What is the Best Sports Franchise in Maryland?
News February 1, 2023
We determine the best sports franchise in Maryland based on their successes, attendances, loyal fanbases and off-field events in history.
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Whether you want to call it the Free State, the Old Line State, or even Little America, Maryland is home to not only the best crab cakes on the planet, but three professional sports franchises.
These include two NFL teams, the Washington Commanders and Baltimore Ravens. And a professional MLB team, the Baltimore Orioles.
Here, we’ll take a deep dive into each of these franchises to determine which is the best and most successful. To determine this, we’ll look at its history, formation date, championships, fan base, and other accolades that make each franchise stand out. So, what is the best franchise in Maryland?
Stadium: M&T Bank Stadium
Location: Baltimore, MD
Through the lens of 2022, the Baltimore Ravens are now an established, long-tenured, and successful NFL franchise. However, the team, in the grand scheme of the NFL, isn’t really as old as you’d think.
Formed in 1996, the Ravens were born out of controversy. The owner at the time, Art Modell, decided to relocate the team in 1995. He chose to do so because the city could not fund a new stadium.
Embroiled in lawsuits, Modell allowed the Browns to keep all the images, logos, and all intellectual property so they could reform, which they did in 1999.
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In their first year, the 1996 Ravens drafted offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden who went on to have a Hall of Fame career. In their inaugural season, the Ravens went 4-12 and did not have a winning season until 2000. Then, in 2000, the Ravens won their first Super Bowl five years after relocating.
Throughout its tenure, the Ravens have drafted three Hall of Fame players:
- Jonathan Ogden
- Ray Lewis
- Ed Reed
And two others played for the Ravens during their career – Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders.
Ravens Super Bowl Wins & Other Postseason Success
The Ravens have been an NFL franchise for 27 years. Their best record came in 2019, where they went 14-2. The worst was their inaugural season, going 4-12.
Their career record from 1996 to 2021 is 233-183-1. Below is a chart showing their yearly record and any postseason success:
Ravens Win Record & Postseason Performance By Year
|2000||12-4||Won Super Bowl|
|2001||10-6||Lost Divisional Round|
|2003||10-6||Lost Wild Card Round|
|2006||13-3||Lost Divisional Round|
|2008||11-5||Lost Conference Championship|
|2009||9-7||Lost Divisional Round|
|2010||12-4||Lost Divisional Round|
|2011||12-4||Lost Conference Championship|
|2012||10-6||Won Super Bowl|
|2014||10-6||Lost Divisional Round|
|2018||10-6||Lost Wild Card Round|
|2019||14-2||Lost Divisional Round|
|2020||11-5||Lost Divisional Round|
|2022||10-7||Lost Wild Card Round|
Baltimore Ravens Fan Base
As a personal anecdote, I’ve been to M&T Bank Stadium multiple times. Ironically, the Ravens didn’t win when I attended. The fans were nice and friendly, at least in my section toward the 50-yard-line. In fact, there was one game where WWF/WWE star Brett “The Hitman” Hart was in attendance, sitting just rows away from me.
Outside of personal anecdotes, the Ravens have the fifth-most dedicated fan base heading into 2022. The study includes attendance data, and the Ravens average 70,873 fans per game.
The study also looked at “fair weather fans”. Fair weather fans are those who start to support a team only when they’re doing well. The Ravens did not rank in the top 10.
Additionally, there are no known severe incidents with fans involving violence. Plenty of celebrities support the Purple, Black & Gold.
Stadium: FedEx Field
Location: Landover, MD
Headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia, and playing in Landover, Maryland, the “Washington” in the Washington Commanders could be somewhat confusing. However, there’s plenty of history about the name, as you may or may not know.
The team has nearly 100 years of history, forming in 1932 as the Boston Braves. In those days, the Commanders-then-Braves played home games at Fenway Park, the home stadium of the Boston Red Sox.
Before that, though, they shared Braves Field and were initially named after the Boston Braves baseball team. The name changed a year later, in 1933, to the Boston Redskins.
The Redskins Move to D.C.
Fast-forward to 1937, the Boston Redskins decided to move to Washington, D.C. This was after five years in Boston, citing a lack of interest in the team there.
From then through 1960, they played home games at Griffith Stadium in D.C. They were now the Washington Redskins with the move and held that name through 2019.
In the first game in D.C., they beat the New York Giants 13-3 and went on to win the league championship, beating the Chicago Bears. In 1940, they met the Bears again in the NFL Championship Game and lost 73-0. Yes, 73-0.
In 1961, the team moved stadiums again. This time, they started playing at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, also in D.C. They played there until 1996. That same year, Jack Kent Cooke purchased 25% of the team and would become the majority owner in 1974, followed by the sole owner in 1985.
Cooke died on April 6, 1997, and left the team to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and instructed them to sell the team. That same year, the Jack Kent Cooke Stadium was built and ready for use in Landover, MD, after Cooke wanted to construct a stadium adjacent to Laurel Park Racecourse.
On May 25, 1999, Daniel Snyder purchased the team after a 31-0 approval from fellow owners for $800 million, the most expensive team purchase in history.
As the years went on during his ownership, issues arose with the name “Redskins”. Then, after the 2019 season, the team agreed to rename them. They went by the “Washington Football Team” for the 2020 and 2021 seasons before becoming the Commanders in 2022.
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That wasn’t the only controversy Snyder was involved in, though. Since owning the team, Snyder and the now-Commanders have had several personnel issues and, most notably, workplace culture problems. These include sexual harassment of cheerleaders, and in 2020, reports of 17 women—15 former employees—were also allegedly assaulted.
ESPN reported in October 2022 that sources told them that Snyder reportedly had enough “dirt” on fellow owners to “blow up” the NFL.
On November 2, 2022, Snyder announced that he hired Bank of America Securities to explore possible transactions for selling the team. Forbes valued the team at $5.6 billion in August.
Before the NFL and NFL merger in 1970, they won two titles in 1937 and 1942. After the merger, they won three Super Bowls in 1972, 1987, and 1991.
Commanders Super Bowl Wins and Other Postseason Success
With nearly 100 years of history, we’ll look back at the years in which the now-Commanders had success, highlighting Division Championships, Conference Championships, NFL Championships, and Super Bowl wins.
Their career record from 1932 to 2021 is 617-622-28.
|1936||NFL Eastern Division Championship|
|1937||NFL Championship Winner|
|1940||NFL Eastern Division Championship|
|1942||NFL Championship Winner|
|1943||NFL Eastern Division Championship|
|1945||NFL Eastern Division Championship|
|1972||Won Conference Championship|
|1982||Won Super Bowl|
|1983||NFC East Division Championship|
|1984||NFC East Division Championship|
|1987||Won Super Bowl|
|1991||Won Super Bowl|
|1999||NFC East Division Championship|
|2012||NFC East Division Championship|
|2015||NFC East Division Championship|
|2020||NFC East Division Championship|
Washington Commanders Fan Base
The modern Commanders fans have endured a litany of issues. Whether it’s the coaching staff changes, bad quarterback play, terrible contracts, or Snyder’s ownership, the Commanders fan base has endured a lot throughout the past two decades.
This fan base comes out in droves each game despite how bad they play. The franchise boasts an average home attendance of approximately 78,000. In October 2022, security at the stadium ordered fans to dispose of their “Sell the team” signs.
The Commanders fan base doesn’t give up, and they continue to hope for a brighter tomorrow. The question here is, are the Washington Commanders the best sports franchise in Maryland?
Stadium: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Location: Baltimore, MD
Located just 0.8 miles from M&T Bank Stadium is Oriole Park at Camden Yards. This is where the Baltimore Orioles have played baseball since 1992.
While they’ve played at that stadium since 1992, they’ve been a franchise since 1894 but went under a couple of names before that.
Starting in 1894, the Orioles were known as the Milwaukee Brewers through 1901 before becoming the St. Louis Browns from 1902 through 1953. The team played in Milwaukee, followed by St. Louis, then finally moved to Baltimore in 1954. Could the Orioles be the best sports franchise in Maryland?
Peter Angelos Arrives
In November 1953, a group of Baltimore “business and civic interests,” including Clarence Miles and Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., bought the team. The current owner is Peter Angelos.
The team became the Baltimore Orioles, naming it after the state bird. There were other Baltimore Orioles teams before that, including one that eventually moved to New York in 1903 to become the Yankees.
Most of the team’s success came after moving to Baltimore. Before that, the team had won just a single AL Pennant in 1944. Under the new ownership, the team moved to Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. They played there from 1954 to 1991.
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Just years before this, the state did not allocate any funds to the Baltimore Colts for a new stadium, and they left for Indianapolis. When it came time for the Orioles to look for a new stadium, the city and state came together with the team to devise a plan to build a new stadium. It cost $110 million to construct, breaking ground in 1989 and opening on April 6, 1992.
Seventeen players, four managers, and two executives in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame have been associated with the Orioles over the years. The most recent inductees were Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome, who played for the team in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
The longest-tenured Oriole to enter the Hall of Fame is Cal Ripken Jr., who played from 1981-2001. He’s best known as the MLB Ironman, playing 2,632 consecutive games. A record that still stands today.
Orioles World Series Wins and Other Postseason Success
As mentioned, the Orioles’ success started after moving to Baltimore. We’ll look at their postseason success since coming to the city.
Over 122 seasons, the Orioles have a record of 8928-9952. Since becoming the Baltimore Orioles their record is 5466-5398.
Baltimore Orioles World Series Wins
AL East Division Titles
Wild Card Berths
Orioles Fan Base
In 2022, the Orioles had their first winning season since 2016. They had a total attendance of 1,368,367, averaging 16,893 fans per game. Their highest average attendance per game was 46,097 in 1994.
Since 2000, the team has averaged over 40,000 fans one time (2000) and 30,000 fans seven times (2000-2005; 2014).
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In 2021, the Orioles had an average attendance of just 9,793, one of their lowest all-time. However, this was during the aftermath of the pandemic.
Overall, the fan base seems rather indifferent toward the team. If they do well, they show up. If they don’t, they stop coming. Are they the best franchise in Maryland though?
So, Which Is the Most Successful Franchise in Maryland?
Looking at the professional teams in Maryland, you have three teams. Still, one is far newer; the Ravens, compared to the Commanders or Orioles, have around or more than 100 years of history.
You must credit the Commanders fans for sticking by the team and showing up. Still, the team has just three NFC titles since winning the Super Bowl in 1991, while the Ravens have won two Super Bowls since 2000 and several other playoffs wins.
The Ravens have an edge compared to their fellow NFL franchise.
Looking at the Orioles, the fans don’t seem all that enthralled with the team based on attendance statistics, and they haven’t won an AL Pennant since 1983.
With all these in mind, there’s no doubt that the Ravens have been the most successful and therefore best franchise in the state, considering the year they became a franchise and their success since.