Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Rene Gonzales, 1990 Donruss #401

You probably know by know that one of my quirky preoccupations as an Orioles fan is uniform numbers. For this reason, I have a special appreciation for utility infielder Rene Gonzales. "Gonzo" had worn #19 in the mid-Eighties with the Expos, but his favorite number was 8. When he got to Baltimore, a certain Ripken was entrenched in that number, so Rene doubled it. I believe he was the first player to wear #88 with any regularity, and was certainly the first Oriole to wear any number in the eighties in the regular season. He kept it for his entire stint in Charm City (1987-1990), and wore it at his future destinations of Toronto, California, Cleveland, and Texas. He played two games with the Rockies in 1997 and the spoilsports handed him #28.

Gonzo's legacy was continued by rookie first baseman Paul Carey, who debuted with the Birds in May 1993. His rationale was that #8 had proven pretty lucky for Cal Ripken, so hopefully #88 would be "twice as lucky for me". He played only 18 games in 1993, his first and only year in the majors, so I'm not sure how lucky the crazy eights turned out to be.

The third and final Oriole (to date) to wear #88 was a greater headline-grabber than his predecessors. Surly, hulking outfielder Albert Belle signed with the O's prior to the 1999 season for a bank-breaking five years and $65 million. He had worn #8 since 1990 with the Indians and White Sox, but even his 321 home runs did not trump the Iron Man. So it was that Albert too doubled his favored digit. The mercurial slugger certainly earned his keep in his first season in orange and black, bashing 36 doubles and 37 home runs, driving in 117 runs, and walking 101 times to boot. But things went downhill in a hurry. In 2000, Belle's production dropped notably (though he still lead a weak club in 2B, HR, and RBI) and he abruptly retired at age 33 with a degenerative hip condition.

As soon as Cal Ripken, Jr. hung up his spikes in October 2001, the Orioles retired his #8. Since then, Javy Lopez has been the most likely incoming Oriole to go double-eight. But he blew it by switching from #8 to #18 when he relocated to our fine city. Bo-ring. Will there be more #88s in Baltimore's future? Time will tell.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Gonzales' 1988 Topps card shows very nicely his 88 uniform number, which was cool on my 88 Topps Cards blog: