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This is a story—much of it in the first person, by a distinguished author named Paul Richards—about how to build a major league baseball team. It isn't one of those complete-in-this-issue stories, since, so far at least, it really has no end. You see, it is about the Baltimore Orioles, who aren't complete yet either.
Otherwise, it has all the ingredients: a beginning (the hiring of Richards in 1954), a middle (the climb to fifth place halfway through the 1956 season), a hero ( Richards), a supporting cast (four score more or less transient ballplayers), assorted villains (named Yankees and Indians and Red Sox), a lovely lady to be wooed and won (the Baltimore fan) and a plot (the first division or bust). Sometime the story also hopes to have a happy ending.
"We are well pleased," says Paul Richards, "with the progress to date."
But first, a brief preface:
At the end of the 1953 season, the franchise of the perennial American League doormats, the St. Louis Browns, was transferred to Baltimore, and the tab was picked up by a host of civic-minded and well-heeled businessmen. They hired the old Philadelphia Athletic, Jimmy Dykes, to manage the club, and sat back to watch the crowds pour in and the Orioles soar toward the top of the American League.
The crowds did, indeed, pour in—an attendance of 1,060,910 for the 1954 season, compared to the embarrassing total of 297,238 that watched virtually the same ball club perform the year before in St. Louis uniforms. But the flight of the Orioles was more of a flutter. At the end of the season Dykes had them out of the cellar, true, but Baltimore had lost exactly the same number of games as the Browns of the year before (an even 100), and occupation of seventh place was due less to the efforts of the Orioles themselves than to those of the Philadelphia A's, who somehow managed to lose 103.
So the directors of the Baltimore Baseball Club junked Dykes and hired away from the Chicago White Sox, to serve in the dual capacity of field manager and general manager, the square-jawed, businesslike Wizard of Waxahachie, Texas, Paul Rapier Richards.
MAKE HASTE QUICKLY
"My goal," said the new head man, "is to build the Orioles into a pennant contender as quickly as possible."
"The building job," says Richards now in retrospect, "has worked out pretty much as we expected—although nothing ever goes quite according to schedule. The unexpected always comes up. So you are kind of like a shortstop; you live on your instinct."