I'm introducing a new feature here, Vintage Fridays. I think we can all agree that Fridays should be a little more fun, a little more special. Although I'm starting to get into the swing of collecting pre-1986 cards, I still have gobs more cards from 1986-present than I do 1952-1986. This way I'll be able to focus on the older cards once a week without running through them too quickly.
We kick off Vintage Fridays with "The Blade", which might be the coolest nickname ever bestowed upon a career .228 hitter. Then again, 8 Gold Gloves would probably make you worthy of a decent moniker. In this picture, we see Mark poised on the brink, nearing the end of his days as an everyday ballplayer. He would win his last Gold Glove in 1978, and would bat an abysmal (even for him) .167 the following year. By 1982, with Earl Weaver contemplating a tall, powerful rookie third baseman named Ripken as the shortstop of the future, Belanger would be playing out the string in a Dodgers uniform. It seems an inglorious end for a man who played 1962 games as an Oriole, a total matching the year that he was signed by the Birds as an amateur free agent.
But as this photo was taken, Mark was still on his game and feeling unthreatened by the Kiko Garcias of the world. He was soaking in some rays with his jersey riding unbuttoned at the top, maybe thinking about his next cigarette. Possibly he knew the habit would be his undoing in the end, or maybe he didn't give it a second thought. After all, everyone has their vices, as the National Bohemian Beer sign sitting atop the scoreboard in the background might indicate.