By the 1987 baseball season, my last as an Orioles employee, we knew our favorite baseball team had hit rock bottom. Just looking at that 87 season (67-95), there was a ugly month of June (5-23) and a 6-21 run in September. Amazingly there was also an 11-game winning streak in July.
And then 1988 kicked in with Cal Ripken Sr. at the controls and his boys, Cal and Billy by his side. Eddie Murray was still there and the old Red Sox star Fred Lynn was in center. The pitching staff had some familiar names with Scott McGregor and Mike Boddiker.
Obviously it didn’t start well. After four games, the O’s had been outscored 30-2. That included a 12-0 and 12-1 losses. I wonder what the O’s executives were thinking at the time. How about they were ready to unload on manager Ripken.
In Ripken’s last game as manager (after six games), his Birds were tied 2-2 against Cleveland. The Indians won that game on April 11, 7-2 and the Ripken boys saw their dad lose his job to Frank Robinson.
And the losses mounted. But there were some close games. On Tax Day, McGregor nursed a 2-1 lead to the eighth inning at home. Larry Sheets’ two-run blast was the difference. But he lost that lead to Cleveland and the Birds fell 3-2.
How about April 16. Mike Morgan tossed nine innings of two-hit ball. His offense couldn’t score in a 1-0 11-inning loss. The O’s out-hit Cleveland 8-3 and still lost. The O’s were 0-10.
The 20th consecutive loss to open the season came in the Metrodome. The Birds roughed up Bert Blyleven for four runs in the first two innings.
The game was knotted at 4-4 heading to the eighth. That’s when Robinson asked southpaw Bill Scherrer to halt the Twins. He allowed back to back homers, one walk and one balk and that was that for his performance.
The Orioles fought back in the ninth with run-scoring singles from Cal Jr and Murray. Lynn grounded out with those runners on to end this 7-6 loss.
After 20 losses in a row, we all knew this was a lost season. But what’s an Orioles fan to do with the rest of the months of baseball season? I had fled the Washington area and was in attendance at Comiskey Park when the 0-21 O’s visited the White Sox on April 28, 1988. It was Mark Williamson for Baltimore and Black Jack McDowell for the favored Sox.
And quickly the Birds were up. Cal singled and rode home on Murray’s second homer of the season. Yes, it’s the end of April and slugger Murray just hit his second homer.
It’s still 2-0 heading to the fifth. McDowell helps the Orioles cause by firing a wild pitch and Baltimore is up 3-0.
The seventh inning had just about everything. Billy Ripken was beaned and carted off. There were a few walks and errors. The O’s scored four runs on just one hit. It was 7-0 and it was growing late for a White Sox comeback.
Cal Jr. homered in the ninth, his third of the campaign, and the streak was broken. The O’s routed the White Sox 9-0 and this historic losing skein was over.
The O’s would go on to lose another 86 games the rest of the year. That was one tough season for Baltimore fans.