The minor-league Virginians were the transplanted version of the International League edition of the Baltimore Orioles, who were uprooted from their Maryland home when the St. Louis Browns of Major League Baseball transferred there for the 1954 season. (The '54 transfer was the second time the Orioles had moved to the Virginia capital. The Orioles played there from 1915-17 when the Federal League, the outlaw "third major league," chased them temporarily from Baltimore.)
The Virginians were unaffiliated with a major league farm system during 1954 and 1955, and — despite being managed by a Hall of Famer, Luke Appling — they wallowed at the bottom of the IL standings. The team's fortunes improved in 1956, when it affiliated with the New York Yankees. The Virginians, the Yanks' sole AAA farm club after 1958, sent several key players (including Tom Tresh, Al Downing and Joe Pepitone) to the Bronx, but the club's attendance figures were usually in the bottom tier of the league.
After the 1964 season, the Virginians were transferred to Toledo, Ohio, to become the present-day edition of the Mud Hens. Richmond was without baseball in 1965, but gained its longtime IL franchise, the Richmond Braves, when the Atlanta Crackers transferred there the following season. After 43 seasons in Richmond, the club moved to Gwinnett County, Georgia, for the 2009 campaign. In 2010, Virginia's capital joined the Class AA Eastern League with the creation of the Richmond Flying Squirrels (formerly the Connecticut Defenders of Norwich, Connecticut), an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
At one point, the Virginians were the only minor league affiliate of the Yankees allowed to keep their nickname instead of adopting the Yankees name. (For instance, the Columbus Confederate Yankees, based in Columbus, Georgia, were forced to keep the "Yankees" name but made use of the Confederate flag on its uniforms.) To this day, the Yankees only have two minor league affiliates that don't use the Yankees nickname: the Trenton Thunder and the Charleston RiverDogs.
- Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, editors. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 1997 edition. Durham, N.C.: Baseball America.