Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Vintage Fridays: Don Buford, 1971 Topps #29

I've only really focused on buying vintage cards since I started collecting again last summer. Prior to that, I owned one 1966 Brooks Robinson card and a handful of 1979 Topps. I was fortunate enough to have an uncle who collected cards feverishly for a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s before losing interest altogether. Last summer, he realized that he wasn't going to do anything with his collection and generously gave everything to me. Scattered amongst the rows of 1986-1992 Topps and 1989-1992 Upper Deck were a few older items, including a single 1971 Topps card: Nelson Briles, of the Cardinals (a one-time Oriole, too). That was the first of what is now a couple dozen 1971 Topps in my collection.

I had to see these cards in person to appreciate their retro beauty. The thick black borders were revolutionary for their time, and something about that backdrop with the squared-off mod lettering reminded me of my father's old black alarm clock. He's a thrifty and loyal type of man, who doesn't throw anything out if it has an ounce of usefulness left. He received that clock from my grandfather as a high school graduation gift. It's rectangular and analog, with big white numbers on a black background that flip down as the minutes tick past. The "29" and "30" minute plates are sort of mixed up; apparently this stems from my early childhood, when somebody who may or may not have been me knocked over the clock accidentally.

As a child, the clock resided in my room for a couple of years. I was a bright kid by all accounts, but I also worried, all the time and about everything. Often I had trouble falling asleep at night, and the merciless clicking of those numbers just exacerbated things. I was all too aware of each and every minute that was passing without the peaceful repose of sleep. I can't be sure, but I think my Dad still has that clock.

Don Buford is a throwback, much like the card that bears his likeness, indeed much like the alarm clock. He's battle-tested and rough around the edges. When I interned with the minor-league Aberdeen IronBirds in 2004, Buf' was the manager and was known for having a prickly personality. But whatever else you can say about him, Don Buford got the job done without a lot of fanfare or recognition. He was the leadoff hitter of the Orioles during one of the greatest three-year runs for any team in baseball history, 1969-1971 (318-164, three straight AL pennants). With on-base percentages near or above .400, he set the table for the greats: Brooks, Frank, Boog. Hell, he even holds a major league record, grounding into just 34 double plays in 4,553 career at-bats, or one every 138 times to the plate. (By comparison, Jim Rice had 36 GIDP in 1984 alone!)

Look at Don Buford. He doesn't care what you think. He's gonna keep on tickin'.

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