14-Game Hot Streak Beginning in Late May ’89 Set the Tone for “Why Not” Orioles

No question about it, the 2022 Orioles season has had its share of highlights so far.

From the exciting 2-0 win vs. Milwaukee in the home opener…to the more recent stretch of three walk-off wins in a span of four games…and the debut of #1 overall prospect Adley Rutschman, there have certainly been some exciting times.

But with a record of 18-27 heading into play on May 27, I don’t think that anyone would argue that this has been a “Why Not?” type of year.

That shocking 1989 season is the one that all potential rebound seasons are judged by, right?

After all, the “Why Not?” 1989 season saw the Orioles go from being baseball’s worst team in 1988 to battling for first place on the season’s final weekend the next year.

And as we head into Memorial Day weekend here in 2022, it reminds me of the surprising stretch in late May of 1989 that set up one of the summers most fondly remembered by Baltimore baseball fans.

Let’s take a quick walk down Memory Lane…

On Monday, May 22, 1989 the Orioles defeated the White Sox in the first game of a three-game series at Comiskey Park in Chicago by a 5-1 score.

With that win, the Orioles moved into a three-way tie for second place – just a game behind division-leading Cleveland.

The O’s would win five straight games beginning May 22 – and 13 of their next 14 – to establish firm control of first place in the American League East.

By the end of this 14-game stretch, the Birds would have a five-game lead over second-place Cleveland…and they’d have convinced many early-season doubters that this would, in fact, be a very interesting baseball season in Baltimore.

Making this two-week span – between May 22 and June 5 – even more impressive was that 11 of the 14 games during this hot stretch were away from Memorial Stadium.

The O’s swept the White Sox on three straight nights by scores of 5-1, 9-3 and 8-0 with Jay Tibbs and Mark Williamson combining on an eight-hit shutout in the series finale.

Then it was off to Cleveland, where the Orioles won the first two games of the series behind strong starts from Jeff Ballard and Dave Schmidt. Cleveland took the final game of the series by a 1-0 score on a walk-off suicide squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth, making Bob Milacki a hard-luck loser.

From there it was back home to Memorial Stadium for a three-game series with the Texas Rangers beginning on Memorial Day, May 29.

The Birds defeated Nolan Ryan in the series opener by a score of 6-1 powered by home runs from Mickey Tettleton, Larry Sheets and Cal Ripken.

Gregg Olson saved the final two games of the series – 6-2 and 8-5 victories – and the lead in the division was suddenly up to two games for the surprising Orioles.

A trip to Detroit was next for a four-game series, where the Orioles swept the Tigers. Four different relievers recorded saves for the O’s in the series: Mark Thurmond, Kevin Hickey, Gregg Olson and Mark Williamson.

As the Orioles flew to Yankee Stadium for their June 5 game with the Bronx Bombers, their division lead was suddenly up to five games.

The O’s clobbered the Yanks 16-3 in the series opener in a game that saw the Yankees commit six errors leading to 13 unearned runs.

That incredibly hot two-week stretch set up an amazing season. By the time it had ended, summer had arrived and fans were starting to believe.

After the O’s lost the second game of the two-game series to the Yankees, they returned home to Memorial Stadium for a four-game weekend series (Thursday-Sunday) with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The fans came out in droves for that Brewers’ series – with crowds of 30,378…31,156…44,294…and 44,993. In fact, all summer long the fans flocked to Memorial Stadium to see just how far these new-look Orioles could go.

Even though the season’s final weekend didn’t go the Orioles’ way, that 1989 season is still remembered fondly…and ranked as the favorite of many longtime O’s fans.

What set it up was a remarkable hot streak beginning of late May that showed everyone this O’s team was dramatically improved over the ’88 squad.

So as we sit here in late May of 2022 – some 33 years after that 1989 season – it’s worth looking back and remembering just how important two weeks can be.

And it’s worth looking ahead to what could be a better 2023 season for the Birds.

Maybe 2023 will be a season where, as Frank Robinson would say, “These are exciting times…you gotta be there.”

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