Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wrap Up

I've been needing to do a wrap up post for this blog for a while now.  I apologize for taking so long.  This blog had kind of eaten my brain during the baseball season - having to write about every day from April 3 to October 2 was very demanding.  I had worked ahead - it was a necessity since I was going for a two and a half week vacation in September - and once I had all the posts done for the season around Labor Day I took a break from this blog and went back to working on my main blog (and took the afore-mentioned vacation).  I just took a longer break than I had intended.  But with the end of 2018 I figured it was time to wrap this up.

The Orioles surprised the baseball world in 1989 by unexpectedly contending - they moved into first place in May and didn't relinquish it for good until the end of August.  They weren't eliminated until the next to last day of the season.  The next two seasons, the last two at Memorial Stadium, were less successful however, although the team's fortunes turned around with the move to Camden Yards in 1992.  They finished over .500 in five of the next six seasons, culminating in a Wild Card berth in 1996 and a wire-to-wire division title in 1997.  They made it to the American League Championship Series both of those season, losing to the Yankees in 1996 and the Indians in 1997.  The team fell into a long dry spell after that, finishing under .500 every season from 1998 until 2011.  They finished over .500 for the five years in a row from 2012 to 2016, making the playoffs in 2012 (lost the ALDS to the Yankees), 2014 (lost the ALCS to the Royals) and 2016 (lost in the AL Wild Card game to the Blue Jays) but 2017 saw them lose 87 games and 2018 was a disaster of biblical proportions - they lost 115 games.

The 1988 Orioles ended up having two Hall Of Famers - Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray.  Ripken remained an Oriole for the rest of his career, retiring at the end of the 2001 season.  Murray was traded to the Dodgers during the 1988-89 off season, moved to the Mets as a free agent in 1992 (which allowed him to play in the first game ever at Oriole Park at Camden Yards) and on to the Indians in 1994 before returning to the Orioles in a mid-season trade in 1996.  He retired following the 1997 season that he split between the Angels and Dodgers.

There's a possible third Hall Of Famer from the team - Curt Schilling, who went 0-3 in 4 starts in September.  Schilling was traded to the Astros in the 1990-91 off season as part of the ill fated Glenn Davis trade and moved onto the Phillies in 1992 where he became an All Star starter.  He later moved to the Arizona Diamondbacks and helped them win a World Series in 2001 and then to the Red Sox where he helped them win World Series in 2004 and 2007.  He retired after the 2008 season with a record of 216-146 and 3116 strikeouts.  I think he was the last active player from the 1988 Orioles roster.

Some of the other contributors (for better or for worse) for the team:

Brady Anderson developed into a three time All Star outfielder for the Birds during the 90's.  His 50 home runs in 1996 was the team record until Chris Davis hit 53 in 2013.  Anderson was released by the Orioles after the 2001 season and he played for the Indians in 2002 and for the Padres' AAA team in Portland, Oregon in 2003 before retiring.

Bill Ripken stayed an Oriole until he was released following the 1992 season.  He spent time with the Rangers, Indians and Tigers as well as returning to the Birds for the 1996 season before retiring after the 1998 season.

Fred Lynn, who was traded to Detroit at the end of August, remained a Tiger in 1989 and then retired after a single season with San Diego in 1990.

Mickey Tettleton spent two more seasons in Baltimore before moving to the Tigers where he had 3 30+ home run seasons (from 1991-93).  He later spent three seasons in Texas before retiring after 1997. 

Joe Orsulak was an Oriole for four more years.  He spent three years with the Mets, and a season with the Marlins and Expos before he also hung up his spikes in 1997.

Rene Gonzales retired after 1998 - he spent two more seasons with the Orioles, then flipped between the Angels, Blue Jays, Indians, Rangers and Rockies as well as in the minors for the Padres, White Sox and Astros.

Ken Gerhart and Pete Stanicek never played in the majors again after 1988.  Gerhart was traded to the Giants during spring training in 1989 and spent the season in Shreveport and Phoenix.  He played in four games for the Indians' AAA team in Colorado Springs in 1990 before retiring.  Stanicek spent two more seasons in the Orioles organization before injuries forced him to retire.

Three members of the team ended up in Japan during the first half of the 1990's.  Jim Traber only spent one more season with the Orioles before signing with the Kintetsu Buffaloes for the 1991-92 seasons.  He made the All Star team and led the Pacific League in RBIs in 1991.  Larry Sheets also moved on from the Birds after 1989 - he spent 1990 with the Tigers.  It's not clear to me that he played anywhere in 1991 but he was a Yokohama Taiyo Whale in 1992 (and also made the All Star team).  He returned to the States in 1993 and spent most of the season with the Brewers' AAA team in New Orleans before playing 11 games in the majors with the Mariners in September.  Rick Schu was briefly with the Orioles in 1989 before he was sold to Detroit.  He spent 1990 with the Angels and went back to the Phillies (his original team) for the 1991 and 1992 seasons.  He spent 1993 and 1994 with the Nippon-Ham Fighters before returning to the US and playing for Oklahoma City (Texas AAA) in 1995 and for Ottawa (Montreal AAA) in 1996-97 - his last major league appearance was with the Expos in 1996.

At 25 each pitchers Jeff Ballard and Jose Bautista made the most starts for the 1988 Orioles.  Ballard would go 18-8 for the 1989 Birds but his effectiveness significantly declined after that and he parted ways with the team after the 1991 season.  He spent 1992 at AAA Louisville in the Cardinals organization before spending the final two years of his career with the Pirates.  Bautista was a 23 year old rookie in 1988.  He remained with the Birds through 1991 before moving on to the Texas organization.  He spent 1992 in the Royals organization before spending 1993-94 with the Cubs and 1995-96 with the Giants.  His last major league appearances were in 1997 with the Tigers and Cardinals but he spent time in 1998-99 in the Yankees, White Sox, Mets and Expos organizations before ending his career with Monterrey in the Mexican League in 2000.

Mike Boddicker, traded to the Red Sox at the end of July, pitched for five more seasons after 1988 - two with Boston, two with Kansas City and one with Milwaukee.

Dave Schmidt spent one more season with Baltimore before moving on to the Expos as a free agent in 1990.  He spent 1991 split between the Texas and Montreal organizations and 1992 split between Seattle and Oakland before retiring.

Jay Tibbs only played for two more seasons after 1988.  He spent 1989 with the Birds but moved to the Pirates for the 1990 season.

Mark Williamson spent six more seasons with the Birds, retiring after the 1994 season.

After the 1988 season Mike Morgan was traded to the Dodgers for Mike Devereaux who would be a key part of the 1989 Orioles.  Morgan spent the next three seasons as a solid starter for the LA before moving onto the Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Twins, back to the Cubs, the Rangers and the Diamondbacks.  With the four teams he played with before the Orioles (the A's, Yankees, Blue Jays and Mariners) he played for 12 different teams which was the record until Octavio Dotel played for his 13th team in 2012.  I believe that Morgan along with Schilling are the only members of the 1988 Orioles to experience a World Series championship after 1988 - he was also on the 2001 Diamondbacks.  He retired after the 2002 season.

The Orioles had four pitchers make their major league debut in September of 1988.  I've already mentioned Schilling.  Gregg Olson saved 27 games for the 1989 team and was named AL Rookie Of the Year.  He went on to save over 30 games a season in the next three seasons and notched 29 in 1993 before leaving as a free agent.  Injuries hampered him over the next four seasons and he kicked around between the Braves, Indians, Royals, Tigers, Astros and Twins.  He saved 30 games again for the Diamondbacks in their inaugural season in 1998 and followed up with 14 more in 1999 before moving on to the Dodgers for his final two seasons in 2000-01.  Pete Harnisch departed the Orioles in the same trade that sent Schilling to Houston after the 1990 season.  He would play until 2003 with the Astros, Mets, Brewers and Reds.  Bob Milacki had the most auspicious debut for the Birds, going 2-0 in three starts including a shut out.  He stayed with the Orioles through the 1992 season and the spent the next few years in the Indians, Royals and Mariners organization before heading to Japan to play for the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1997.  He returned to the US and spent 1998-99 in the Astros and Pirates organizations before finishing his career with the St Paul Saints of the independent Northern League in 2000.

Cal Ripken Sr, who was unceremoniously fired as manager in April, returned to the team to his old role as third base coach for the 1989 season.  He retired after the 1992 season and passed away in 1999.  Elrod Hendricks who was an interim manager for the team during the season continued to coach for the Birds until 2005.  He passed away in December of that year.

Frank Robinson continued as manager of the Orioles until he was fired in May of 1991 and replaced by Johnny Oates.  He returned to managing in 2002 when he was hired to run the Montreal Expos which had just been taken over by MLB.  He managed the team for the next five seasons - their final three in Montreal and their first two in Washington as the Nationals.

I've been asked if I'm going to write a blog for the 2018 Orioles in 30 years and my answer has been  "no".  1988 was a significant year for me and the Orioles were a big part of the year for me.  2018 was a pretty good year for me but I can't say the Orioles were that much of a part of it.

One last item to wrap up.  I've written about what happened to many of the players for the 1988 Orioles but what about this Sabra woman that I met that year.  What happened to her?  Well, I married her and had a couple of kids.  We're still together after 30 years.

To all of you who've read all of this and found it at all interesting, thank you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Sunday October 2 at the Blue Jays

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Outcome: L
Score: 3-9
Streak: L3
Record: 54-107
Rank: 7th
GB: 34.5

The Orioles's 1988 season came to an end on an overcast and drizzly afternoon in windswept Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.  Curt Schilling made his fourth start of the season of his career and didn't last very long.

The Orioles played sloppy baseball in the first inning.  Tony Fernandez led off the game with a double and Nelson Liriano laid down a bunt in an attempt to sacrifice him to third.  Orioles catcher Carl Nichols decided to try to throw Fernandez out at third but his throw went down the left field line, allowing Fernandez to score and Liriano to reach second.  Rance Mulliniks lifted a fly ball to center field that Brady Anderson dropped, allowing Liriano to move to third and Mulliniks to pull into second.  A George Bell sacrifice fly brought Liriano with the second run of the inning.  With Ernie Whitt at the plate Schilling uncorked a wild pitch which moved Mulliniks up to third where he was able to score minutes later on Whitts' sacrifice fly.  A fly ball by Fred McGriff ended the inning but the Jays had scored 3 runs on one hit and two Oriole errors.

Toronto piled on further in the second.  With one out Rob Ducey singled and Alexis Infante drew a walk.  Fernandez brought both of them in to score by hitting a triple and then he scored when Liriano followed with another triple.  A sacrifice fly by Mullinks brought Liriano in with the fourth run of the inning and seventh run of the game.  Bell flew out to end the inning and Schilling's day.  Mark Williamson came in to pitch in the third inning.  Schilling had given up seven runs (although only five were earned) on four hits and a walk in two innings.  Every single baserunner he allowed on had scored.

Bell hit a two run home run off of Williamson in the fourth inning to make the score 9-0.  The Birds finally got on the board in the sixth inning on a two run home run by Larry Sheets, his tenth home run of the season.  They added another in the seventh on an RBI groundout by Craig Worthington to make the score 9-3.

This was the final Orioles game for several players.  Tom Niedenfuer pitched the fifth inning and Don Aase pitched the sixth and seventh innings.  Niedenfuer was granted free agency on November 4th but Aase was given his outright release on October 3rd.  Pete Stanicek went 0-4 in the game.  He suffered through two more injury plagued years in the Orioles minor league organization in 1989 and 1990 before retiring at age 27.

The big name making his Orioles farewell was Eddie Murray.  Murray went 0-2 in the game before being lifted for a pinch hitter (Rick Schu) in the sixth inning.  He was traded just over two months later to the Dodgers for Juan Bell, Brian Holton and Ken Howell.  He would return to the Orioles for the 1996 season.

It's a small sample size but the Orioles had a bad month in October - going 0-2 while being outscored 16 to 6.

Today's loss clinched the worst record in all of baseball for the Orioles.  The Atlanta Braves ended the season with a 54-106 record for a .338 winning percentage, three percentage points better than the Orioles .335.  The Braves were arguably just as bad as the Orioles that year but didn't have a sexy 21 game losing streak to start the season - theirs was only 10 games.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Saturday October 1 at the Blue Jays

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Outcome: L
Score: 3-7
Streak: L3
Record: 54-106
Rank: 7th
GB: 34.5

For a little bit this afternoon it looked the Orioles might put up a fight against Toronto.  The Blue Jays got on the board first in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly by Rob Ducey but the Orioles tied it in the top of the third on an RBI ground out by Craig Worthington.  Toronto went ahead for good in the fourth on a two run home run by Jesse Barfield and an RBI single by Kelly Gruber but the Birds cut the lead to just one run on a two run shot by Jim Traber in the fifth.  But Toronto responded in the bottom of the fifth with three more runs to bury the Orioles.  A Fred McGriff solo home run followed later in the inning with an RBI double by Ducey and an RBI single by Nelson Liriano accounted for the runs.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Friday September 30 at the Blue Jays

Opponent: Toronto Blue Jays
Outcome: L
Score: 0-4
Streak: L2
Record: 54-105
Rank: 7th
GB: 34.5

The Orioles suffered any number of indignities during the 1988 season but one thing they managed to avoid was getting no-hit.  Tonight was the closest all season they came to succumbing to that fate - Dave Stieb of the Blue Jays held them hitless until two outs in the ninth inning when pinch hitter Jim Traber lined a single.  It was the second straight start that Stieb had lost a no-hitter with two outs in the ninth (he had done it against Cleveland on September 24th) and his third consecutive complete game shutout.  Stieb would end up losing three no-hitters in the ninth inning in his career which is the record.  He did eventually throw a no-hitter in 1990 - it was the first and so far only no-hitter in Toronto Blue Jays history.

With the Orioles not hitting (and they only drew one walk) the game went very quickly, clocking in at one hour and 52 minutes, the second shortest game by time for the Birds all season (behind the September 3rd game against the Mariners).

Toronto got a run in the bottom of the first when Tony Fernandez led off with a triple and Kelly Gruder followed with a single.  Those two knocked in three more runs in the fifth inning when Fernandez singled with two on to knock in one run and Gruber tripled to knock in the other two.

From May through August the Orioles had pretty much just been mediocre.  They'd held steady from May through July and actually were almost a .500 team in August.  September though was a disaster.  With today's loss the Orioles had gone 8-19 this month, allowing 118 runs while only scoring 75.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Thursday September 29 vs the Yankees

Opponent: New York Yankees
Outcome: L
Score: 1-5
Streak: L1
Record: 54-104
Rank: 7th
GB: 34.5

This was the Orioles final home game of the season and the Orioles were running a somewhat unique promotion called "Shirts Off Out Back Night".  The O's would be changing their uniform design in the off-season and were giving away all the jerseys the players were wearing to the fans.  I was at the game but I don't remember the details of how it worked - if I had to actually register somewhere at the ballpark to be in the running or if they were doing everything by seat location - but it doesn't really matter as I didn't win a jersey.

There were 38,958 fans in attendance that evening which was the third highest home crowd of the season (behind Opening Day and Fantastic Fans Night).  The Orioles ended up drawing 1,660,738 which at the time was the eighth highest total in the club's history (and the fourth highest total for any team that had lost over 100 games).  I'll note that while this is a tribute to the fans of Baltimore who came out to support a bad team, it also reflects a trend upward in overall baseball attendance over the past 30 years.  The 1988 attendance is actually the Orioles lowest since the 1982 season.

The game was kind of an after thought and the Orioles played like it.  The Yankees went up 2-0 on a two run home run by Ken Phelps in the fourth and added a third run on an RBI single by Rafael Santana in the sixth.  Cal Ripken led off the bottom of the sixth with his 23rd home run of the season to get the Birds on the board but the Yankees got the run back in the top of the seventh on a bases loaded walk to Jack Clark.  New York got a final run in the ninth inning on a solo home from Don Mattingly.

The Orioles ended up leaving nine men on base and went 0 for six with runners in scoring position so they certainly had opportunities in this game.  Of course the Yankees squandered just as many opportunities to score more runs - they left 10 men on base and went one for eight with runners in scoring position.

Here are the clippings about the game from the next day's Evening Sun:

Friday, September 28, 2018

Wednesday September 28 vs the Yankees

Opponent: New York Yankees
Outcome: W
Score: 2-0
Streak: W1
Record: 54-103
Rank: 7th
GB: 33.5

The Orioles played very poorly over their final 20 games of the 1988 season, going 3-17 in games after September 12th.  (Note - they still have four more games after tonight so I'm giving away the fact that they didn't win any of them.)  The three games that they won were all starts by rookie Bob Milacki.  Oddly enough of the three starting pitchers that debuted with the Orioles in September of 1988 (Milacki, Curt Schilling and Pete Harnisch), Milacki had the most successful debut month but the least succssful career. 

At 23 Milacki was two years older than both Schilling and Harnisch which may have played into how their careers went.  Milacki was a mainstay of the Orioles rotation the next couple years, leading the AL in starts with 36 in 1989.  Injuries (possibly related to his workload) started taking their toll in the early 1990's.  In 1992 he went 6-8 with an ERA of 5.84 which led to him being called "Bob Shellac-i" among Orioles fans.  He left the Orioles as a free agent and spent the next few years bouncing around the A's, Indians, Royals, Red Sox, Mariners, Astros and Pirates organization along with a stint with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes of Japan in 1997.  He finished his career with the St Paul Saints of the independent Northern League in 2000.

But all of that was in the future.  Tonight Milacki pitched a gem against the Yankees, holding them to three hits and two walks while striking out ten.  He had a complete game shutout, only the second one the Orioles got all season (the other was by Jeff Ballard against the Brewers back on August 13th). 

This was yet another game in which the Orioles had baserunners but couldn't get runners in.  They had 10 hits tonight along with two walks as well as getting two runners on via Yankees errors.  But they only scored two run - one on a double play in the second by Craig Worthington and the other on an RBI single by Rick Schu in the fourth.  They left 10 men on base tonight and went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Tuesday September 27 vs the Yankees

Opponent: New York Yankees
Outcome: L
Score: 1-5
Streak: L4
Record: 53-103
Rank: 7th
GB: 34.5

Curt Schilling made the third major league start of his young career and was saddled with the second loss of his career.  Don Mattingly did a number on him in this game, hitting a two run home run in the first inning and a solo shot in the third to put New York up 3-0. 

But it was the fourth inning that really did Schilling in tonight.  With one out Wayne Tolleson singled and two batters later Randy Velarde walked.  With Rickey Henderson at bat the Yankees pulled a successful double steal, moving both runners into scoring position.  They both then scored when Henderson doubled, making it 5-0 Yankees.  Schilling got Claudell Washington to fly out to end the inning and his day.  Doug Sisk came in to pitch the next four innings and Gregg Olson pitched the ninth and neither of them gave up any more runs.

Not that it mattered though - the Orioles only managed to score one run this evening and that was almost by accident.  Mickey Tettleton singled to start the seventh inning and Ken Gerhart was hit by a pitch from Yankees starter Ron Guidry.  Carl Nichols popped out to Mattingly in foul territory down the right field line, deep enough for Tettleton to alertly advance to third.  This put him in position to score when Guidry's first pitch to the next batter Craig Worthington went wild.  Guidry struck out Worthington and got Rene Gonzales to ground out to end the inning without any further damage.