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A Legacy of Champions: Baltimore’s Sports History

Learn about the history-making moments that shaped Charm City's sports culture, and walk in the footsteps of our most legendary athletes.

Here in Baltimore, sports are more than a pastime; they’re in our blood, as intrinsic to our culture as cracked crabs and National Bohemian beer. Keep reading to learn more about the history of our many teams, including our top Baltimore sports moments, and discover some historic sports spots around the city. And don’t forget to get in on the action while you’re here.

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Baltimore’s love of sports goes back as early as 1872, when the Lord Baltimores (often called the Baltimore Canaries or Yellow Stockings because of their bright uniforms) became the city’s first professional team to join the National Association of Professional Baseball Players—a precursor to our beloved Orioles.

Jockey rides a horse across the finish line

The Preakness Stakes is older than the Kentucky Derby, predating it by two years.

Just a year after the formation of the Baltimores, in 1873, the first Preakness Stakes was held at historic Pimlico Race Course. Named for the colt who won Pimlico’s first event, the Dinner Party Stakes, Preakness predated the Kentucky Derby by two years and today is the second-most attended horse race in the country.

Another historic Baltimore team is The Johns Hopkins University men’s lacrosse team. Formed in 1883, the Blue Jays have cinched a whopping 44 national titles, including nine NCAA Division 1 titles. Beyond collegiate achievements, the team has repped the United States in international tournaments such as the 1928 and 1932 Summer Olympics.

Charm City teams found their stride in the twentieth century. The Orioles reemerged in the minor league in 1903; eleven years later, they signed Baltimore native Babe Ruth, considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time. The team joined the majors in 1953 and went on to win the World Series in 1966, 1970 and 1983.

Oriole bird

Photo credit: The Baltimore Orioles

Around that time, football was on the rise in Baltimore. The then-Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984, but the sport returned to Charm City in 1996, when the Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens. That year, the Ravens drafted legendary players Ray Lewis and Jonathan Ogden, who led the team to its first Super Bowl win five years later in 2001. The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl again in 2013 and have continued to produce Hall of Fame players such as Ed Reed, Deion Sanders and Shannon Sharpe.

Today, the Ravens continue to change the game of football. In 2021, current kicker Justin Tucker broke the record for the longest field goal ever when he scored a 66-yard game-winning goal.

Ray Lewis statue Baltimore

Ray Lewis spent his entire 17-year career as a middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens.

It’s clear that Charm City’s sports history is one for the books, and our teams are only getting started. The CIAA Tournament is reviving basketball to the city, the Orioles are on the rise and Baltimore-born boxer Tank Davis is dominating his field, among others. So, if you’re looking for a city to cheer on, Baltimore’s a safe bet.

5 Iconic Baltimore Sports Moments

There are too many legendary sports moments in Charm City's history to list, but here are some of our favorites:

  1. 1995: Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. surpassed Lou Gehrig’s streak of 2,130 for consecutive games played. He went on to add 500 more games to that record.
  2. 1997: Fifteenth-seed Coppin State University upset 2nd-seed University of South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, making Coppin the first team from the the Mideastern Athletic Conference to win an NCAA tournament game.
  3. 2001: Ravens wide receiver and UMD alum Jermaine Lewis returned a Giants kick at the Super Bowl, securing the team’s first Lombardi trophy.
  4. 2015: American Pharaoh won the Preakness Stakes, cinching the second jewel in the Triple Crown before going on to win the Belmont.
  5. 2019: Hometown hero Gervonta “Tank” Davis defended his title right here in Baltimore at CFG Bank Arena by knocking out Ricardo Nunez in only the second round.

Historic Charm City Sports Spots

Babe Ruth Museum

Babe Ruth's childhood home

In addition to all things related to Babe Ruth, the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum also has Orioles and Ravens memorabilia.

A short walk away from Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, once the childhood home of the baseball giant. There, you can learn about the Great Bambino’s upbringing and how he became an international sports sensation in addition to viewing artifacts from his early life and career. Besides Babe Ruth, the museum is also the official museum of the Orioles, the official archives of the former Baltimore Colts and occasional exhibitors of important Ravens memorabilia, making it the perfect place to start your exploration of Baltimore’s sports history.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Camden Yards at night

Camden Yards was the first modern MLB park to be designed in the retro-classic style, setting an industry trend.

Constructed in the 1990s to replace Memorial Stadium, Camden Yards was the first modern MLB park to be designed in the retro-classic style, rather than as a multi-use structure, harkening back to the old jewel box parks of the early 1900s. Today, all 30 MLB teams play in baseball-only stadiums, thanks to “The Ballpark that Forever Changed Baseball”! Some of the park’s most memorable moments include Cal Ripken receiving a standing ovation when he ended his 2,632 game streak, John Paul II officiating a papal mass during his 1995 U.S. visit and rock legend Billy Joel’s sold-out concert in 2019. Want to see this special stadium for yourself? Grab a ticket to an Orioles game or get a behind-the-scenes tour.

USA Lacrosse Hall of Fame & Museum

USA Lacrosse Museum

In addition to the USA Lacrosse Museum, you can immerse yourself in the sport at LaxCon or collegiate lacrosse games at Hopkins or Loyola.

Lacrosse is the official team sport of Maryland, and Baltimore is a hotbed for young talent. We’re home to the headquarters for USA Lacrosse, which houses the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Museum. There, you can enjoy a breadth of interactive visits and lacrosse memorabilia, including a display showing the steps to making a traditional wooden stick and video from Native American stickmaker Alf Jacques, lockers displaying equipment from the most recent NCAA champions, uniforms and rings from U.S. national teams, and a memorial to the members of the lacrosse community that died in 9/11.

Homewood Field

This more-than-100-year-old field is the home to The Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays soccer, football and field hockey teams, but the lacrosse program steals the show. It flourished in the 1920s, winning national titles in 1923, 1924, 1926 1927 and 1928. As such, the program was so popular that students wanting to attend games would arrive a couple hours early to reserve their seat. The action on the field hasn’t been limited to college games, though; Homewood hosted the World Lacrosse Tournaments in 1982 and 1998. Hopkins games are held at Homewood Field throughout the year, and tickets are available through the university’s athletics website.

CFG Bank Arena

Basketball players at CFG Bank Arena

The 2023 CIAA Basketball Tournament was the first event held in the renovated CFG Bank Arena.

While the newly renovated CFG Bank Arena is primarily known as the exciting live music venue bringing artists like Bruce Springsteen and Lizzo to Baltimore, the building has an impressive athletic history. It was the home arena of the Baltimore Bullets NBA basketball team before they became the Washington Wizards, and has also served as the home to three AHL teams—the Baltimore Clippers, the Skipjacks and the Bandits—plus indoor soccer and lacrosse teams. Significant athletic events held in the arena include the 1989 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, the 1992 Olympic Gymnastics Trials, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and The Great American Bash wrestling match. Today, it’s the home of the CIAA Basketball Tournament, which returns in February. Beyond sports, CFG Bank Arena (formerly the Baltimore Civic Center and Royal Farms Arena) has welcomed Martin Luther King Jr., the Beatles, the Miss USA Pageant and more.

Pimlico Race Course

Located near the lush Mount Washington neighborhood, Pimlico has seen its share of horse racing history; it’s where Seabiscuit triumphed over War Admiral in 1938, and where impressive horses like Big Brown and Secretariat claimed the crown. Visit the track for iconic events like Black-Eyed Susan Day and the Preakness Stakes, held on the third Friday and Saturday of May each year, or for one of the smaller races held at the course throughout the year. Don’t forget to pick up a fascinator before you go!

Pimlico Race Course

Witness history at the Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

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