This Day in Baseball History: April 28th, 1988

I can’t even imagine the frustration they experienced. That’s a lot of futility. Even the Nationals have lucked into a few victories here and there.

On April 28, 1988:

The Baltimore Orioles lose for the 21st consecutive game.

The Baltimore Orioles didn’t just lose for the 21st consecutive game. They lost the 21st consecutive game to open the season. That’s a pretty impressive feat. Actually, it’s the longest losing streak to start a season. Though that streak is impressive, the Philadelphia Phillies were the most impressive (or I guess gruesome) when they lost 23 straight from July 26 to August 20 in 1961.

Coming into the 1988 season, the Orioles weren’t exactly expecting great things. They had just lost 95 games the previous season, including losing 42 of their last 56, but they spent the off-season ridding themselves of anything that reminded them of that season. Only 11 players remained from the previous season. Even with a set of new players, there was no guarantee. The team did have Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jr., and Fred Lynn, but there wasn’t too much to get excited about.

The season started off pretty ominously as the Milwaukee Brewers waltzed in and blitzed the Orioles 12-0 in front of 50,000+ fans and the governor of Maryland. Five more losses into the campaign, and manager Cal Ripken, Sr., was gone. He lasted a grand total of six games before Frank Robinson was brought in to fix the team. It didn’t work. The next two games, they took a 6-1 and 9-3 loss before their first big chance of the streak. Two screwed up sac bunts, three errors, and a couple balks left the Orioles short, 4-3, to the Kansas City Royals. A storm came in the next night, making the conditions cold and horrible, and to match, the Orioles suffered another close loss, 3-2, this time to the Cleveland Indians. 10-0.

The 11th game was even tougher to take. The Orioles took the Indians to the 11th before dropping the game 1-0. Two days later, the Orioles tied the 1904 Washington Senators and 1920 Detroit Tigers with 13 straight losses to open the season, and one night later, the Orioles put them in the rear-view mirror. One night later, the Orioles lost their 15th straight, a franchise record. Blow outs poured more depression on the Orioles and fans. Before the 19th game, President Ronald Reagan called the team to offer some encouragement, and maybe I’m wrong, but that had to make things more difficult. They got close in game 20, but they fell 4-3.

Game 21 started well. Murray drove in the game’s first run in the first. Kent Hrbek got things going, though, with his fourth homer of the season, making it 2-1 in the fourth. A double in the bottom of the sixth made it 4-1, and things were looking grim again. But in the next half inning, the Orioles made a move. Four walks were issued, and the bases were loaded with one out and the game at 4-2. Fittingly, a strikeout and a line drive to left ended the inning. Deflated, six of the next seven got out, ending the game. Although they didn’t know it, their luck would change the next game.

Actually it didn’t really change much. The Orioles went on to lose 107 games. Cal Ripken, Jr., and Eddie Murray were bright spots, but nothing could help a team last in the AL in runs scored and ERA. Their longest winning streak? Four.

For every agonizing defeat of the streak, go here.

Trivia Time
True or False? The Orioles had a winning month in 1988.

Yesterday’s Answer –> Johnny VanderMeer in 1938 with the Cincinnati Reds

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4 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: April 28th, 1988”

  1. The Common Man Says:

    You know, I remember that year, and reading the paper every morning as the losses kept mounting. And I remember feeling bad for the O’s. But they had some decent players on that team. Cal Ripken and Murray, obviously. Fred Lynn had a good year in part time work. Mickey Tettleton had talent. The bullpen was passable. But man, those starters were awful. Jay Tibbs (4-15, 5.39) was especially a whole lot of yuck. And Billy Ripken played 150 games, despite hitting .207/.260/.258 for a 48!!! OPS+.

    I love that they improved by 65 games the next year. In fact, it’s kind of beautiful how that team was put together. The trade of Murray to the Dodgers didn’t yield much, but virtually every other move paid dividends, brining in Randy Milligan, Mike Devereaux, Phil Bradley, and Dave Johnson for nothing, and letting kids like Craig Worthington and Gregg Olson play proved to be good strategies.

    Then, of course, they squandered it.

  2. The Common Man Says:

    Oh, and my answer is “yes” they had a winning month.

  3. lar Says:

    I became a fan of the Orioles sometime in the middle of this season. I was 7 and one day just decided, out of the blue, that Cal Ripken was my favorite player and the Orioles were my favorite team. I remember my brother telling me that “they sucked”, but I said something like “well, i like rooting for the underdog.” and that was that. All I can figure is that I decided Cal was my favorite player because I had so many baseball cards of him, and therefore the O’s must be my favorite team. Plus, I liked the whole Ripken Family thing they had going on.

    I’m fairly certain that I had no idea that Cal Sr. was fired after 6 games or that they had lost 21 games in a row to start the season. It wasn’t until after another 5 years before everybody else in the country started caring about Cal, so at least I got in on the ground floor.

  4. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Hell, I didn’t even know Cal Sr. was a manager.

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