Despite all the recent losing, the Birds hadn’t finished in last place in 20 years
by Matthew Taylor
With the sudden ascendancy of the Tampa Bay Rays, the O’s finished the 2008 season in last place in the American League East. This week’s Flashback Friday recalls the last time that the Birds found themselves looking up at all of the other teams in the A.L. East – 1988. That’s right, the Orioles marked the 20th anniversary of the worst season in Baltimore team history by finishing in last place for the first time since then.
The O’s, fifth out of five teams in the 2008 A.L. East, have finished fifth since 1988. It happened in 1990 under the direction of former Oriole great Frank Robinson; however, there were seven teams in the division at the time. Milwaukee and the Yankees finished behind the O’s.
The O’s have even finished in sixth place since 1988. It happened in 1991 under the direction of Frank Robinson and Johnny Oates. Again there were seven teams in the A.L. East at the time, and only Cleveland finished behind the Birds. (The Yankees still weren’t very good. They finished 20 games out, just four games ahead of the O’s.)
However, only once in 20 years dating to this season had the Orioles finished behind all of their competition. The infamous ’88 Birds lost 21 straight games to open the season, fired Cal Ripken Sr. after only six games, and finished the year with a post-St. Louis Browns franchise-worse 107 losses.
[Note: The list of most losses overall in franchise history includes the 1910 and 1911 Browns (107 losses), the 1937 Browns (109 losses), and the 1939 Browns (111 losses … in only 154 games played).]
On a positive note, the 1988 season also featured “Fantastic Fan Night,” where 50,402 fans – including Morganna, the Kissing Bandit – showed up at Memorial Stadium on May 2 to welcome home their 1-23 team.
Here’s what The Washington Post had to say on May 3, 1988 …
They were the true believers. Forget the record-setting losses. Forget the doubters and curiosity seekers who drew perverse satisfaction from the Baltimore Orioles’ poor performance.
Tonight, the Orioles saluted their loyal fans with a 9-4 victory over the Texas Rangers here at Memorial Stadium.
The team’s diehard followers, who turned out for a homecoming billed as “Fantastic Fan Night,” shouted, yelled, cheered, stomped, performed the wave and found still more ways to invoke the return of luck to their team.
When the shouting was over, the Orioles had their second win in 25 decisions since the season started April 4.