It’s often said that baseball teams can’t win a championship in April, but they can certainly lose one in April.
No single team in MLB history identifies with this better than the 1988 Baltimore Orioles.
Despite a roster that featured two future Hall of Famers in Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray, any and all hope for this Orioles team had already been dashed just 21 games into the season. For during that stretch, Baltimore did not win a single baseball game.
That’s what the standings read on the morning of Friday, April 29, 1988, before Baltimore’s miserable streak finally ended with a 9-0 win against the Chicago White Sox.
It’s the longest winless streak ever to begin a Major League Baseball season. Overall, it’s the sixth longest losing streak in league history, and the second longest since 1900. This came at a time when “tanking” and sports didn’t go together. It was a franchise’s worst nightmare come true, and it set the stage for a dismal season that saw Baltimore finish with only 54 wins.
If we’re being honest, there’s no good time to reflect on such a miserable time in the professional careers of so many. With the 30th anniversary of Baltimore snapping the streak now upon us, this is probably the best time. Or at least the least worst time to look back on how the streak impacted those who lived and played through it.
That’s exactly what MLB Network has done. On Sunday, the network will air a 15-minute video titled “The Other Streak” during “MLB Tonight” at 5 pm ET.
We at Yahoo Sports MLB were fortunate enough to be given an advanced look at “The Other Streak,” and we couldn’t help but smile even as several notable stars from the 1988 Orioles reluctantly conjured up memories of a time they wish to forget.
Fittingly, the video opens with the narrator teasing a segment that would discuss Cal Ripken Jr. breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. Simply stated, that is “The Streak” in Baltimore, and around MLB for that matter. He then humorously segues into a discussion on the less fortunate streak.
It addition to Ripken Jr., we also hear from his brother, Bill Ripken. Their father, Cal Ripken Sr., was Baltimore’s manager for the beginning of the streak. Ripken Sr. had gone 0-1 as an interim manager in 1985 and 67-95 as full-time manager in 1987, but only lasted six games in 1988 before being fired. Or perhaps being spared is the better term. Orioles legend and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson took over and oversaw the next 15 losses.
We also hear from outfielder Fred Lynn, catcher Terry Kennedy, legendary broadcaster Jon Miller, and an all-star cast of former Orioles beat writers — Ken Rosenthal, Richard Justice and Tim Kurkjian — as they lend their perspectives of the carnage.
Then there’s the story of Bob Rivers, the Baltimore radio personality who after Baltimore started the season 0-11, agreed to stay on the air until the team won again. You can do the math at home to figure out how that went.
How bad was it? At one point, president Ronald Reagan called Frank Robinson to offer his encouragement. And when they finally won a single game, it was celebrated in the city just like their World Series championships in 1966, 1970 and 1983.
There are so many crazy stories attached to this streak that you either forgot they happened or perhaps couldn’t believe. They all happened over the course of 21 straight games, and it’s all discussed in “The Other Streak.”
The players, coaches, broadcasters, beat writers and especially the fans might wish to forget the streak but, for better or worse, it’s a part of their legacy.
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