Baltimore Orioles: Looking Back on the 1988 Losing Streak
There have been plenty of questions about the upcoming 2020 MLB season, including this one from Baltimore Orioles fans: Is bad baseball worse than no baseball?
For Baltimore Orioles fans, all we have to do is look back at the 1988 season, that began with 21 consecutive losses. In fact, if we were replaying the 1988 season, April 29 would have marked the team’s first win of the season.
Then, on April 30, the team lost again.
In 1988, Opening Day was on April 4. That season, the Orioles had a two-game series at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. Opening Day was a precursor of what was to come as the O’s lost 12-0 against the Brew Crew. Sadly, that wasn’t the only blow out in the first week of season. The O’s lost a few days later to the Indians by a score of 12-1.
The best part of the 21-game losing streak was that most of the games were played at away stadiums. Only eight of the games were played at home: the Opening Day series, a series against the Indians, and the Royals.
The lone April 1988 win was against the Chicago White Sox. The O’s handed it to them by a score of 9-0. That day, Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray both hit home runs at Comiskey Park.
Yes, the O’s went 0-21 with Ripken and Murray on the team. In fact, O’s 1988 squad also include Billy Ripken, Mickey Tettleton, and Fred Lynn. Cal Ripken Sr. managed the first six games, was quickly fired and replaced by Frank Robinson.
In 1988, the Orioles finished with a record of 54-107. Despite the 21 losses to start the season, these Orioles were better than the 2018 and 2019 versions of the team that had records of 47-115 and 54-108 respectively. By the end of the season, the 1988 O’s were 34.5 games behind the Red Sox in the seven-team AL East. That season, the Dodgers defeated the Oakland A’s in the World Series.
More from Orioles History
- Baltimore Orioles: 2023 Hall of Fame BBWAA Ballot Features J.J. Hardy
- Baltimore Orioles: Five Treats from the 2022 Season
- Former Orioles Players on Playoff Teams this October
- On This Day: 2012 Ragtag Orioles Win Wild Card Game
- The April Orioles Seem Like a Completely Different Team
So what was the problem with the 1988 O’s? Pitching was one of them. The team ERA as 4.55 and WHIP was 1.433. And, in April, the team ERA was a depressing 5.58. Throughout the season, when pitchers received losses, they averaged an ERA of 7.07. In the wins, the pitching was lights out with an average ERA of 1.79. But, there were only 54 wins.
It’s tough to be a fan of a bad baseball team. Watching your team lose night after night is not fun. But, the thing about baseball is the element of surprise. A bad team does get the occasionally unexpected win – and it feels good! Take the crazy walk-off win against the Houston Astros on August 11, 2019. No one expected the very bad Orioles team to get a win against the very good Astros with Justin Verlander on the mound. But sometimes, bad teams pull off wins.
Those unexpected moments are what make bad baseball teams fun to watch. I’d much rather watch a bad team on a daily basis than not have baseball at all. My guess is that you feel the same way, too.