April 28, 1988: The Baltimore Orioles set a new American League record for consecutive losses when they drop their 21st straight game, 4-2 to the Twins at the Metrodome. Off to the worst start in big league history, 0-21, the Orioles had already replaced manager Cal Ripken Sr. with Frank Robinson, who had lost the last 15. The team did that just six games (six losses) into the season, and it was awkward. Ripken was the father of two of Baltimore’s starters, Cal Ripken Jr. and Billy Ripken. Cal Jr. was the organization’s best player and was in the middle of what would become a major league record with 2,632 consecutive games played.
The Orioles could not catch a break. Just after they had fallen to 0-9, general manager Ronald Hemond, farm director Doug Melvin and seven others were trapped in an elevator at Memorial Stadium for an hour and 13 minutes. A planned roster move was delayed because Hemond was incommunicado. The O’s would go on to finish 54-107 in 1988, the worst season since the team arrived in Baltimore and only the second 100-loss campaign in that stretch (the first was in 1954, the year they moved from St. Louis).
Now, it’s only the franchise’s fifth-worst record. The Browns were 43-111 in 1939, and the Orioles had a miserable five-season run up through two years ago, going 47-115 in 2018, 54-108 in 2019 and 52-110 in 2021. The Birds would finally snap their sorrowful 1988 streak the following day against the White Sox, ending up two games short of the modern major league record of 23 consecutive defeats set by the 1961 Philadelphia Phillies. The old AL record was 20 straight losses by the Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) way back in 1906.
Interestingly enough, Baltimore threatened its own record just two years ago when it dropped 19 consecutive games in the summer of 2021 (the Kansas City Royals had done the same thing in 2005). Those are the longest losing streaks of the 21st century. =The Orioles are finally pointed in the right direction now. They actually had a winning season in 2022, going 83-79. And they’re 17-8 this season after a 7-4 victory last night in Detroit.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)