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Thursday Bird Droppings: Baltimore baseball history gains a couple of major league titles

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MLB has now officially recognized seven different Negro Leagues as major leagues, so the 1929 Baltimore Black Sox and 1939 Elite Giants are major league champions.

MLB: SEP 05 Rangers at Orioles
The Baltimore Elite Giants, throwback uniform pictured here, won a title in 1939.
Photo by Mitch Stringer/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello, friends.

There are now 106 days remaining until the next scheduled Orioles game, which is Opening Day 2021. Between now and then there’s still enough time that something could happen to change that schedule, especially with MLB owners this week floating trial balloons about trying to delay the 2021 season. As it stands, we’re less than two months away from when pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Sarasota.

Yesterday was a momentous day in baseball history as for the first time, MLB announced that it will officially recognize the baseball teams of the Negro League teams across seven different leagues through the first half of the 20th century as being major league teams. For the vast majority of the players who played before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB, this was their only opportunity to play. They have always been major leaguers, but it’s nice for MLB to finally correct this oversight.

The change in designation adds at least two official major league titles to Baltimore baseball history. The Baltimore Black Sox were champions of the American Negro League in 1929, and in 1939, the Baltimore Elite Giants, operating in the Negro National League, took the Negro National Title. The Elite Giants won again in 1949, after Robinson was playing in Brooklyn, but MLB’s announcement only covered through 1948. I’m not sure how that one counts.

At least one new Hall of Famer will now be recognized as having made his major league debut in Baltimore. Leon Day, local to Baltimore at the time, debuted for the Black Sox in 1934. Roy Campanella also played some of the early days of his career in Baltimore with the Elite Giants, before jumping to the Mexican League and eventually, after Robinson’s debut, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Hopefully now that this has been done, the Orioles can continue in their efforts to connect with this part of Baltimore baseball history.

In a bit of a surprise, there was at least a small bit of Orioles-related news yesterday, as MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported that the team has agreed to a minor league contract with reliever Fernando Abad. If that’s a name that you remember, it’s probably because Abad was the guy who, when he was with the Athletics, twice threw in the vicinity of Manny Machado’s surgically repaired knee before Machado did the infamous bat toss.

Abad’s 35th birthday is today. He did not pitch in MLB in the 2020 season, threw just 13 big league innings in 2019, and spent 2018 with the independent Long Island Ducks. That’s probably why this is a minor league signing. As a general rule, minor league signings don’t matter very much. The Orioles already have several somewhat interesting young relievers and if you’d rather see them than Abad, probably so would the Orioles. It never hurts to have a veteran guy kicking around Norfolk in case someone gets hurt.

One player who isn’t going to be in Orioles camp to start out is Andrew Velazquez, who struggled for the 2020 O’s when filling in for an injured Jose Iglesias. He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees.

For those closer to Birdland home territory, did you get the amount of snow that you were expecting yesterday? Was that more or less than what you wanted? Snow has been less exciting for me ever since it stopped meaning snow days from school. It’s a hassle to be shoveled, not really something fun to enjoy. The one-two punch blizzards from a decade ago flipped that around for me.

Around the blogO’sphere

Meet the Rule 5 draft pick with deep O’s ties (Orioles.com)
Mac Sceroler says his uncle, Ben McDonald, was his first pitching coach. I hope Sceroler can make some good memories at Camden Yards. He’s got a great name for the Baltimore accent ready to go.

Tyler Wells makes impressive first impression (School of Roch)
The other Orioles Rule 5 draft pick also recently spoke to media. Wells’s Orioles connection is not as strong, having been mentored recently by former Oriole LaTroy Hawkins. I wish Tyler Wells good luck in Baltimore also.

Breaking down the five ways the Orioles can fill their infield needs this winter (Baltimore Sun)
I had a real chuckle at the section headline “The actual, good shortstops,” listing all of the players the Orioles would never sign. Freddy Galvis, bandied about as a possible O’s signing, falls under “not-exactly shortstop free agents.”

After strong debut, what’s next for Ryan Mountcastle? (Steve Melewski)
I’m rooting for Mountcastle being the first Oriole to win the Rookie of the Year since Gregg Olson in 1989, but I’d settle for having Mountcastle have solid results in his first full MLB season.

Birthdays and Orioles anniversaries

Today in 2013, the Orioles reached a two-year, $13 million contract with Grant Balfour, pending a physical that Balfour eventually failed. There was a lot of whining about it, including from a Rays doctor who said Balfour was perfectly healthy, so he re-signed with Tampa Bay and had a 5.00 ERA during that contract before being released.

There are a few former Orioles who were born on this day. They are: 2012 three-game pitcher Stu Pomeranz, 2008 infielder Alex Cintron, and 1958-66 infielder Jerry Adair. Also born on this day was Orioles coach/manager Cal Ripken Sr. (1935).

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday to you! Your birthday buddies for today include: early Smithsonian secretary Joseph Henry (1797), writer Ford Madox Ford (1873), Pope Francis (1936), movie man Rian Johnson (1973), and actor Sarah Paulson (1974).

On this day in history...

In 497 BC, ancient Rome celebrated the first Saturnalia festival, a date later significant in the choosing of when to celebrate Christmas.

In 1538 AD, the pope of the time, Paul III, excommunicated England’s king Henry VIII.

In 1777, France officially recognized the independence of the United States of America.

In 1903, the Wright brothers took their first flight.

In 1989, The Simpsons premiered. Its first episode’s title: “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”

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And that’s the way it is in Birdland on December 17. Have a safe Thursday.