A Franchise’s Worst : ’39 Browns vs. ’88 Orioles

Billy Ripken-Baltimore Orioles May 2, 1988 X 36475 credit:  Jerry Wachter - contract
The 1988 Orioles gained national recognition with a record 21-game losing streak to open the season.
The 1988 Baltimore Orioles fell flat out of the gate as no team had or has ever since – 21 consecutive losses. The Orioles fired manager Cal Ripken, Sr. six games into the skid and brought in Oriole legend Frank Robinson for his third managerial stint in the majors. The club finished with 107 losses, the franchise’s worst record in nearly 50 years. The worst record in franchise history, you ask? That distinction belong to their Worst of the Worst first-round opponent, the 1939 St. Louis Browns.

The Browns were led by first baseman George McQuinn (.316/.383/.515) on offense…and really nobody else. The lowest ERA on the staff belonged to Emil Bildili (any relation to Amelia Bedelia?) but “Hill Billy” made only two starts. 18 different pitchers made at least one start for manager Fred Haney’s troops. Fred Haney would have to wait nearly twenty years before enjoying major league success guiding the championship teams of the Milwaukee Braves. The total attendance for the Browns in 1939 was 109,159 or an average of 1,418 friends and family over 77 home dates. However, five years and a world war later, this franchise would win the American League pennant.

But the 1939 Browns held their ground as the franchise’s worst by their performance in this tournament. Fifty seasons of a 162-game schedule (8,100 total games), and the 1988 Orioles won 47 seasons, lost 1, and there were 2 ties at 81-81. Accordingly, it will be the Browns who advance to play the 2003 Detroit Tigers in the second round.

The Orioles dominated the leader board. Eddie Murray with a career .350 average and .487 OBP. Fred Lynn led the round with 2,418 home runs and a .636 slugging percentage. Mike Boddicker led with 8,053 punch outs, and rookie Jose Bautista, the pitcher not the bat flipping slugger, led with 877 wins. But again, in a tournament of this stature, let’s not overlook Terry Kennedy who struck out a career high 3,609 times.

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