“The Sandwiches Were Said To Be Delicious.”

The Baltimore Sun, 9/26/1954

“The ghosts of Wee Willie Keeler and all the other old-time Oriole greats, who love so much to win, will have to await some other year before they can frolic again in triumph.” ~ The Baltimore Sun, September 26, 1954

On September 25, 1954, on the last day of the regular season, the Baltimore Orioles lost their 100th game.

Losing 100 games is that limbo bar that separates the terrible teams that lose 99 from the truly awful ones who lose 100.

Like the 1954 Orioles.

1954 Orioles

It is possible that the Tigers, the Phillies, and the Giants could cross under that 100-loss bar this season. But, with just a week to play, it’s not likely.

The 2017 Orioles were eliminated from the post-season last night with their 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

If the O’s lose their remaining six games – and I strongly urge them not to do this – they will have lost 88.

At least it’s not 100.

The 1954 Orioles, formerly the St. Louis Browns, were finishing up their first season in Baltimore on September 25. They were the first major league team in the city since 1901.

“Mustang fighters flew overhead, the Governor appeared on the field below, and even dancing girls in tights performed before the Birds went about the business of getting their ears knocked off.” ~ The Baltimore Sun

On that final game of the season, the Orioles were walloped by the Chicago White Sox, 11-0.

The losing pitcher was Don Larsen, who went on to redeem himself in 1956 by pitching the only perfect game in World Series history. For the Yankees.

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Larsen’s 21 losses for Baltimore that season led the American League. He spent the next five seasons, much more productively, with the Yankees, and then kicked around with a few more teams, before another brief stint with the O’s in 1965.

But, who wants to read about another Orioles loss?

Not me.

Not when this pops up.

The Baltimore Sun, 9/26/1954

A group of Little Leaguers from the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania area had bussed in to that game and 50 of them, along with 24 of their parents and chaperones, were violently sickened by bad chicken salad sandwiches.

Dr. Erwin Mayer (remember that name), the Orioles physician, was quick to remind the community that the chicken salad sandwiches in question were made in Pennsylvania and eaten on the bus, not at the stadium.

And, Mrs. Vera West of Chambersburg helpfully ratted out the ladies of the church group from Mont Alto as the culprits who made the bad sandwiches for Saturday’s bus ride to Baltimore, “on Friday.”

Dr. Mayer reported that the sandwiches were definitely tainted and he, himself, had personally inspected one and it was “green inside.”

I’m not sure how the triage at the game went unnoticed, apparently, by everyone else. Children and adults were removed by stretchers and ambulances raced in and out of the Memorial Stadium parking lot, all while the game continued.

People were stricken by things all the time back then. Maybe it just happened so often you didn’t notice 70 baseball fans exhibiting “explosive vomiting” and being carried out from the upper deck “writhing and groaning” on stretchers.

Meanwhile, leaving the parking lot, Fire Department Ambulance #6 was in a “minor collision” with another vehicle.

T.A. Powers, who was driving that other vehicle, told reporters that the ambulances were coming out of the stadium so fast the he could not stop as he was going through a green light. His 13-month-old son Thomas hit his head on the dashboard in the collision and ended up in the hospital, too. (Little Thomas was quickly examined and released.)

“After the game ended, the Chambersburg busses went from hospital to hospital picking up those of the party who were considered well enough to leave.” ~ The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Health Department later noted that there were only three outbreaks of food poisoning in the city in 1954 – a wedding party felled by a bad ham dinner, a catered office event that featured bad chicken salad, and the tainted chicken salad sandwiches “carried in from out of state” that did in the Little Leaguers from Chambersburg.

Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg News-Chronicle later reported that while “mayonnaise was probably the cause of the trouble” …

“The sandwiches were said to be delicious.”

And, that’s where this story should end. 1954 – 100 losses for the Orioles and a bunch of sick Little Leaguers.

Except for this.

On August 28, 1960, the Orioles were, once again, playing the White Sox in Baltimore. But, unlike 1954 – or 2017 for that matter – the O’s were in the thick of the pennant chase and would finish the ’60 season in second place, just a few games behind the Yankees.

The O’s won the game that day, 3-1, thanks almost entirely to a 3-run homer by the Sox in the 8th that was nullified by the umpire who insisted he had called “time” before the pitch was thrown. The Sox played the remainder of the game under protest.

Meanwhile, in the stands …

The Baltimore Sun, 8/29/1960

… a group of 18 baseball fans were sickened with food poisoning.

The group had bussed in for the game, eating ham sandwiches en route, and had become sick during the game.

Dr. Mayer, the same Orioles physician who treated the Little Leaguers in 1954, was on the scene again and helped get the victims out of the stadium and to area hospitals.

The group?

They were from Chambersburg.

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Look, I’m sure Chambersburg, Pennsylvania is a nice place. And, I’m not saying you you should skip the sandwiches next time you’re in Chambersburg. I’m not saying that at all.

I’m just saying that I will.


21 thoughts on ““The Sandwiches Were Said To Be Delicious.”

  1. Ha ha ha ha! And I lived in Chambersburg for almost 30 years, (but happy to say during the time of the tainted chicken and ham, I did NOT live there. I am a Marylander)

  2. Quite a story! Explosive vomiting? It’s on record that when Bobby Thomsen hit the shot heard round the world, at that moment in the Polo Grounds stands, Jackie Gleason and Frank Sinatra were heaving their gutts.

    • Days like these I’m especially glad to be a vegetarian! “Explosive vomiting” was a direct quote from the Baltimore Health Dept’s report. (They would probably appreciate me mentioning again, as they emphasized in their report, that the sandwiches were made in Pennsylvania.)

  3. I’ve never been to Chambersburg. Even so, I’ll never eat a sandwich of any kind on a bus again! I laughed so loudly while reading this that my sister in the next room asked what was so funny. How do you explain the humor in poisoned food, buses and projectile vomiting. Only you could do that.

  4. As a former Little Leaguer who bussed to a ballgame about the same time as the second event -although to Griffith Stadium from Va Beach- I don’t remember bringing our own meals. I think we would have instead enriched Calvin by purchasing ball park dogs. If we did bring our own, I suspect it would have been PBJs. I rarely ate chicken salad at all for just this reason. I feel bad for Chambersburg- tough rep. Wonder if egg salad would have reacted similarly? 😜
    Pretty sure I would have noticed the stretchers & heard the ambulances. Do you think announcer Ernie Harwell was instructed to downplay the event?
    However, Dr. Mayer had an easy diagnosis in round 2.

    I’m curious as to whether the baby birds on the 1960 yearbook represented Paul Richards’ “Kiddie Corps” starting rotation. Steve Barber, Milt Pappas, Chuck Estrada, & Jack Fisher were all in their early 20s and marketed as promising.

    Another great post, Bloggess!

    • I bet you’re right about the 1960 program … I can see “Brooks” on the far left, but of the “baby” birds I can only make out Milt.

      And, isn’t half the fun of going to the game eating ballpark food? Better than bad chicken salad packed from home anyway! :)

  5. Well, the Big Oak Cafe at the Butcher Shoppe in Chambersburg has good sandwiches these days and I always felt good after eating there. By the way, I expect that Nellie Fox was playing for the White Sox at that final game in 1954. Nellie was from St. Thomas Township, just outside of Chambersburg.

    • By golly, Doug … you’re absolutely right! Nellie Fox did play that day (he went 1-for-5). I wonder if that’s why the Little Leaguers chose that game to attend.

      (I still can’t convince Randy to buy the Nellie Fox Bowling Alley for me … as it is going up for auction in Chambersburg.)

      Thanks so much for making the Nellie Fox connection!

  6. Good. Grief. Even in my best meat-eating days (when I’d happily eat a pork shoulder on a single slice of bread) I’d always give chicken salad a pass. It just never seemed right. Thank you for showing me that I do have an ounce of self-preservation.
    On a side note – please buy that bowling alley. If you buy it, I will come.

    • I know … I need to buy that bowling alley. That it’s 3 hours away is the only hurdle. Well that, and the fact that Editor/Husband thinks I’m kidding. In any event, I won’t be hiring any of the leave-the-mayo-out-too-long church ladies to work at my Snack Bar!

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