This Month in Baltimore Sports History
By, Mike Gibbons, babe ruth Museum
For all of Baltimore's gridiron tradition, November's premier sporting event is actually a horse race. On Nov. 1, 1938, Pimlico hosted the mother lode of match races: Seabiscuit versus War Admiral. More than 40,000 spectators surrounded the track that crisp autumn day to witness a race that sealed Seabiscuit's place as one of America's all-time champions. The "little horse with the heart of a lion" not only upset the heavily-favored War Admiral, but did so in record-setting fashion, shattering the track record for the 1-1/16 mile route. The races remains one of Baltimore's all-time contests.
Otherwise, Novembers in Baltimore are all about football, and that can be directly attributed to the decision of a city mayor in 1921. That year, Mayor William F. Broening decided that the city needed an outdoor amphitheatre to host college football and to regain a major league baseball franchise. Who knows what might have become of local sports without Broening's foresight.
Almost a year to the day after Broening's pronouncement, Municipal Stadium hosted its first contest, a football game in which the Quantico Marines defeat the Army Third Corps 13-12 in front of 50,000 fans.
Two years later, on Nov. 29, 1924, 80,000 spectators filled the stadium's expanded seating capacity to witness Baltimore's first Army-Navy game, won by Army 12-0, on four drop-kick field goals.
The 1958 NFL championship game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants is often called the "greatest game ever played." The high drama of Johnny Unitas' two-minute drills to tie and win the overtime thriller remains one of pro football's finest moments, except in the minds of many Baltimore Colts players. Most of the players will say the greatest game in franchise history was the Nov. 30, 1958 comeback win over San Francisco that clinched Baltimore's first division title.
That day, in front of a sold-out Memorial Stadium crowd, the Colts entered halftime trailing 27-7. But in the second half, invigorated by a 74-yard Lenny Moore scamper that had to be seen to be believed, Baltimore scored four unanswered touchdowns to bury the 49ers, 35-27.
In November of 1995, the Cleveland Browns announced their intention to move to Baltimore for the 1996 season. November is also the month when the Ravens started a string of seven straight wins in 2000 on their way to Super Bowl XXXV. During that stretch, the Ravens averaged nearly 28 points per game after not having scored a touchdown in October.
One of the nation's oldest high school football rivalries, City-Poly, has traditionally been contested around Thanksgiving almost every year since 1889. Shoddy records prevent knowing the scores of the earliest games, all won by City. The first recorded margin is from 1901, when City bested Poly, 5-0. Poly didn't win its first game in the historic series until 1911.
There is little to report on the baseball side of this month's ledger. However, Edward Bennett Williams did purchase the Orioles for $12 million from Jerry Hoffberger in November 1979. Cal Ripken became the first player in MLB history to win both the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in two consecutive seasons (1982-83). Finally, there was AL Manager of the Year Davey Johnson, who on, Nov. 5, 1997, tendered his letter of resignation to Orioles owner Peter Angelos.
Issue 1.31: November 23, 2006