When you think of the Orioles and Mother’s Day, which game comes to mind? There are two most likely answers that reflect very different eras of baseball in Baltimore.
First, there’s the miserable Mother’s Day of four years ago when the Orioles, leading by five runs with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning at Fenway Park, surrendered six runs to squander the victory and a series win against the rival Red Sox. It was the first of many bullpen meltdowns during the 2007 season, none worse than the 30-3 loss to the Rangers that came in August.
The bullpen ended the year with a 5.75 ERA and consideration among the worst relief corps in history. The team finished 69-93, 27 games out of first place.
Then there’s Mother’s Day 1966. Frank Robinson, in only his 19th game as an Oriole following an offseason trade from the Cincinnati Reds, drove a Luis Tiant offering clear out of Memorial Stadium - the only such homer in the stadium’s history. Tiant was coming off two consecutive shutouts. Robinson finished with two homers on the day; his historic blast traveled 451 feet in the air and rolled to a stop an estimated 540 feet from home plate. The O’s won the game 8-3 and earned a doubleheader sweep of the Cleveland Indians.
Robinson ended the year with 49 home runs and was named American League Most Valuable Player. Teammates Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell were second and third, respectively, in the voting. The team finished 97-63 and won its first World Series.
Baltimore’s contrasting Mother’s Day memories are consistent with the Dickensian history of the ball club, which has shifted from enjoying the best of times to enduring the worst of times. The Orioles’ spring of hope has yielded to a winter of despair. But even the longest-tenured O’s fans should know better than to have great expectations for the Birds on the second Sunday in May.
Since sweeping the Indians in 1966, the Orioles have gone 19-28 on Mother’s Day. The team’s longest Mother’s Day win streak during that period ran three years from 1986 to 1988. Meanwhile, the longest Mother’s Day losing streak is still in progress. Sunday’s loss to the Rays was the Orioles’ fifth consecutive Mother’s Day loss. The last victory came on May 14, 2006, against the Kansas City Royals.
The Birds have lost every Mother’s Day game they’ve played against Tampa Bay. In addition to Sunday, the O’s lost the Rays in 2002, when Tampa Bay lost 106 games overall, and 1998, when Tampa Bay lost 99 games.
After considering two of the most famous Mother’s Day games in Orioles history, it’s tempting to make a glass half-full, glass half-empty statement and suggest there’s currently room for nothing but pessimism with this team. Instead, I’d prefer to look back even further into Orioles history and consider the words of O’s Manager Paul Richards after his team lost four of its first five games in the 1961 season.
“Take it easy,” said Richards. “The season’s barely started. After all, we didn’t agree to clinch the pennant by Mother’s Day.”
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds will appear this week as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.