Fritz Maisel was the veteran backbone of Jack Dunn’s “Endless Chain of Champions.” He and shortstop Joe Boley were the only players who played on all seven championship teams. Like many of the 1919-1925 Orioles, Maisel was a local boy, discovered by Jack Dunn on the sandlots of nearby Catonsville, Maryland in 1910.
Deceptively short and stocky, Maisel possessed blinding speed on the bases, a valuable asset in the hit and run Deadball Era style of playing. Dunn farmed the rookie out that first summer, splitting the season between the Wheeling Stogies and the Elgin Kittens. He got the call up to the Orioles the next year where his hustle and 22 stolen bases earned him the nickname the “Catonsville Flash.” Maisel followed up with 56 steals in 1912 and 44 the following year, steadily increasing his batting average and making the major league clubs take notice. Dunn sold him to the New York Yankees at the end of the 1913 season for a nice $12,500.
He lived up to his nickname by stealing 25 bases in just 52 games for the Yanks. Fritz made history in 1914 when he stole a league-leading 74 bases in 91 tries – an 81% success rate. This would stand as the Yankees club record for over 70 years until it was eclipsed by Rickey Henderson in 1985. Maisel hit a career high .281 with 51 steals in 1915, but his stats would steadily decline over the next four years, After spending 1918 with the St. Louis Browns, Jack Dunn bought him back for the bargain price of $2,000.
Dunn installed the Flash as his leadoff hitter, a position he would hold on to for the next decade. His first season back in Charm City saw Fritz stealing 63 bases, setting an International League record that would last for 23 years. Players respected Maisel’s sharp baseball mind and winning attitude, both invaluable on a pennant winning machine that saw frequent turnover in players.
The veteran quickly became Dunn’s right hand man, taking over as team captain after Ben Egan left the club after the 1921 season. He would frequently take over as manager whenever Dunn was absent on a scouting trip as well as during the months-long absence after the death of his son in 1923.
In his 10 years with the Birds, 1919-1928, Fritz would average .316, hitting above the .300 mark in 8 of those seasons. 1921 would be his best, batting .339 with 30 doubles as the Orioles took their third straight pennant.
When Jack Dunn passed away in 1928, Maisel took over as manager. He later moved to the front office as a director and stock holder. He retired from the game to become Fire Chief of Baltimore County, but returned when Baltimore became a major league city in 1954, scouting for the Orioles.
Though all but forgotten today, Fritz Maisel was one of the most important members of the 1919-1925 Orioles, the steady and trustworthy veteran without which Baltimore likely would not have won their seven consecutive pennants.
Next we’ll take a look at the 1921 Orioles team captain, catcher Ben Egan.
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