3 years later, Zer-O's get little revenge

Ken Rosenthal

June 18, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

This was for Jeff Stone, for Bill Scherrer, for all those who suffered through the most embarrassing series in Orioles history.

The year was 1988. The opponent was Minnesota.

0-19. 0-20. 0-21.

Only four current Orioles were with the club back then, but no matter. What goes around comes around. The Twins had won 15 straight, but last night they never had a chance.

Their starter was Allan Anderson -- the same guy who beat the Zer-O's the day they set the AL record for consecutive losses, back when no one confused "21" with blackjack.

Anderson was one Rick Aguilera strike away from improving his lifetime record against the Orioles to 8-2, but he got his -- a measly no-decision.

Orioles 6, Twins 5.

Reliever Mark Williamson earned the win, his first of the season. It wasn't as big as his first win in '88 -- the streak-buster in Chicago -- but it certainly was memorable.

Memorial Stadium exploded as if the Orioles had just won the seventh game of the World Series after Randy Milligan's game-winning two-run double with two outs in the ninth.

The phone rang immediately in general manager Roland Hemond's private box. It was Calvin Hill, a team vice president, calling from his car.

"He was on [Interstate] 95," Hemond said. "I said, 'Did you run off the road?' He said the big Mack trucks were flashing their lights when we scored the winning run."

That too was perfect: Remember in '88 when people drove with their lights on in sympathy for the Zer-O's? It was one giant funeral procession -- and the Twins delivered the last rites.

This was for Doug Sisk, for Ken Gerhart, for Tito Landrum.

For Tom Niedenfuer, Terry Kennedy, even Eddie Murray.

Williamson, Joe Orsulak and the Ripken brothers are the only remaining Orioles from April 1988. Jeff Ballard, lucky guy that he is, wasn't recalled until May 19.

John Oates was managing Triple A Rochester. Milligan was in Pittsburgh. Gregg Olson was at Auburn.

"I have very vague memories of that year, very vague," Williamson said. Forgive his sudden case of amnesia. It all seems like 100 years ago. Incredibly, it was only three.

The series in Minnesota, of course, was the topper.

The Orioles went for broke, promoting Scherrer, Craig Worthington and Keith Hughes. That cost Jim Traber and Oswald Peraza their roster spots -- it was the one time Traber went quietly -- and landed Rick Schu on the DL.

The Twins?

They were 5-11.

And absolutely terrified.

"Our guys were nervous as hell going into that series," general manager Andy MacPhail said. "They had just won the World Series, and they were scared to death. [Frank] Viola was more nervous than he was in Game 7."

Viola, now with the New York Mets, trailed 2-0 in the sixth inning of the opener. That was the night Fred Lynn led off -- and hit a home run. In fact, the Orioles scored in the first inning of all three games.

Anyway, Kent Hrbek and Randy Bush hit homers off Mike Morgan to make it 3-2, and Hrbek added another off Dave Schmidt. The Orioles rallied with two walks to start the ninth -- but the first was to Stone, who got doubled off second.

Twins 4, Orioles 2.

"They're too good a team to go 0-150," Kirby Puckett said.

"We won't go 0-162," Morgan vowed.

The next night it was 4-4 after seven. Scott McGregor lasted only 3 2/3 innings in his last game before getting released. And Scherrer, the sadsack lefthander, gave up back-to-back homers to start the eighth.

Hrbek hit the first -- it's still showing up on radar screens -- Tim Laudner the second. Scherrer then walked his next hitter and committed a balk. Only then did manager Frank Robinson take yet another lonely walk to the mound.

The amazing thing is, the Orioles almost won this one too, scoring twice in the ninth. But with runners on first and third, Lynn grounded out sharply to end the game.

Twins 7, Orioles 6.

The final day began with Robinson asking batting-practice pitcher Sammy Snider, "Do you think you can get Hrbek out?" Mike Boddicker couldn't -- Hrbek tagged him for a double and his fourth homer of the series.

This was the game the Orioles lost to the Portland Beavers. The three Twins' heroes -- Anderson (the win), Mark Portugal (the save) and John Moses (a two-run double) -- had each been with the club's Triple A affiliate three days before.

Of course, Robinson's lineup wasn't exactly All-Star material: Landrum batted first and Gerhart fifth, followed by Larry Sheets, Carl Nichols, Worthington and Hughes.

Twins 4, Orioles 2.

The only bad thing about that last night is that the Orioles didn't win by the same score.

But hey, it was worth the wait.

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