It was never supposed to end. That’s what I believed. The Orioles may not win the pennant every year but they would be respectable as long as I lived.
What was that amazing fact again? Oh yeah, the Orioles had one losing season (1967) from the 1964 season through the 1985 campaign. Can you imagine all those winning years?
And then it all seemed to fall apart. I was working in the Washington DC office when the Orioles crash came to roost. In 1986 the Orioles… Yes, the Baltimore Orioles of World Series fame, finished dead last. It couldn’t be.
Kind of nutty talking about this now that we finally will have a winning team again in Baltimore this year. But this organization hit rock bottom long before Mr. Angelos bought the team.
Edward Bennett Williams, a prominent DC attorney, was the owner of the team when I worked there. He was clearly brilliant. When he spoke in public, everybody listened. He had that magic about him. But he was a Washingtonian by heart and I don’t think he knew how the Orioles worked. He was surrounded by Larry Lucchino who later joined the Red Sox. But mistakes were made.
I tried to understand what happened. Maybe the O’s didn’t understand the world under free agency. Trades had always worked in the Orioles favor. Even throw-ins during deals worked out for us. I sat with Hank Peters (former General Manager) when I was doing interviews for my book. He was clearly disturbed at the way the Orioles had fallen on bad times.
Sure folks will point to the Glenn Davis trade. It was in January of 1991 when we dealt Curt Schilling, Pete Harnisch and Steve Finley to Houston for Davis.
He was supposed to be the next Frank Robinson. I saw him pinch-hit in Chicago and he ripped a ball over the left field wall in a blink of an eye. But even if he had stayed healthy, he couldn’t have matched what Schilling, Harnisch and Finley did. It’s now forgotten that Davis actually came back in 1992, batted nearly 40o times and hit .276. Not bad, really.
Our free agent pick-ups were horrendous. The ownership in Washington didn’t understand what made an Orioles player tick. How they played for the team and didn’t worry about their ego. We got a free agent and I was asked to take that player to the bullpen to sign autographs. Instead he gave me the finger. Now that’s not an Orioles type player.
Even that last-place club in 1986 wasn’t all the bad. They were 10 games over .500 as late as August 6th.
Maybe it was a pair of games in Oakland that began the great downfall. On Aug. 28, the O’s took a 4-0 lead to the seventh inning in Oakland. Reliever Don Aase gave it up in a 5-4 loss. In the second game of the doubleheader, the Orioles took a 6-3 lead to the seventh. It was still 7-5 Birds in the ninth. Enter Aase again for the save. He gave up a two-run triple to Carney Lansford and it was yet another loss on Aase’s record. This last-place club finished 73-89.
Oh, well. No O’s fan could ever imagine 14 straight losing seasons. It’s sobering all right. And maybe our long suffering is coming to an end this summer.