Baltimore’s Fair Share of Championships
On the week prior Super Bowl LI, when 30 other fan bases are wishing they were watching their city being represented on Sunday’s big stage instead of Atlanta or New England, we’ll reflect on Baltimore’s history in title games, not just in football. Atlanta and the Boston/New England area couldn’t be further apart in times they have celebrated championship glory. Where does Baltimore figure into the mix?
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Baltimore is a city whose fans tend to feel slighted at times. We seemingly get no respect in the national spotlight. We’re just this little town you might see on your way from New York to D.C. “The Wire” is what tourists like to talk about. There are periods of jealousy when you think about what other cities accomplish while Baltimore comes up short. Whether it was a 109-win Orioles team losing a championship to the upstart, not ready for the big stage Mets in 69’. Or blowing a three games to one lead in to the Pirates in 79’. The wire-to-wire team of 97’ getting bounced in the ALCS by the Cleveland Indians. Everyone wanted a piece of the “lucky” Kansas City Royals in 2014. Looking back, it was a terrible matchup for the O’s. But think, what the O’s history could have looked like.
The Baltimore Colts were looking for a third NFL Championship behind league MVP Johnny Unitas in 1964. Despite a 12-2 record, Unitas, and Hall of Fame coach Don Shula at the helm, they were shutout by Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns 27-0 in the title game. Heartbreak again during the 68’ season when the AFL’s New York Jets pulled one of the biggest upsets in championship history over the Colts in Super Bowl III, though they did earn another NFL Championship, their third, as the leagues had not merged yet.
Even the Ravens are a couple of breaks away from having a couple more shots at a title. They had the defense that could match up with anyone but Peyton Manning through most of the 2000’s. Plenty of playoff appearances in their history. Three AFC championship appearances in the first five years of the Harbaugh/Flacco era. One Super Bowl to show for it, but how many more could there have been if not for a bad break here and there? Dropped passes in key moments, inept offense when the defense does their part. Inept defense when the offense does their part. The Ravens were dynasty worthy at many points from 2000 through 2012. There is a case for at least two, maybe three more title shots bookended by those two seasons.
Three World Series championships is nothing to sneeze at when you consider you have to often beat the Yankees and their payroll in order to even get there. In older formats through the 70s and early 80s, 90 wins might only be good enough for third or fourth place in your division. The 1980 Orioles team won 100 games and didn’t make the postseason. Then there is also about 25% of the Orioles 63-year history that we just want to have wiped from our memory like it never happened.
In the NFL, given the Patriots dynasty and the fierce competition in the AFC Central and now AFC North, the parity throughout the league, the Ravens two titles in 21 seasons isn’t that bad when you look at the big picture.
The big picture is looking at how Baltimore stacks up to other cities so let’s start with the upcoming teams in Super Bowl 51 and city of Atlanta. The Falcons have only played for a title one other time in their previous 50 years in the NFL. Atlanta was also a home to the NHL’s Flames and later Thrashers who won no titles in 19 combined seasons. The NBA’s Hawks are title-less in 48 seasons. The Braves have called Atlanta home for 50 years and have just one title and a myriad of missed opportunities to show for it.
On the flip side, there are the New England Patriots who we’ll associate with Boston. Home based in Foxboro, MA, just 30 miles away from Beantown. Boston has done all their NFL winning in the Tom Brady era with four Lombardi Trophies and no early era championships in the 65 seasons of pro football up there. Brady has a chance to become the first quarterback to win five Super Bowls and add a 37th overall title to the city. Boston Baseball has had a long and storied history with 163 seasons played in the World Series era between the Boston Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Braves, Bees, Americans, and Red Sox. Nine championships in 163 chances to win one. The NHL’s Bruins have won six Stanley Cups…in 88 tries. Three of them in the “Original six” era. Not much competition. The Celtics of the NBA though, they make what the Patriots have done in recent years look like child’s play. The Celts and their Bill Russell era dynasty led the way to the franchise accumulating 17 titles in 70 seasons. Almost averaging an NBA Championship every four years.
In the four major sports, Boston/New England has accounted for 36 titles in 386 total seasons where a title game was played. 9.3% of the time Boston has gotten to host a parade. Atlanta on the other hand, just one title in 167 tries. 0.6%. Atlanta is far overdue for a parade and the Falcons give them their best shot this Sunday. The Braves are trending downward, the Hawks don’t have LeBron James, Steph Curry, or Greg Popovich, so they don’t have a prayer the way the NBA goes. The NHL skipped town for Winnipeg a few years back.
Of the 19 cities that have hosted all four major sports professionally, Boston’s 9.3% “championship percentage” is tops. Atlanta’s 0.6%, is worst.
How does Baltimore stack up? The Orioles have three World Series rings in 62 tries. The Baltimore Colts and Ravens have combined for six NFL Championships/Super Bowls. Don’t forget about the Baltimore Bullets and their lone basketball title from the 1947-48 season in what was then known as the BAA (recognized as part of NBA history and NBA statistics). That gives Baltimore 10 pro sports titles in 133 seasons of sport. 7.52% puts them 2nd behind Toronto among three sport cities, and 9th best championship percentage among all cities that hosted at least one pro team team for more than 10 seasons.
Check out the full list below, broken down by how many of the four major sports the city has hosted. Spoiler alert. Baltimore has a better percentage than Pittsburgh…and while they like to count Super Bowl rings up there, they like to omit the part that in 84 seasons the Pirates, later becoming the Steelers, have won their six league titles all in the Super Bowl era. Baltimore has taken home six NFL Championship’s in 53 seasons. 31 less than Pittsburgh. I’d like to think the Ravens have another one in them within the next 31 seasons. Then again, 11 other NFL cities have waited more than 31 years since their last title. Nothing is a given. Cubs fans can tell you that. Onto the lists…
*City, in most cases it means the name of the team, or the city most closely associated. So the New York Jets/Giants aren’t East Rutherford, New Jersey. At the same time, Brooklyn is Brooklyn because they go by Brooklyn. The Mets are not Queens and the Yankees aren’t Bronx because they go by “New York”. However, other state named teams default to the city they play nearby or in. Carolina goes by Charlotte, Colorado counts for Denver, etc…
** MLB seasons are – 1903 season to Present, excluding 1994 because latter part of the season and World Series was cancelled. The World Series was also cancelled in 1904, but the two teams set to play were already decided, so other teams were already eliminated and couldn’t have possibly won a title.
***NFL – 1933 season to Present. Prior to 1933 the champion was decided by best record, and teams often played a different number of games against a variety of teams. It was very disorganized. 1933 was the first time a game decided a champion. AFL stats count in NFL books and AFL Championships are thus counted here. NFL Championships as well, even for the first few years of the Super Bowl Era before the merger in 1970 where the Super Bowl was considered an “extra game”.
****NBA – 1946-47 season to Present. The BAA and ABA are recognized in NBA record books and those titles count here as professional leagues. The BAA was formed in 1946, and the NBA considered the 1996 season as it’s 50th anniversary, so it counts back to 46’.
*****NHL – 1927-28 season to Present. The Stanley Cup, or Challenge cup as it was once called, was contested between a number of leagues. It wasn’t until 1927 that the NHL was the premier league and the only teams in the NHL could compete for the cup. The 2004-05 season was excluded because of the lockout.
******Teams are listed in order: Baseball, Football, Basketball, Hockey. Teams in Bold are active.
Oklahoma City and the Thunder will make the list following the 2017-18 basketball season. Currently zero titles in eight seasons.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]