Perhaps nothing captures the hearts of sports fans better than a streak — even when the games don’t count.
The Ravens’ 24-game preseason winning streak ended Monday night with a 29-28 loss to the host Washington Commanders on a field goal in the final seconds, halting a run that far surpassed the previous NFL record and sparked debate about the merits of so-called “meaningless” football.
“I was sitting in bed, watching ESPN all day, and all you could hear about was this streak,” Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson said. “So, I feel like we just had the biggest win in preseason history.”
While nearly going unbeaten in seven straight preseasons (2020 was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic) is a remarkable achievement, where does it rank among the greatest streaks in Baltimore sports history? Here’s a closer look:
1. Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive games played
There is no other choice for the top spot. “The Streak” is legendary not only in Baltimore, but the sports world at large.
Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s seemingly untouchable Iron Man record of 2,131 consecutive games played on Sept. 6, 1995, celebrating in front of a national television audience and a crowd of 46,000 that gave him a 22-minute standing ovation.
Ripken eventually played 2,632 straight games from May 30, 1982, through Sept. 19, 1998.
“Peel everything else away and I was just showing up for work every day and approaching my job the way I thought I should,” he said in 2020 upon the 25th anniversary of breaking Gehrig’s record. “The cool part was that, in the process, that principle [resonated] with the public to the point where everyone shared their streaks with me — like those who never missed a day at the assembly plant, or who’d had perfect attendance in high school.”
2. McDonogh girls lacrosse team’s 198 straight wins
The Eagles’ incredible winning streak ended in May 2018, when they lost to Notre Dame Prep in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championship game. McDonogh took down 43 opponents from nine states, Washington, D.C., and Ontario during the run, which began with a win over Winters Mill on April 13, 2009.
The streak fell 20 games shy of what is believed to be the national record for any high school team without an individual component such as tennis or gymnastics. Baskin (Louisiana) won 218 straight girls basketball games from 1947 to 1953.
Before McDonogh’s streak, 103 straight wins was widely believed to be the national record for consecutive girls lacrosse victories, although no organization had kept such records for public and private schools. Loch Raven set the record between 1973 and 1982 and Mount Hebron matched it from 2001 to 2007.
3. 1970 Orioles win 17 straight — and a title
Perhaps the most dominant era of Orioles baseball includes the team’s longest winning streak.
Under legendary manager Earl Weaver, Baltimore won five American League East titles in a span of six years from 1969 to 1974, and that included a 14-game winning streak in 1973 that is tied for the longest stretch of regular-season victories in franchise history. But the 1970 team had the most impressive run.
The Orioles won 11 straight — including three of the last four in walk-off fashion — entering the 1970 postseason before sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the AL Championship Series and taking a 3-0 lead in the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. They lost Game 4 but rebounded to win the next day, securing the franchise’s second title in five seasons.
4. Willie Keeler’s 44-game hitting streak
In 1897, as the Baltimore Orioles sought a fourth straight National League pennant, outfielder “Wee Willie” Keeler put together one of the longest hitting streaks in major league history.
Keeler hit safely in 44 straight games and held the record until New York Yankees star Joe DiMaggio put together his famous 56-game streak in 1941. The Cincinnati Reds’ Pete Rose tied Keeler’s record in 1978, and the Milwaukee Brewers’ Paul Molitor recorded a hit in 39 straight games in 1987.
According to the Society for American Baseball Research, Keeler “specialized in slapping the ball to precise areas of the outfield ... which Keeler explained as an effort to ‘hit ‘em where they ain’t.’” Between his first full season in 1894 and 1904, he made fair contact in 98.6% of his official at-bats, according to SABR. Through 1906, the Hall of Famer never batted below .313 and won two batting titles.
5. Dunbar boys basketball team’s 59 straight wins
The “Baltimore Boys,” as they were called in ESPN’s “30-for-30″ documentary about the dominant high school program, did not lose during the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons.
Led by coach Bob Wade and stars Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues, Reggie Lewis, David Wingate and Reggie Williams, the Poets became not only one of the most successful teams in Baltimore sports history, but a national phenomenon. Dunbar sent 11 players to NCAA Division I schools, while Williams, Bogues and Lewis were all picked in the first round of the 1987 NBA draft, a record feat for a high school program.
Some other notable Baltimore-area high school sports winning streaks:
- Girls basketball: 70, Towson Catholic (1983-1985)
- Field hockey: 54, Severna Park (1992-1996)
- Boys lacrosse: 72, St. Paul’s (ended 1947)
- Boys soccer: 45, Centennial (1993-1996)
- Girls soccer: 46, Severna Park (1987-1991)
- Softball: 64, Northeast (1988-1991)
- Volleyball: 55 matches, Centennial (ended 1993)
6. Touchdown streaks by Colts legends
It was a record that stood for more than half a century.
Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas threw a touchdown pass in 47 straight games from 1956 to 1960, setting an NFL mark that was not surpassed until the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees put together a 54-game streak that ended in 2012.
Unitas, a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player, threw for 10,645 yards and 102 touchdowns during the run in an era that was not known for its passing prowess.
Not to be outdone, Colts running back Lenny Moore scored a touchdown in an NFL-record 18 consecutive games starting in 1963 and ending in 1965. Moore scored a total of 24 touchdowns — 19 rushing, four receiving and one on a fumble recovery — during the streak, which was eventually tied by the San Diego Chargers’ LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005.
7. Justin Tucker’s clutch kicks
Before his last-second try fell short of the crossbar against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Nov. 27, Tucker had made 65 consecutive field goals in the fourth quarter and overtime, the longest such streak in NFL history. He was also 17-for-17 on attempts in the final minute of regulation entering the game, a stretch that included an NFL-record 66-yarder as time expired in a stunning comeback win over the Detroit Lions in 2021.
Tucker had also made 222 straight extra-point attempts until he missed the potential game-tying PAT in the final seconds of a game against the New Orleans Saints in October 2018.
8. Ravens’ 12-game winning streak in 2019
Led by breakout star quarterback Lamar Jackson, the Ravens won a franchise-record 12 straight games to end the 2019 regular season and reached 14 wins for the first time in history.
The streak began with a 26-23 overtime win in Week 5 over the rival Pittsburgh Steelers and included a dominant 45-6 rout of the Los Angeles Rams on “Monday Night Football” as well as a 20-17 victory over the NFC-leading San Francisco 49ers on a 49-yard field goal by Tucker as time expired. In a record-breaking season, Jackson became the first Raven to be named the NFL MVP — and, at age 23, the youngest player in league history to do so.
There were few close calls along the way, as the Ravens finished the season outscoring opponents by an NFL-best 249 points. Even the regular-season finale, with Jackson and most of the starters resting after securing the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the AFC, was a 28-10 win over Pittsburgh behind backup quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The Ravens could not pull a 1970 Orioles and turn that hot streak into a championship, however, as they suffered a disappointing 28-12 home loss to the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round.
The Colts had a couple of 11-game regular-season winning streaks. One began in 1975 after a four-game losing streak and ended in 1976, sandwiching a 28-10 divisional-round loss to the Steelers. The other was in 1964, a season the Colts went 12-2 before losing, 27-0, to the Cleveland Browns in the championship game.
9. Orioles continue avoiding sweeps
After losing two straight to the defending World Series champion Houston Astros earlier this month, it seemed the Orioles were finally going to be swept. Since calling up top prospect Adley Rutschman in May 2022, it hadn’t happened.
With a dramatic 5-4 win over Houston on Aug. 10, the Orioles avoided a sweep for the 76th straight series — the fourth-longest streak in MLB history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
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“Proud of our club,” manager Brandon Hyde said after the win. “We do fight. They battle, they scrap. They’re pulling for each other.”
The streak has since been extended to 79 straight series entering a homestand against the Toronto Blue Jays, Colorado Rockies and Chicago White Sox as the AL-leading Orioles push for their first postseason berth since 2016.
10. Ravens win NFL-record 24 straight preseason games
For the purpose of this list, winning exhibition games, even at a level unrivaled in NFL history, pales in comparison. But don’t tell coach John Harbaugh it didn’t matter.
“Preseason games that people want to write about, some of you in here want to write about and say it doesn’t mean anything, because you never played the game,” he said after Monday night’s loss. “You never were out there, you never were fighting for a spot on the team and then you have the audacity to say that the effort that somebody puts into that to win and fight and win a game like that is meaningless. Tell me that was meaningless out there, what you just saw.”
If it’s not clear from those comments, there is certainly a sense of pride within the organization about the streak, which surpassed the run of 19 by the Vince Lombardi-coached Green Bay Packers from 1959 to 1962. After all, before Monday night, the Ravens had not lost a preseason game since Sept. 3, 2015. At that time, according to The Athletic, 11 NFL quarterbacks projected to start this season had not even played in college yet.
Veteran quarterback Josh Johnson, who was a member of the Ravens when the streak began in 2016, joked Monday that surviving a training camp under Harbaugh at age 37 was itself an accomplishment, which speaks to the team’s level of preparation.
“We work every day, and I think that’s why from the top to the bottom of the roster, you see guys go out there and play good football,” Johnson said. “And that’s a credit to the organization, credit to the coaching staff, credit to the players because we show up every day with a work mentality, and it shows up on the field.”