Orioles baseball in April is no longer so sublime

Lately, as in the past 13 seasons, it seems the Orioles theme song should be "I've Seen Better Days." Those words can apply to most any situation for the O's, including their April record.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the Birds aren't doing so well this month? Mind you, it's not the worst it's ever been. However, the Orioles certainly have seen better days when it comes to their April play, none better than during the 1966 season.

Baltimore went 11-1 in April 1966, the best win percentage for the month in team history. (In terms of victories, the Orioles have totaled 16 April wins on four different occasions: 1969, 1997, 2005, 2008.)

The 1966 Orioles opened the season by taking two straight from the Red Sox at Fenway before returning home to take two-of-three against the Yankees. Overall, the Birds finished the year 12-6 against Boston and 15-3 against New York, the ninth- and tenth-place teams, respectively, in the 10-team American League East that season.

Better days indeed.

After a lone April hiccup in the 1966 home opener, the O's won nine straight games to close out the month. They made it a 10-game win streak on May 1, which served as the first of seven win streaks that season lasting five or more games. For comparison’s sake, the 2009 Orioles had one five-game winning streak.

Just as anything that can go wrong seemingly does for the Orioles this April, anything that could go right seemingly did for the Orioles in April 1966.

The season started with a 5-4 win at Fenway in 13 innings. The Orioles scored the winning run when Boston's Jim Longborg balked home Davey Johnson with two outs and Luis Aparicio at the plate. Aparicio went 0-for-7 on the day.

Meanwhile, Wally Bunker, who suffered through a sore arm in 1965 that would eventually derail his promising career, went 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA, and 13 strikeouts in April 1996.

Two seasons earlier, at age 19, Bunker set the Orioles' rookie record for wins with 19 and was named The Sporting News American League Rookie of the Year. He was out of the game by age 26.

At the plate, new acquisition Frank Robinson powered his way through baseball's first month on his way to a Triple Crown season. Robinson batted .463 with a .585 OBP, .976 slugging percentage, and a 1.561 OPS. He had five home runs in 12 April games.

The Birds acquired Robinson on Dec. 9, 1965, in a trade that sent Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas, and Dick Simpson to the Cincinnati Reds.

Strong early play was the norm in Baltimore during the ‘60s. The Orioles never had a losing April record and posted a franchise-best .594 April winning percentage for the decade. Along the way the franchise recorded two of its five no-hitters, both of them in April no less.

Steve Barber and Stu Miller tossed a combined no-hitter on April 30, 1967, against the Tigers, and Tom Phoebus had a no-no on April 27, 1968 against the Red Sox.

Sing with me now: "Cuz I've seen better days, been the star of many plays, I've seen better days. And the bottom drops out."

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