Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vintage Fridays: Mike Cuellar, 1977 Topps #162

As you can see, this card has a little surface wear. I like it, though; the tiny white divots that mottle Mike Cuellar's photograph make it look more like an oil painting on a bright canvas; it could have been crafted by one of the Old Masters. Cuellar was an Old Master himself at this moment in time; at thirty-nine years old he was the fifth-oldest player in the American League. 1976 had been his eighth season with the Orioles and his fourteenth overall. But the end was near. His won-lost record was an atrocious 4-13, his first sub-.500 win percentage in an O's uniform. He deserved every loss, as his 4.96 ERA was his highest ever for a full season. As Earl Weaver remarked, "I gave Mike Cuellar more chances than my first wife."

Cuellar would run out of chances the following winter. The Orioles released him four days before Christmas. By the time this card came out, the Cuban lefty would be attempting to prolong his career as a California Angel. Though he had climbed the ranks to become the AL's oldest active player, it was a short-lived reign. He was torched in his only two appearances for the halos to the tune of an 18.90 ERA, and his career ended with his release on May 16.

Nevertheless, when taken as a whole, the career of Mike Cuellar truly was a work of art.

3 comments:

Rounding Thirty 3rd said...

Kevin,

1977 was my first year collecting cards. I really liked this card, though despite being a young Oriole fan, I had no idea who Mike Cuellar was - especially since he no longer pitched for my team. I also had no idea how to pronounce the last name - I called him Mike Cellar, and I thought how appropriate that he looks like he is climbing up a ladder out of the cellar!

Tim in NOLA

Commish said...

Mike Cuellar, an all time favorite of mine, and a story with a Weaver quote! Nice. My 'Cuellar moment' actually goes back to 1967, sitting in the Astrodome in Houston. My Dad and I were in fantastic seats, second row behind home plate. We got those from time to time when since he worked for Shell Oil, they were company tickets. Anyway, the seats next to ours were used by the Astros and on this particular night they were occupied by Mike Cuellar and Fred Gladding, an Astros releiver who was hurt. Cuellar was charting pitches in a binder and as the game progressed I worked up my courage to chat them up. I don't recall the conversation but I remember them as friendly and I still have a game program I had them sign. Good times back them watching games with my Dad.

Kevin said...

Tim - I'm pretty sure I pronounced it "Cell-U-er" myself. More inexcusable was my pronunciation of Mark "Bellinger".

Commish - Great story! I remember Fred Gladding from Ball Four. That Cuellar-for-Blefary trade worked out pretty well, didn't it?