We’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Maryland men’s basketball making its first Final Four run this year. The odd part about “celebrating” the 2000-01 Terps is that we easily remember that season more for the crushing defeats than, at the time, the historic success.
Of course, we’ve known a thing or two about crushing defeats throughout the years as Baltimore sports fans. To steal a line from one of the greatest storytellers in our city’s history, we’ve experienced the thrill of victory quite frequently, but we’ve tasted the agony of defeat quite a bit as well.
This list is no fun. And to be clear, I only considered the most significant of teams in the area because there would simply be too many on the list if we went much further. Without further ado, here are The 15 “Most Crushing Defeats” in Baltimore sports history.
(The list is chronological.)
1. Jan. 12: 1969: Super Bowl III — Jets 16, Colts 7
I mean, seriously, how in the world does an EIGHTEEN-POINT FAVORITE lose with a championship on the line? The Colts had the league MVP (Earl Morrall) under center, and their backup plan in the second half when things weren’t going well against the Jets? Just some fella who happened to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in history named Johnny Unitas. Alas, Joe Namath’s guarantee came through.
2. Oct. 17, 1971: World Series Game 7 — Pirates 2, Orioles 1
The home team had won the first six games of the 1971 World Series, including a 10-inning thriller the day before. But the Birds couldn’t produce any offense off of Steve Blass that Sunday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, and they lost for the second time in three consecutive trips to the World Series.
3. March 9, 1974: ACC Tournament Championship Game — NC State 103, Maryland 100
The 1974 NCAA Tournament was the last to be played without at-large representatives, and many basketball historians consider the then-No. 4 ranked Terrapins to have been the best team to have ever been left out of the Big Dance. John Lucas had Len Elmore wide open in the closing seconds of overtime but airmailed the pass, leaving the Terps on the wrong end of what many consider to have been the best game in ACC history.
4. Dec. 24, 1977: AFC Divisional Playoff “Ghost To The Post” — Raiders 37, Colts 31 (2OT)
The final playoff appearance for the Baltimore Colts produced one of the more iconic games in football history. Ken Stabler’s legendary connection with Dave Casper late in the fourth quarter set up a game-tying field goal before Casper caught the winning touchdown in the second overtime session.
5. Oct. 17, 1979: World Series Game 7 — Pirates 4, Orioles 1
When the Birds lost Game 5, there wasn’t great concern because they would have two chances to finish things off at Memorial Stadium. They … did not. You want to know just how crushing this particular defeat was? Try playing “We Are Family” around an Orioles fan of a certain age. Or ask them about Omar Moreno’s wife and her whistle. Suggestion: if you do, duck.
6. Oct. 3, 1982: Brewers 10, Orioles 2; Sept. 30, 1989: Blue Jays 4, Orioles 3
Yes, I’m aware that I’m cheating here by putting two similar circumstances together for one spot on the list. I promise you’ll survive. The ’82 Orioles had charged back in the standings before falling short on the final day of the season (despite having Jim Palmer on the mound). On the final weekend of ’89, the “Why Not?” Birds had to send Dave Johnson to the hill in an emergency spot with the season at stake. His seven spectacular innings proved to not be enough.
7. Oct. 15, 1997: ALCS Game 6 — Indians 1, Orioles 0 (11 innings)
After the Birds took Game 5 in Cleveland to keep the series alive, there was a real sense they could pull off the comeback from 3-1 with things shifting to Baltimore. Mike Mussina was spectacular, tossing eight innings of two-hit, 10-strikeout ball. Armando Benitez surrendered the game-winning home run to Tony Fernandez in what would be the Orioles’ last playoff game for a decade and a half.
8. Jan. 27, 2001: “Gone In 54 Seconds” — Duke 98, Maryland 96 (OT); March 31, 2001: Final Four — Duke 95, Maryland 84
In between those losses, Maryland also suffered a particularly embarrassing home loss to lowly Florida State on Valentine’s Day. Sadly, we truly seem to remember these as much as the Terps’ many incredible accomplishments that season. You, of course, remember Maryland blowing a 10-point lead in the final minute at Cole Field House in what should have been a certain January victory. The Terps then blew the biggest lead in Final Four history (22 points) in the national semifinal. We don’t talk about these things in the Clark house.
9. Jan. 13, 2007: AFC Divisional Playoff — Colts 15, Ravens 6
This is the most unspeakable defeat in Ravens history. Fresh off a then franchise-best 13-3 regular season, Steve McNair and Co. had the opportunity to exorcise a city’s horseshoe demons. Our city NEEDED this win against this team, still just a little more than two decades removed from the indignity of the Colts’ departure from Baltimore. Nothing will ever compare to this particular agony.
10. March 21, 2010: NCAA Tournament Second Round — Michigan State 85, Maryland 83
Do you remember how it felt to have the life totally leave your body the moment Korie Lucious sank the buzzer-beating three to give the Spartans the victory? Greivis Vasquez’s late heroics weren’t enough to save the final great team of Gary Williams’ tenure and brought an inglorious, early exit to Maryland’s best chance at a deep NCAA Tournament run since 2002.
11. Jan. 22, 2012: AFC Championship Game — Patriots 23, Ravens 20
We still don’t use the names “Billy Cundiff” or “Lee Evans” among company in this town — despite the Ravens winning a Super Bowl just a year later.
12. Oct. 12, 2012: ALDS Game 5 — Yankees 3, Orioles 1
Would the Orioles have won the game if Nate McLouth’s fly ball had been called a home run? No friggin’ idea. It would only have been a solo shot. But it was a particularly terrible way for such a magical season to end.
13. Oct. 4, 2016: AL Wild-Card Game — Blue Jays 5, Orioles 2 (11 innings)
It is particularly painful that the final playoff game of the Buck Showalter era in Baltimore ended with the most questionable decision of the Buck Showalter era. The 2016 Orioles never really looked like a threat to win a World Series, but they deserved a better fate than Zack Britton being left in the bullpen with the season at stake.
14. Dec. 25, 2016: “The Immaculate Extension” — Steelers 31, Ravens 27
Sure, Andy Dalton and A.J. Green stunned the Ravens on fourth-and-a-million to keep Baltimore out of the playoffs a year later … but they aren’t the Steelers. Antonio Brown’s legendary stretch solidified the worst Christmas of our lives as Pittsburgh clinched the AFC North title.
15. Jan. 11, 2020: AFC Divisional Playoff — Titans 28, Ravens 12
We weren’t even considering the possibility that the 14-win Ravens could possibly lose their first playoff game after Lamar Jackson’s thrilling MVP campaign. It wasn’t even a remote thought in the back of our minds.
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