1921 Orioles: Max Bishop
As I wrote in my introduction to “My Favorite Historical Team” on Sunday, Jack Dunn’s Baltimore Orioles were completely independent of the major leagues. Even when minor league teams began signing working agreements with big league teams, Dunn fiercely kept his Birds autonomous. This independence meant that it was up to the Orioles to scout and sign their own players. Fortunately, Jack Dunn could call upon decades of friendships forged while a major leaguer at the turn of the century. Many of his old pals were now managers of minor league teams, coaches at colleges or high schools or just still kept up with the game and wanted to pass along a hot tip to their old friend Jack.
This varied pipeline was able to source a unique blend of player that gave the Orioles a very balanced lineup.
The core of the team was formed around a few hardened big league vets such as Ben Egan, Bill Holden and Fritz Maisel. These players were usually picked up off waivers at a bargain price when their major league career was through.
Another place where Dunn actively scouted was the eastern colleges. Though Jack Dunn had the farthest thing from a college-educated background, he had molded himself into a cultured gentleman and enjoyed having college men on his bench to add a educated perspective to the game. College baseball coaches tended to be old pro ballplayers, and these vets acted as bird dog scouts for their old pal Jack Dunn. Former collegiates on the ’21 Birds include Rufe Clarke (Davidson College), Wade Lefler (Duke), Otis Lawry (University of Maine), Dick Porter (St. John’s College) and Jack Ogden (Swarthmore College).
The last component of players who made up Dunn’s Orioles were the hometown boys. For some reason, though situated between Washington and Philadelphia, major league scouts tended to overlook Baltimore and most of Maryland. This left a very rich area from which Jack Dunn had his pick. Harry Frank, Ducky Davis, Jimmy Lyston and Lefty Matthews were signed right off the Baltimore sandlots. Lefty Grove was discovered by Dunn’s scouts playing ball in the rural western part of the state.
One local hot spot mined by the Orioles time and time again was Baltimore City College. Located on 33rd Street, just like Oriole Park, “City” was a well respected advanced high school that happened to have a very successful sports program. Dunn’s son, Jack, Jr., had attended City and two key players on the 1921 team were recent alums: Tommy Thomas and Max Bishop.
Signed right off the Baltimore City College campus by Orioles owner Jack Dunn in 1918, Max Bishop would team up with shortstop Joe Boley to form the best middle infield in the minor leagues. Besides his all-star fielding, Bishop become known for his uncanny ability to get on base. Called “Camera Eye” for working opposing pitchers for walks, Bishop was the table setter for the Orioles team that would win seven pennants from 1919 to 1925.
1921 was Max Bishop’s break-out season. In addition to hitting .319, the scrappy second baseman finally came into his own as a defensive force, posting the best fielding percentage in the International League. Bishop was one of the three regulars who were on the disabled list at the end of the season and unable to play a part in the Junior World Series against Louisville.
Bishop would not be there for the Orioles’ last two pennants as owner-manager Jack Dunn sold him to the Philadelphia A’s after the 1923 season for $25,000. He would reunite with Orioles teammates Lefty Grove, Joe Boley and George Earnshaw on the 1929-31 Athletics, the most powerful dynasty in baseball history.
Bishop would return to the Orioles in 1936 and following his retirement was appointed head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1938 to 1962.
Tomorrow we go over to the other side of the middle infield and introduce you to Bishop’s double-play partner Joe Boley, another future member of Connie Mack’s 1929-1931 Philadelphia A’s dynasty.
You can see the whole 20-card index of players HERE.
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