Who said Throwback Thursday had to be about cars every week?
Thirty years ago I was a part of this team that almost won the AL Eastern Division. Why is that a big deal? What does “Why Not?” mean?
My first year with the Orioles, 1988, we were awful. We set a “record” by losing our first 21 games of the season and finished with the worst record in baseball at 54-107 (in case you don’t know, or even if you do, that means the team won 54 games and lost 107).
In 1989 the Orioles led the division for most of the season (118 days in first, to be exact) and had a chance to win the division at the end in a head-to-head series with Toronto, the eventual division champions. Why Not? had become the motto of the season as in why couldn’t a team go from awful to champions in one year.
One of my favorite memories from that or any other season actually happened just before Opening Day. We were in Washington, DC playing an exhibition game. After the game I was in the clubhouse and Frank Robinson, Hall of Famer and Orioles’ manager in 1989, handed me something and asked, “What do you think?” It was the lineup for Opening Day. Of course, the stat guy in me said, “Phil Bradley leading off? He’s 4-for-26 with 14 strikeouts against Roger Clemens.” Frank said, “I know, but I have to bat him leadoff on Opening Day or it will send him a bad message.”
After we talked about the lineup Frank went somewhere else. It dawned on me that my favorite baseball player growing up had just asked for my opinion on the lineup he made. The Orioles beat the Red Sox and Roger Clemens on Opening Day, 1989. For a team that had started the previous season 0-21, winning the opener was very important.
The Orioles didn’t really choke down the stretch in 1989 finishing with a respectable 33-26 record from August 1 through the end of the season. The Blue Jays just played better: 37-20 for the same period.
Unfortunately, the 1989 season was probably not a true indication of that team’s ability. For 1990-91 the Orioles had a 143-180 record. Still, that didn’t take away from the amazing experience of 1989.
It is a GREAT feeling to be right when the rest of the world is wrong. If only I could do it again…
Thanks to Lon Babby for sending the photo.
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