A Look Back at the Hottest April Starts in Baltimore History

Only five times in Orioles' history has the team gotten off to a hotter start than this year's torrid 19-9 April. To celebrate the start of May and to get through today's off day, I thought it would be fun to look back at the hottest April starts in Orioles' history. The five April starts better than this year's (based on winning percentage) include:

  • 1966: 11-1 (.917)
  • 1969: 16-7 (.696)
  • 1970: 13-6 (.684)
  • 1997: 16-7 (.696)
  • 2005: 16-7 (.696)


The hot start in 1966 comes with a bit of an asterisk next to it because the O's began the season halfway through April. It will be tough for any O's team to beat the .917 winning percentage put up in April 1966. Still, it is certainly a year worth talking about.

Like 2023, the 1966 Orioles had a fairly easy schedule in April, only playing two games against a team that would end the season with a winning record—the Detroit Tigers. The other 10 games of the month came against teams that all ended the season with somewhere between 70 and 72 wins. The easy schedule showed when the calendar turned to May. That month, the Orioles only played five games against teams with an end-of-season losing record. They would go 14-16 in May. But it would be their only losing month of the season and the Orioles, led by future Hall of Famers like Luis Aparicio, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, and Orioles' greats like Boog Powell and Davey Johnson, would win the American League pennant with a final record of 97-63—nine games ahead of the second-place Twins. The O's would go on to sweep the Dodgers in the World Series to win their first ever World Series.


The 1969 season would prove even better for the Orioles, despite a slightly worse start than 1966. The Birds started the season off strong with a 16-7 April. It was a much tougher April schedule, but the Orioles started fast out of the gate thanks to some phenomenal pitching performances. April featured six shutouts and the pitching staff held opponents to 1-2 runs another six times. The offense also did its job, scoring double-digit runs four times and scoring nine runs another three times. A pair of walk-off hits from Boog Powell and Mark Belanger also helped out.

1969, it is important to note, was the first year that MLB featured a new divisional format, with both the AL and NL being split into East and West divisions. The Orioles gained the AL East lead on April 16th after beating the division-leading Red Sox 11-8 at Fenway Park thanks to 7-combined-RBIs from Brooks Robinson and Don Buford. They would never look back. The Orioles would go on to have a winning record every single month of the season, even going 21-6 (.778) in June. They would finish the season 109-53, 19 games ahead of the second-place Tigers.

Despite a phenomenal regular season, led by much of the same roster as 1966, the Orioles would not win the World Series. They did sweep the Twins—winners of the AL West—in the first ever ALCS, before losing to the young upstart New York Mets 4-1 in the World Series. 1969 remains the best ever regular season record in Orioles' history.


The Orioles' dynasty would roll on in 1970, although their April start was not as hot as 1969. The birds began the season 13-6, thanks to a pair of 5-win streaks and good all-around pitching. O's pitchers held opponents to 3 or fewer runs ten times in the month. The month also included an 18-2 drubbing of the hapless Chicago White Sox on April 29th. Paul Blair and Boog Powell combined for 10 RBIs, and Jim Palmer got in on the action with a 2-RBI single of his own, on top of pitching a complete game.

Like in 1969, the Orioles would gain the division lead by the end of April and never look back. They played well all season, but turned on the jets in August and September, going 43-15 down the stretch. They finished one game worse than 1969, with a 108-54 final record. They won the East by 15 games over the New York Yankees.

Boog Powell would win his only AL MVP award this year after coming in second place to Harmon Killebrew the year prior. Powell slashed .297/.412/.549 for a .962 OPS (a whopping 163 OPS+), while hitting 35 home runs and driving in 114 runs.

The Orioles would once again sweep the AL West champion Twins before facing The Big Red Machine of Cincinnati in their first year of NL dominance. The Orioles would win the World Series 4-1, but it was a tightly-contested one, with three games being decided by one run. Brooks Robinson won World Series MVP, with a 1.238 OPS in the series.


The O's dominance would roll on through the 1970s and early 1980s, winning less than 90 games only twice (1972 and 1976), making the playoffs five more times, appearing in three more World Series, and winning it all once more in 1983. It wouldn't be until 27 years later in 1997 that the birds would have another scorching hot April better than this year's O's.

The O's began 1997 with a 16-7 record in April. They opened the season in Baltimore, winning 4-2 over the Kansas City Royals, thanks to six strong innings from starter Jimmy Key and RBIs from Brady Anderson, Eric Davis, Cal Ripken Jr., and Jeff Reboulet. The hot start was led offensively by Brady Anderson, who slashed .380/.515/.557 in April, and Jimmy Key who went 4-0 with a 2.48 ERA. Baltimore would go on to lead the AL East every single day of the season, despite only beating out the second-place Yankees by two games.

Baltimore would finish the season 98-64 thanks to strong performances from Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar, BJ Surhoff, Brady Anderson, and Jeffery Hammonds—all with OPSs in the .800s. The O's also featured a strong starting rotation of Mike Mussina, Scott Erickson, Jimmy Key, and Scott Kamieniecki, and a solid bullpen headlined by Randy Myers, Arthur Rhodes, and Armando Benitez.

The Orioles would go on to defeat the Seattle Mariners 3-1 in the ALDS thanks to two dominant starts from Mike Mussina. He pitched 14 innings, struck out 16, and only gave up 3 earned runs, and outdueled opposing pitcher Randy Johson in both games. Unfortunately, the O's would fall short to the Cleveland Indians, led by Manny Ramirez and Marquis Grissom, in the ALCS. They lost the series 4-2, losing by a score of 1-0 in the 11th inning of game 6 thanks to a solo home run hit by Tony Fernandez off of Armando Benitez.


The Orioles did not have a single winning season between the 1997 and 2005 seasons. From 1998 to 2004, they went 510-623 (.450). 2005 wouldn't be any different, but it was an exciting April.

The O's began the season relatively average. On April 21st, they were 9-7. Despite looking average, they had gotten some strong starts from Brian Roberts, Miguel Tejada, Luis Matos, and newly-acquired Sammy Sosa. Starting pitching had been so-so, with some hit-or-miss performances from starters like Bruce Chen, Rodrigo Lopez, and Sidney Ponson.

The team would end the month on a hot streak, winning the final 7 games of the season. The offense scored 55 runs during this 7-game stretch and the pitching staff held opponents to 0 or 1 runs in three of the seven games. Baltimore erased a 4-0 deficit on the final day of the month to defeat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 7-5, thanks to 3-RBI performances from both Roberts and Tejada. Both Roberts and Tejada posted OPSs in the 1.000+ range at the end of the month. The O's found themselves atop the AL East at the end of April, leading the second-place Red Sox by 4 games.

Baltimore Sun writer Jeff Zrebiec wrote after the game:

The scene has played out so many times already this season for the Orioles that it is becoming almost predictable. Miguel Tejada erases a two-run seventh-inning deficit with one swing, and Brian Roberts turns a game that once seemed destined for a loss into an exhilarating victory. Was there a more fitting way for one of the best Aprils in franchise history to end?

Capping a month that has seen him go from an unheralded second baseman to one of the top stories in baseball, Roberts hit his eighth home run, a three-run shot in the eighth inning yesterday, to give the Orioles a 7-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and their seventh straight win before 19,920 at Camden Yards (Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun, May 1, 2005).

He also included a quote from Brian Roberts, who said, "In our situation, this is what we needed. It's hard when you've had six, seven losing seasons to battle out of a hole early because you start not believing in yourselves again. I know we believe in ourselves. Hopefully, the fans believe in us and other people are taking notice" (Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun, May 1, 2005).

The Orioles would continue their hot stretch throughout the month of May, ending the month 31-20, and remaining three games ahead of second-place Boston. Things would begin to unravel in June though. They went 12-15 in June, 8-18 in July, and failed to post a winning record in any month after May. They would finish the season 43-68 after going 31-20 through April and May. Their final record was 74-88.

The disappointment of the season was captured by Sun reporter David Steele who wrote:

It's finally going to be over. Today, in St. Petersburg, Fla., baseball's Siberia, the worst year in the Orioles' 52-season history in Baltimore comes to an end.

Don't even try to debate that. Don't bring up 1988. Seventeen years after that benchmark of futility, that record-breaking stumble out of the gate, that season of misery, there are still fans around here who look back at that fondly, even whimsically. You can laugh about it now, and could even laugh about it then. And what happened the next season made the story of 1988 a little sweeter, or at least made it less of a nightmare.

Find something sweet about this year. Right now, 17 years from now, 17 years after that. Better yet, find something funny. I'll spot you Raffy's earplugs. But besides that, even by 2039, will anybody be looking back fondly at 2005? This was so bad, it made 1988 seem out-and-out joyful.

At least then, once the pain of that 0-21 stomach punch had subsided, the city could accept its fate and deal with it. It was a waste of time to get angry; the train had gone too far off the tracks too fast to think too hard about what went wrong. All one could do was make the best of it. In '89, the franchise made more of it than anyone could have imagined.

Did this season offer Baltimore that option? No. Baltimore got the reverse. It got the worst tease it's ever received. It was the kind of tease that will ruin every good start the Orioles have until they return to the playoffs, whenever that might be.

How will you react the next time the Orioles are in first place in April, or May, or even June? The next time they're 14 games over .500? The next time they have four All-Stars? The next time they take an early-season series from the Yankees or Red Sox and shut those well-traveled fans up? "Yeah, right. Just like '05" (David Steele, The Baltimore Sun, October 2, 2005).


These thoughts remain in the back of many of our heads, even though the O's have in fact made the playoffs since David Steele's remarks at the end of the 2005 season. Is this just a fluke or will the O's actually be contenders all season long? This year's team has some similar attributes to 2005, like a potent offense with question marks surrounding the pitching staff, but expectations are much higher this year than they were back in 2005, and the team has delivered so far. The month of May will be a test of this team's ability to compete, but for now, all we can do is sit back, enjoy the show, and hope that the season ends a little more like 1966, 1969, 1970, or 1997, rather than 2005.

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