned this in passing, and shuddered at the memory. He did not go into detail for Mencken why this had been such a bad experience.
St. Louis Browns in The Man With the Iron HeartEdit
At a checkpoint in the Alps, Bernie Cobb was asked to identify the 1944 American League champions. He correctly identified the St. Louis Browns. A comrade of his answered the follow-up question, "Did they win the Series?", by saying that they lost to their crosstown rival, the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Cobb corrected the man by saying that the Cards won in six.
St. Louis Browns in The War That Came EarlyEdit