“A Season to Forget: The Story of the 1988 Baltimore Orioles” by Ron Snyder
Baseball, professional, Orioles, history
April 23, 2019
3 of 5 stars (okay)
In 1988, the Baltimore Orioles set a baseball record that a team would never want to claim – they lost 21 consecutive games to start the season. While the Orioles had been declining since winning the World Series in 1983, no one expected a team led by Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray to perform so terribly. The streak and the state of the Orioles before and after the streak is told in this book by Ron Snyder.
There is writing about the Orioles both before and after the chapters on the streak itself. The beginning chapters tell a brief history of the team and the success it had for nearly 20 years between 1966 and 1984 when the team won three World Series titles and appeared in two others. Then, after the awful season of 1988, there is a nice write up about their nearly complete turnaround in 1989 when they fell one game short from winning the American League East Division. That was called the “Why Not?” season and certainly a terrific feel-good story.
However, the book’s main topic, the 21 game losing streak in 1988, was described in what is best described as haphazard fashion. The games were not recapped in chronological order, at least not regularly as one will read about say game 9 in the streak, then a player interviewed will talk about game 15. At least it starts with the 12-0 opening day loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and the chapters on the streak does end when the Orioles defeated the Chicago White Sox. None of the games during the streak are analyzed in depth and there isn’t a lot of information on any player or manager written. Not even Cal Ripken Sr., the shortstop’s father and manager of the team who was fired six games into the streak.
While the book certainly has its flaws, it was one that was a quick read and something this reader wanted to finish to the end and see what happens, much like how the media and fans all over the world were following the Orioles streak. It gained international attention and when the streak was over, it was a relief for everyone, not just the Orioles players and staff. One other noteworthy occurrence that should be mentioned as it gained its own chapter. The Orioles ended the streak in Chicago. After losing two more games to the White Sox, they came back home to a sold-out Memorial Stadium on a Monday night where it was announced that the team would be getting a new ball park. It was quite a sight to see a packed stadium come out to watch a team with a 1-23 record.
While this book was at best only a cursory description of the historic streak, the author does mention in the foreword of the book that this was written from the viewpoint of both a journalist and a fan. Reading that and finishing the book was enough to give this book a passing grade, but for more information on the streak, players or Orioles of that 1988 season, it is best to seek that elsewhere.
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