Back in 2011, I posted an article centered on Polaroid pictures my father took of Baltimore Orioles players prior to a 1987 game at Memorial Stadium. The promotion that night allowed fans to take pictures of Orioles players on the field before the start of the game. At the time I was a young elementary school-aged fan who attended O’s games several times a year, so my recollection of the actual game is very limited. In the comments section of my article, I requested the exact date of the promotion so I could know the details and outcome of the game. Fortunately, a few months back a reader commented that they were also at the game and through a 1987 pocket schedule found online, they were able to provide me with the name of the promotion – On Field Photo Night—as well as the date of the game—August 28, 1987. So, now knowing the exact date the pictures were taken, I decided to re-post the photos.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Baltimore shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. was only a few days removed from his twenty-seventh birthday in these pictures. Just six years into his career, Ripken had quickly established himself as a superstar—picking up the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP in his first two seasons. Though a young man, Ripken already seemed aware of the responsibilities of being one of the faces of the franchise and was just as courteous and polite as you would expect, making sure everyone got photos of him before moving on to the next designated picture-taking area. Ripken was beloved by the fans and that admiration continued throughout his career.
Unfortunately for Ripken, the Orioles were in the midst of a three-season stretch from 1986 to 1988 in which the team finished last or next-to-last in the AL East Division. Several players, such as Ripken, remained from Baltimore’s 1983 World Championship club, yet the franchise had struggled to contend in the AL East in the seasons following their World Series triumph. Going into their August 28 game, the O’s sat in 6th place in the seven-team AL East with a record of 58-69 – a full 18 games back of the Division lead. Facing Baltimore that night were the California Angels who were only ten months removed from their heart-breaking defeat at the hands of the Boston Red Sox in the previous year’s ALCS. After easily winning the AL West with 92 wins in 1986, the 1987 incarnation of the Angels struggled to win and ranked 4th in the division with a 63-65 record. Yet, with no team running away with the West, the Halos sat just 3.5 games back of first place.
Cal Ripken Jr. had a bit of an off-year in 1987, batting just .252—at that point a career low for the young slugger. Nevertheless, Ripken was still able to showcase the rare power he possessed as a shortstop, finishing the year with 27 home runs and 98 RBI while earning his fifth career All-Star selection. For that evening’s contest, Ripken took his customary spot at short and hit third in the O’s batting order. Even then, Ripken’s presence in Baltimore’s line up was a given, seeing as the slugger had not missed a game since May 29, 1982—a stretch of nearly 900 consecutive games and one that would continue on for eleven more years, over 1,700 more games, and come to define the future Hall of Famer’s career. Ripken got the scoring started early that night for Baltimore, driving in leadoff hitter Jim Dwyer with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 1st to put his team up 1-0. Aside from the sac fly, Ripken went 1 for 3 in the game.
Hitting behind Ripken in the order was first baseman Eddie Murray. After a decade with the team, Murray and Baltimore were ready to go their separate ways. The combination of a public squabble with Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams, an injury-plagued 1986, and a slow start to his 1987 campaign had turned the fans against Murray. One of my memories of seeing Murray play is hearing the chorus of boos that rained down on the future Hall of Famer that season. My sister and I were among the most vocal supporters of Murray, chanting “Eddie! Eddie!” in our futile attempt to counteract the jeers. Murray had visited my first grade class a year or two before in his full O’s white and orange home uniform—which looked cool on the field, but out of place among a group of teachers and students. I was lucky enough to have Murray call on me during a question and answer session with my class. My question to him was, “Do teams ever fight each other?” Murray’s answer was a quick, “No.” I’ll forgive him for fibbing to a group of young impressionable kids and not waxing poetic about the bench brawls he witnessed or participated in. While Ripken did his best to make sure all the fans got pictures of him, I do not recall Murray even coming out on the field for the On Field Photo Night promotion.
This picture has always been amusing to me. A lady stepped in front of my father while he was snapping a photo of Ripken. Dad got the picture but the future Hall of Famer was partially obscured by the illuminated back of the lady’s head! Polaroid photos were not cheap by 1987 standards – they cost a dollar per picture so my father was none too pleased with wasting one on the lady’s head. I do remember him showing the lady the picture and kidding with her about it. It’s unfortunate that we had such a limited number of pictures, as aside from Ripken’s professionalism and the lady accidentally photo-bombing this picture, I have two other main memories from that night. One is pitcher Eric Bell quickly walking across the front row of fans taking pictures and clapping hands as he went by. Bell’s gesture seemed spontaneous and it’s likely as a young hurler in his first full season, he probably wasn’t the most comfortable being the center of attention. Nevertheless, I was fortunate enough to be one of those fans whose hands Bell clapped. Prior to learning the actual date the game took place, I always thought Bell was the night’s starting picture. My other main memory was O’s legend Frank Robinson going through the front row of fans shaking hands. Robinson, who was serving as the team’s bench coach at the time, had been voted into the Hall of Fame five years earlier after a distinguished career in which he played significant roles in Baltimore’s championship runs of 1966 and 1970. As with Bell, I was lucky enough to be in the front row and receive Robinson’s warm greeting. Thus far my brief encounter with Robinson is the only time I have had the chance to shake hands with a Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, due to the limited number of Polaroid pictures in a cartridge, we were most likely out of shots by the time Robinson came out so my handshake with the legend was not photographed.
The most notable thing about the 1987 Orioles season is that it marked the only time in major league history that a father simultaneously managed two sons on the same team. After three decades with the Orioles franchise in several different roles such as player, coach, scout, and minor league manager, Cal Ripken Sr. finally got the opportunity to manage the big league club in 1987. Ripken Sr. took over the team from Earl Weaver who retired after a difficult 1986 season which saw the club keep tabs with the division-leaders through early August before going 14-42 over its final 56 games to finish last in the AL East with a 73-89 record. The team’s late season collapse sent the future Hall of Fame manager Weaver into retirement. Unfortunately for Ripken Sr., the 1987 O’s proved to be an uncompetitive team. After a promising 26-20 start to the season, the 1987 O’s went on a disastrous 5-30 run which left them well behind the AL East leaders. By July 11, when Ripken Sr.’s son, Billy, made his major league debut, the club sat in sixth place with a 34-52 record.
Billy Ripken proved to be one of the team’s few bright spots during the season, providing strong defense at second base to form an impressive double play combination with brother Cal. Billy also contributed in the batter’s box, putting up solid offensive numbers while hitting out of the number two spot in front of his older sibling. In fact, Billy came into the August 28 game batting an excellent .310 with just one error over his first 198 chances. The .310 average was a huge surprise since the rookie second baseman had hit .247 in 1,694 minor league at bats prior to his major league call up. The younger Ripken continued his solid hitting on August 28, going 3 for 4 against the Angels and scoring on Ray Knight’s two-run double in the bottom of the 3rd. Billy finished his rookie campaign with a .308 average but his excellent hitting proved to be an aberration as he slumped to .207 and .230 the following two seasons. Billy rebounded in 1990, batting .291 to put together the best full season of his career but was released after seeing his average drop back to .216 in 1991 and .230 in 1992. Ripken Sr.’s managerial career proved to be short lived as he was fired after starting the 1988 season with six straight losses. However, the club was apt to keep the loyal Ripken Sr., who had served the franchise in a variety of roles and positively impacted so many within the organization. Ripken Sr. returned to the field for the 1989 season as the O’s third base coach, a position he held through the 1992 season.
Leading off for the Orioles on August 28 was designated hitter Jim Dwyer. Already a 15-year veteran in his seventh season with Baltimore, the 37 year-old Dwyer had carved out a fine career as a platoon-hitting specialist against right-handed pitchers. With righty pitcher Mike Witt taking the hill for California, the left-handed hitting Dwyer drew the start at DH and led off the bottom of the 1st with a single and reached second base on a rare error from Angels’ center fielder Devon White. After advancing to third on Billy Ripken’s single, Dwyer scored on Cal Ripken Jr.’s sacrifice fly. Dwyer struck out in his second at bat of the day and initially remained in the game when lefty Chuck Finley was brought in to relieve Witt. Dwyer grounded out against Finley in the 4th and was replaced in the 7th by Alan Wiggins rather than face the lefty a second time.
Over his seven seasons with Baltimore, Dwyer had proven to be a valuable role player for the club. Aside from filling in at DH, Dwyer was also an accomplished pinch hitter who could play either one of the corner outfield positions. Used primarily against right-handed pitchers, Dwyer was a difficult out and regularly posted strong on base percentage marks in addition to possessing moderate power. As a 37 year-old with limited speed, Dwyer was an unlikely choice to hit leadoff but saw the majority of his plate appearances that year come out of the top two spots in the batting order. The 1987 season was the year of the ‘rabbit ball’ in which batters hit home runs at a record rate. Dwyer took full advantage of the lively ball and finished the season with a career high 15 home runs in just 281 plate appearances. In addition to his power surge, Dwyer also hit .274 with a .371 OBP while scoring 54 times. Clean-shaven during most of his career, the mustached-Dwyer is hard to recognize in this picture.
Larry Sheets and Scott McGregor
Though standing side-by-side in this picture, during the 1987 season, the careers of outfielder Larry Sheets (on the left) and left-handed pitcher Scott McGregor (to the right) were going in opposite directions. In his third full season, Sheets was in the midst of a breakout year which saw the slugger smack a team-high 31 home runs while also leading the club with a .316 batting average and 94 RBI. Sheets had shown potential prior to 1987, hitting 36 longballs with a .271 average over 742 plate appearances. Mostly used as DH in his first two seasons, Sheets split time between left and right field in 1987. For the August 28 game, Baltimore started Sheets in right and batted him fifth behind the team’s other main power-threats Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray. Sheets went 1 for 4 that day with a single in the bottom of the 3rd, scoring along with Billy Ripken on Ray Knight’s two-run double to give Baltimore a 5-0 lead over California.
By contrast, McGregor was having anything but a career-year in 1987. Battling injuries and ineffectiveness, McGregor finished the season with an ugly 6.64 ERA and 2-7 record. At the time of the August 28 game, McGregor was on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Whereas the normally clean-shaven Jim Dwyer sported a mustache in his picture, we see McGregor—who spent the majority of his career with hair above his lip—whisker free. The lack of facial hair certainly makes McGregor look more youthful but at this point the 2,000-plus innings and a decade of major-league pitching had taken their toll on the lefty. Aside from veteran hurler Mike Flanagan, McGregor was the franchise’s most senior player—having towed the rubber for Baltimore since 1976. McGregor was most remembered for the World Series-clinching five-hit shutout he spun against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 of the 1983 Fall Classic. At the time of this picture, McGregor had won 138 career games—all in an O’s uniform. Sadly, McGregor would not be able to add to that win total as he was released after four ineffective starts the following season, bringing an end to the veteran lefty’s career.
Unfortunately, Sheets would not be able to replicate his excellent 1987 campaign, hitting just 17 home runs with a pedestrian .235 average in 842 plate appearances over the next two seasons. Baltimore traded Sheets prior to the 1990 season and the outfielder played his final campaign in 1993, never having hit more than 10 longballs in a year after stroking 31 in 1987. My own lasting memory of Sheets will always be a scorching line drive foul ball the slugger hit into the stands directly into a seat in the row in front of me. My family (and I) had seats near first base and Sheets’ foul liner acted as a guided missile. I vividly remember my mother and I only had enough time to duck and cover before we heard the ball smash into one of the metal seats in front of us, leaving a dent. Fortunately, no one was sitting in the seat when Sheets’ drive careened into it as the man who occupied the chair that day was getting refreshments at the time. When the man returned to his seat, his wife told him about Sheets’ line drive and showed him the dent in the chair. The man tried his best to play it off but you could tell from his reaction—a relieved ‘huh huh’—that he knew he was lucky to be out of his seat or Sheets’ drive may have dented his face.
At the time of this picture, right-handed pitcher Mike Boddicker was in his fifth full season and just a few days removed from his thirtieth birthday. With veteran hurlers Mike Flanagan and Scott McGregor declining, Boddicker became the pitching staff’s ace, earning his first Opening Day starting assignment in 1987. Boddicker did not get credit for the Opening Day win but pitched well, lasting into the 8th inning while allowing just one run in the team’s 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. Boddicker finished 1987 with a 10-12 record and 4.18 ERA. Although 1987 was not one of Boddicker’s better years, the righty led the beleaguered O’s starting rotation in virtually every important category including games started, innings pitched, strike outs, wins, and ERA. Moreover, Boddicker’s 226 innings pitched were 61 frames more than any other Baltimore hurler.
Boddicker was not the O’s starting pitcher for the On Field Photo Night, as his turn in the rotation came up the following day. Taking the hill for Baltimore on August 28 was rookie John Hayban, who moved from the bullpen into the starting rotation to replace the injured Dave Schmidt. Opposing the rookie Hayban that night was California’s staff ace Mike Witt who had brought the Halos to within one out of the AL Pennant during the previous year’s ALCS. However, through his first four innings Hayban looked more like a staff ace than a rookie—holding the Angels hitless while allowing just one walk. By contrast, the veteran Witt struggled against Baltimore, giving up a sac fly to Cal Ripken Jr., surrendering a two-home run to rookie Mike Hart, and a two-run double to Ray Knight before being lifted after three innings for reliever Chuck Finley with California trailing 5-0.
Hitting coach Terry Crowley, pictured here shaking hands with the aforementioned Mike Boddicker, spent the bulk of his 15-year major-league playing career with the Orioles. After retiring as a player following the 1983 season, Crowley returned to the majors as Baltimore’s hitting coach in 1985. During his playing career, Crowley filled a role similar to that of Jim Dwyer and was often used as a left-handed hitting specialist brought in to face righty hurlers. The Baltimore offense struggled during the 1987 season, ranking 13th out of 14 AL teams in runs scored, despite having the third highest number of home runs in the league. Crowley served as the O’s hitting coach until he and most of the coaching staff were relieved of their duties following the team’s disastrous 107-loss 1988 season. Crowley returned to the Orioles for a second go-around as the club’s hitting coach from 1999 to 2010 before stepping down to take another job within the organization. Coincidentally, Crowley’s two tours of duty as Baltimore’s hitting coach each came during very difficult periods of O’s baseball when the franchise struggled to field competitive teams. However, Crowley was Minnesota’s hitting coach when the Twins won the World Series in 1991.
Prior to knowing the actual date of On Field Photo Night, the presence of Billy Ripken and Alan Wiggins in these pictures helped me narrow down the time frame to between July 11 and August 31—with the former date being the day Ripken was called up from AAA Rochester and made his major league debut, and the latter being the night of the O’s final game before Wiggins was suspended for the remainder of the 1987 season.
At his best, Wiggins could be an excellent leadoff hitter and base-stealing threat. In fact, Wiggins was a key contributor to the 1984 NL Pennant-winning San Diego Padres, scoring 106 runs and swiping 70 bags. However, at his worst, Wiggins, who battled drug problems throughout his professional career, could be unreliable and a disruptive presence on a team. The Padres were patient with Wiggins’ drug problems and even signed the speedster to a four-year contract extension prior to the 1985 season. Unfortunately, just a few months after signing the contract, Wiggins went AWOL and resurfaced in a drug rehabilitation center. Despite having just signed Wiggins to a new contract, after his latest drug-related issues, the Padres refused to allow the speedster to rejoin the team and traded him to the Orioles for two minor league players.
In Wiggins, Baltimore saw a long term replacement for both Rich Dauer at second base and Al Bumbry at leadoff. Wiggins hit well in his first season with the O’s, batting .285 with 30 stolen bases but struggled mightily on defense. Wiggins was briefly demoted to AAA Rochester the following season and finished the year with just 21 stolen bases and a .251 average. To start the 1987 season, Wiggins platooned with Rick Burleson at second base and shared DH duties with Mike Young and Jim Dwyer. However, when Baltimore released Burleson and promoted Billy Ripken from AAA Rochester on July 11, Wiggins no longer saw time at second--being relegated to pinch hitting and pinch running roles.
Wiggins entered the August 28 game in the bottom of the 7th as a pinch hitter, replacing Jim Dwyer. By this point in the game, the Orioles had blown a 5-0 lead. Baltimore starter John Hayban gave up RBI singles to Jack Fimple and Brian Downing in the top of the 5th before exiting the game after allowing a leadoff home run to Wally Joyner to start the 6th. O’s reliever Mike Griffin then surrendered a two-run home run to Dick Schofield to tie the score, 5-5. In his only at bat of the game, Wiggins flew out to second base against Chuck Finley. Wiggins finished the 1987 season with a career low .232 average but led the O’s—who had very few base stealing threats—for the third straight year in swiped bags with 20. However, Wiggins’ off-the-field issues reared their ugly head as the season drew to a close. A few weeks before On Field Photo Night, Wiggins was suspended by the club for three days after being involved in altercations with Jim Dwyer and Cal Ripken Sr. On August 31, MLB commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspended Wiggins indefinitely for failing a drug test. Finally, on September 29, Baltimore cut ties with Wiggins, releasing the troubled speedster. After his release, Wiggins never again played professional baseball.
As 1987 was Wiggins’ last professional season, I knew this picture was taken within days or weeks of his final game. When I found out the exact date of On Field Photo Night was August 28, I immediately brought up Wiggins’ Baseball Reference page and confirmed that this was in fact the final game of his career. Tragically, Wiggins passed away from AIDS-related complications at age 32 on January 6, 1991. On a more heartwarming note, Wiggins’ three children followed in their father’s athletic footsteps, each playing college basketball. His youngest child, Candice, spent eight season playing in the WNBA.
Terry Kennedy and Mark Williamson
Catcher Terry Kennedy and right-handed relief pitcher Mark Williamson are fittingly pictured together since the two came to Baltimore in the trade that sent hurler Storm Davis to San Diego. Kennedy brought a fine resume to the Orioles, having already earned three All-Star selections as a member of the Padres. My sister and I found Kennedy hard to warm up to as the team’s catcher since he replaced our favorite O’s player Rick Dempsey who had won the 1983 World Series MVP and whose entertaining antics were often included in video montages played between innings. Nevertheless, Kennedy hit .264 with 13 home runs before the All-Star break and made his fourth trip to the Mid-Summer Classic, joining Cal Ripken Jr. as the team’s only two representatives. Kennedy slumped in the season’s second half to finish 1987 with 18 home runs and a .250 batting average. Kennedy played catcher and batted seventh against the Angels, going hitless in four plate appearances that night.
While Kennedy was one of the Padres’ most recognizable players at the time of the trade, righty reliever Williamson never pitched at the major league level for San Diego. Williamson put together a decent rookie season for Baltimore, going 8-9 with a 4.03 ERA in 125 innings. The rookie hurler pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen for Baltimore, with all but two of his 61 appearances coming in relief. Williamson entered the August 28 game in the top of the 9th with two outs to face veteran slugger Ruppert Jones. Williamson was Baltimore’s fourth pitcher of the game, relieving lefty Jack O’Connor who had pitched two perfect innings to keep the score even at 5-5. Williamson got Jones to fly out to left to preserve the tie and send the game to the bottom of the 9th.
Kennedy’s second half hitting struggles followed him into the 1988 season and the veteran catcher found himself platooned with Mickey Tettleton. Following his difficult 1988 campaign, Baltimore traded Kennedy to the San Francisco Giants for Bob Melvin in a swap of catchers. Conversely, Williamson became a mainstay in the O’s bullpen, spending his entire eight-year major league career with the team. Williamson played a key role in Baltimore’s surprising second place finish in 1989, picking up 9 saves with a 10-5 record and 2.93 ERA in 107.1 innings.
After the Orioles followed up their 1983 World Series triumph with a disappointing 5th place finish in 1984, the Baltimore front office wasted little time making moves that they felt would upgrade the team’s on-the-field performance and spur the club back to another AL East title. Within the space of a week in December, the franchise signed relief pitcher Don Aase and outfielders Lee Lacy and Fred Lynn to free agent contracts. The biggest move of the three was the signing of Lynn, a former Rookie of the Year and MVP winner, to a 5-year 6.8 million dollar contract.
Lynn played center field and generally batted fifth in the line up behind Ripken and Murray to give the O’s a solid heart of the order. If Lynn had any ‘buyer beware’ tag on him, it was his reputation for getting injured and not doing everything he could to stay in the line-up. Unfortunately for the Orioles, Lynn lived up to his ‘oft-injured’ reputation and missed ample time in each of his first two seasons with the team, only playing in 124 and 112 games in 1985 and 1986, respectively. Lynn’s inability to stay in the line-up made him something of an anti-Cal Ripken Jr., with the 1987 season no different as the center fielder had already missed thirty-plus games heading into late August. Somewhat fittingly, Lynn did not start the August 28 game against the Angels. In Lynn’s place, rookie Mike Hart started in center field and hit a two-run homer off Witt in the 2nd inning to put Baltimore up 3-0. With one out and the score tied 5-5 in the bottom of the 9th, Lynn entered the game as a pinch hitter for Hart. Lynn stepped in to face Angels pitcher Chuck Finley who had held the O’s scoreless for five full frames since relieving Witt in the 4th. Lynn took Finley deep for a pinch-hit, game winning walk off home run. For his one-third of an inning of work in the top of the 9th, Mark Williamson was credited with the win. Coincidentally, the batter on deck when Lynn’s longball ended the game was Alan Wiggins. Lynn finished the 1987 season with 23 home runs and 60 RBI but hit just .253. The injury-plagued outfielder continued to miss time over the season’s last month and ended the year with just 111 games played. Interestingly enough, 1987 was the fourth consecutive season Lynn finished with exactly 23 round-trippers.
Following the August 28 game, the Orioles and Angels struggled mightily—putting together the two worst records over the remainder of the 1987 season with respective marks of 8-26 and 12-21. Baltimore’s late season slide gave them a final record of 67-95 and slotted them 6th in the AL East, a full 31 games behind the division-winning Detroit Tigers. Things would get worse before they would get better for the Orioles as they opened the 1988 season with six straight losses, costing manager Cal Ripken Sr. his job. Baltimore replaced Ripken Sr. with O’s icon Frank Robinson but the losing continued and the club set an AL record with 21 consecutive defeats as well as the major league record for most losses to start a season. With the team a distant last in the AL East, the club decided to trade some of their veterans for younger players, dealing away Mike Boddicker at the end of July and Jim Dwyer and Fred Lynn at the end of August. Baltimore finished 1988 in the AL East cellar with an abysmal 54-107 record. Following the season, the youth movement continued with more veterans, including Terry Kennedy, either traded away or not re-signed. Finally in December, the franchise made its boldest move, dealing away their disgruntled superstar, Eddie Murray to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Despite the trade of many of the team’s veteran players, the 1989 season wound up being a surprising success for the Orioles. Baltimore spent most of the summer atop the AL East before surrendering the division lead to the Toronto Blue Jays, who outpaced them by two games. The club’s stunning turnaround from a horrid 54-107 to a solid 87-75 earned Frank Robinson the AL Manager of the Year Award. However, by the time O’s tasted the unlikely success of 1989, many of the players from the 1987 squad had moved on. In fact, of the eleven team members pictured from the On Field Photo Night only Larry Sheets, Mark Williamson, and the two Ripken brothers remained. The August 28 game was also one of the last games I saw at Memorial Stadium as my family moved out of state the following spring. Fortunately, I held onto these pictures which captured the prime of the legendary Cal Ripken Jr., the beginnings of rookies Billy Ripken and Mark Williamson, and the final days Scott McGregor’s and Alan Wiggins’ careers.
----by John Tuberty
Follow me on the Twitter @BloggerTubbs
Polaroids taken by Jack Tuberty
Other Photo credit: 1988 Topps Eddie Murray, 1988 Topps Eric Bell, 1972 Topps Frank Robinson, 1988 Donruss Ripken Family, 1988 Score Mike Witt, 1988 Score John Hayban
Sources: Baseball Reference, Baseball Reference Play Index, Baseball Prospectus, SABR, Google News Archive, The Spartanburg Herald-Journal, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, The Trading Card Database, John Eisenburg-From 33rd Street to Camden Yards: An Oral History of the Baltimore Orioles (McGraw-Hill)
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