Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Adam Loewen, 2004 Studio #26

I have to admit that I'm somewhat amused by the randomness that takes hold of this blog. Believe it or not, I often go to painstaking lengths to insert variety when it comes to choosing daily subjects. I try to feature new players, which becomes an increasing challenge fifteen months into the life of this ongoing project. Failing that, I at least try to post a card from a set I haven't featured. If I can kill two birds with one stone, all the better. In one of my more obsessive-compulsive bits of plotting, I even try to alternate between pitchers and position players every other day. For some reason, I usually seem to slant towards position players. But sometimes I want to jump on a snippet of news that I've heard about a player, or I just find myself staring down writers' block and have to grab the first interesting-looking card I see.

A quick check of my tags shows that the most frequently used card set is the 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles set, with 11 posts. That makes sense, as it's a great oddball set that features a whopping 500-plus cards of every player in Orioles history from 1954 through early 1991. The runners-up are 1983 Topps and 2007 Upper Deck, with five each.

Cal Ripken, Jr. is unsurprising as the top featured player, again with eleven appearances. The most surprising high-ranked player is Adam Loewen, who I am now featuring for the fifth time. Pretty heady stuff for an injury-prone failed #1 draft pick who is reinventing himself as a first baseman in the Toronto organization as we speak. But he had an eventful year, with his participation in the Orioles Magic video and his position switch. That's the way my mind works sometimes.

I wonder who will be a recurring character on this blog as 2009 keeps chugging along.

Monday, March 30, 2009

David Newhan, 2006 Upper Deck #529

Sad news for fans of 35-year-old utility players today, as the Astros released David Newhan. I haven't been able to confirm the rumor that he was stretching his hamstrings like a ballerina on the dugout rail when he got the news.

I liked David Newhan well enough when he played in Baltimore, which admittedly has a lot to do with the unreal blazing start he had in the summer of 2004. He arrived as a 30-year-old journeyman with 63 major league games to his credit, but played 95 in that first year with the O's. He earned his playing time by hitting over .400 for his initial five weeks with the team. Overall he hit .311 with 15 doubles, 7 tripes, and 8 home runs and 54 RBI. He played at all four corner infield and outfield positions and always seemed to be hustling, stealing 11 bases and only getting caught once. His father Ross was a well-known sportswriter, which added a bit of warm fuzziness to the story.

But David never recaptured that initial magic. He was frustrated by a lack of playing time early the next season (four starts in April), and spoke up. Regardless of his recent success, it might not have been smart to play the squeaky wheel when he was still largely a fringe player (one who was struggling to hit his weight in the here and now). Though Newhan got more playing time as the season went along, it coincided with a downturn in the team's fortunes and a rash of injuries, and it didn't do him much good either. His average plummeted to .202 and his status with the club seemed shaky. Though he did return for a third season, a reasonably strong start was derailed by a broken leg suffered while running the bases. David missed four months, and that all but brought his time in orange and black to an end.

Newhan spent 2007 and 2008 in the National League, where his versatility may have been better utilized. But he hasn't come close to matching his red-hot summer of 2004, and he had an awful Grapefruit League run with the Astros this March (.182 with no extra-base hits). Apparently, he wasn't happy that he first heard that he was out of the backup shortstop competition by reading an article on mlb.com. If that's true, I'd have to agree that manager Cecil Cooper could've handled things better. But David's 35 now, and his spring numbers were awful. Considering that he couldn't crack a team that's prepared to go forward with Geoff Blum as its starting third baseman, I wonder if he'll be calling it a career soon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Alan Mills, 1993 Score Select #367

We're just a week away from Opening Day, which is also Opening Day for the fantasy baseball season. This means that I'll be getting back into the daily routine of checking and adjusting lineups, and forming fleeting attachments to players from other teams. I will live and die with their successes and failures, adding flavor to a Wednesday night Dodgers-Diamondbacks game that might otherwise serve as background noise. In other cases, I will hold my nose and strike up an uneasy alliance with a sworn enemy, as I've done in the past with the likes of Dustin Pedroia. This year's team has a healthy mix of players I genuinely like and a few guys from rival teams. Even the Yankees and Red Sox are guys that don't completely bug the hell out of me. Hopefully I can hold my own in what stacks up to be a fiercely competitive 12-team league full of Camden Chatters. So without further ado, I present The Alan Mills Project:

C Mike Napoli, Angels
1B Lance Berkman, Astros
2B Brian Roberts, Orioles
3B Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
SS J. J. Hardy, Brewers
OF Grady Sizemore, Indians
OF Andre Ethier, Dodgers
OF Raul Ibanez, Phillies
UT James Loney, Dodgers

Bench: OF Delmon Young, Twins; 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, Padres; C Yadier Molina, Cardinals.

SP Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
SP Jon Lester, Red Sox
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox
SP Matt Garza, Rays
SP Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies
SP Mark Buehrle, White Sox
RP Mariano Rivera, Yankees
RP Heath Bell, Padres
RP Joey Devine, Athletics

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Brian Roberts, 2008 Topps Stadium Club #34

This is a hit-and-run entry today, as my to-do list is pretty substantial. We're hosting my sister's birthday party tonight, so I have to clean the rat's nest that is my living quarters. Of course, this task mostly involves baseball cards: I have several stacks of Orioles that I need to sort and store, and several more that just came in the mail and need to be cataloged and then sorted. This includes today's featured card, which arrived this afternoon from Greg of the night owl blog. This is instantly one of the best cards in my growing Brian Roberts collection, a great action shot of the diminutive second baseman applying Tito Santana's trademark flying forearm to an unidentified Rangers catcher. I'd like to imagine that he's shouting, "This is for 30-3, you dirty sonofa..."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Dave McNally, 1972 Kellogg's #29

This is not just a card. It's a force of nature. I love the faux-3D blue and white star border, the blurred empty stadium in the background that's meant to make Dave McNally pop forth in vivid color, the facsimile signature running diagonally across his torso, and of course his incredibly wide-eyed stare off to the right. This is how Dave McNally might appear to you in a bizarre dream, or a really bad drug trip if you're living dangerously. To think that the lucky children of the early Seventies got to plop down at the breakfast table for a bowl of Corn Flakes with a side of mind-blowing images of baseball superstars bursting forth from the ether.

I just got this card in a fun package of assorted Orioles from frequent commenter Max, a.k.a. jacobmrley. It's the first 3-D style Kellogg's card in my collection (I had a few Sportflics-style Kellogg's from the early Nineties), and it immediately grabbed my attention. I can only imagine what the collectors thought of it when it was released. I love this card because it's just different. So many card releases of the past fifteen years run together for most of us, because we see the same things over and over again. Glossy finish, huh? Yawn. Foil stamping? Ho-hum. But a card like this, a product that's both vintage and vivid, refuses to be ignored or forgotten.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mickey Tettleton, 1990 Donruss #5

At long last, here are the whereabouts of your 1989 "Why Not?" Baltimore Orioles:


C Mickey Tettleton is active on the celebrity golf circuit and is a devoted father to his four children. Tate, the oldest, is a star quarterback in high school.

1B Randy Milligan is a scout with the Orioles, according to Wikipedia.

2B Billy Ripken is a co-owner of the Orioles' short-season A affiliate, the Aberdeen IronBirds. He recently coached first base for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and has appeared as an analyst on the MLB Network. He's also Executive Vice President of Ripken Baseball, Inc.

SS Cal Ripken, Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. He is co-owner of the Aberdeen IronBirds and President and CEO of Ripken Baseball, Inc.

3B Craig Worthington owns and operates a hitting instruction academy for baseball and softball in Southern California and coaches the girls' softball team at St. Paul High School.

LF Phil Bradley is a special assistant for the Major League Baseball Players Association. His son Curt played in the Dodgers organization in 2007.

CF Mike Devereaux lent his name to an American Legion tournament in his hometown of Casper, Wyoming. After the breakup of the local American Legion, the Mike Devereaux Tournament allowed the town's teenagers to continue playing baseball in front of home crowds. The inaugural tournament took place last year.

RF Joe Orsulak still lives in the area, spent a few years coaching baseball at Loyola Blakefield High School, and works Cal Ripken's baseball camps on occasion.

DH Larry Sheets owns and operates a family amusement center in Westminster, MD.


Jeff Ballard is a senior vice president at Ballard Petroleum Holdings, the family business in his hometown of Billings, MT. He is also chairman of the American Legion baseball program in Billings.

Bob Milacki is the pitching coach for the Phillies' class A South Atlantic League affiliate, the Lakewood BlueClaws.

Dave Schmidt is the Orioles' minor league pitching coordinator. He has been an instructor in the Baltimore organization for twelve years now.

Pete Harnisch is living with his wife and two sons in Colts Neck, NJ, where he coaches youth baseball, soccer, and basketball.

Dave Johnson is a baseball analyst for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network. His son Steven pitches in the Dodgers organization.


Unfortunately, the most recent news I found of Brian Holton was a story about his 2006 arrest in Manchester, NH on charges of skipping out on $43,000 of owed child support.

Mark Thurmond is the vice president of the Al Thurmond Insurance Agency.

Kevin Hickey is a coach at the annual White Sox Fantasy Camp. He was a batting practice pitcher for the 2005 World Champion Pale Hose.

Mark Williamson...is a mystery to me.

Gregg Olson lives in Newport Beach, CA with his wife and four children.

Sometime soon, I'll kill another day with updates on the bench players and lesser-used pitchers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Harold Baines, 1995 Donruss #538

Since I've already postponed the 1989 Orioles retrospective one day and declared myself to be a master of suspense, what's one more day? Don't blame me, the Orioles news just keeps on coming this week. Yesterday, the team announced that Harold Baines has been selected to join the Orioles Hall of Fame. It's about time that the organization that he spent the majority of the latter half of his career with afforded him some honor; the White Sox got the jump on it by retiring his jersey number and erecting a statue in his likeness.

I've always had a certain soft spot for old #3, the quintessential designated hitter. He got two hits and two RBI in the first game I ever attended at Camden Yards, and he didn't slow down for almost a decade after that. He came home to Maryland as a 34-year-old with the knees of a much older man, but he made a surprisingly bold mark in the team's record books. In three stints spanning all or parts of seven seasons in orange and black, he batted .301 (fifth in club history), slugged .502 (fourth), hit 107 home runs (17th), and drove in 378 runs (24th). He did it all without a complaint or a cry for attention. Harold was the first player to ever log 1,000 games as a DH and another 1,000 games at another position (outfield). I'm just pessimistic enough to sense that he might never get the call to Cooperstown, but he has earned his rightful place in one Hall of Fame for sure.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

George Kell, 1957 Spire #246

I know I promised you a "Where Are They Now?" of the 1989 Orioles, but the real world has intervened. Former Orioles infielder and Baseball Hall of Famer George Kell died in his sleep this morning at age 86. Though he spent just two years at the end of his career in a Baltimore uniform, George made an impact on the franchise both on and off the field. As a 34-year-old in his final season (1957), he hit .297 and represented the Birds in the All-Star Game. But more importantly, he unselfishly served as a mentor to a young Brooks Robinson, helping ease his path from the sandlots of Arkansas to Cooperstown. As a tribute to Kell, I'd like to his own words and the words of his teammates do the talking. All quotes are from John Eisenberg's From 33rd Street to Camden Yards.

GEORGE KELL: "Paul (Richards) told me when he went to Baltimore, 'I'm going to trade for you and make you the manager, and I'm going to move into the front office as the GM.' When he traded for me, I assumed that was the way it would be. At the time I was really interested in managing. Then in '57, about midseason, he told me the owners had told him they wanted him to manage, that they'd hired him for that and no change would be made. I said that was OK. I was ready to retire anyway."

BILL WIGHT: "Kell helped us. He was a good fielder. That was when they were just bringing out batting helmets. They were optional at first. You had a choice of whether to wear them. Kell never used one, and he'd dive into the ball-a great fastball hitter; he could pull anyone foul. Then one day he said, 'You know, I think I'll wear a helmet tomorrow.' The next day he got hit in the head. Popped right in the head. That started other guys using the helmets."

GEORGE KELL: "That was the only place in my career where I walked to the park. I don't remember anyone stopping me. They probably didn't know who I was. But I enjoyed Baltimore. The fans were great."

GEORGE KELL: "Brooks and I were raised ninety miles apart, same background, same family life, same church, same values...He came up later in '56 and opened with us in '57. He played third and I played first against left-handers. Against righties I'd play third. We spent a lot of time together. I think I helped show him how a major leaguer was supposed to live. That might have helped his adjustments."

BILL WIGHT: "In the spring of '57 Richards told Kell, 'I'd like you to talk to Brooks about when he backhands the ball, he brings the glove over his eyes and loses sight of the ball.' Kell said, 'I'm not going to do it. I'm not going to embarrass myself. We've been here a month and the guy hasn't missed a ball yet.' That was the end of that conversation."

Vaya con dios, George.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Curt Schilling, 1990 Bowman #246

You may have heard that Red Sox pitcher (and ex-Oriole, of course) Curt Schilling announced his retirement today. While his most recent status as a member of that hated gang of Bostoners and his ongoing fascination with hearing himself talk did not endear him to me, it's still a little bittersweet to see him hang up his spikes. I've mentioned in the past that I became a baseball fan in 1993, and seeing Curt dropping from the increasingly-dwindling roll call of players from that year who are still active brings me that much closer to the mortality of my baseball childhood. But I've got a more expansive entry planned on that topic. I've also uncovered further significance in Schilling's retirement.
He was the last active member of the 1989 Orioles.

Although they were nearly five years before my time as a baseball fan, I feel a special kinship to that team. With Edward Bennett Williams' poorly-conceived patchwork of aging free agents finally bottoming out in 1988, the O's had finally gutted the roster and started fresh. Nothing was expected of Frank Robinson's 1989 team, a potpurri of untested rookies, overlooked journeymen, and Cal Ripken, Jr. Despite an offense that bordered on the anemic and a pitching staff largely composed of guys that couldn't hit 90 on the radar gun with gale-force winds at their backs, the Birds spent 104 days in first place through a combination of pitching and defense, timely hits, and bizarre luck. The entire city of Baltimore rallied around the O's, adopting a rallying cry of "Why Not?". In the end, they finished 87-75, a 31.5-game improvement from the previous year and two games short of the American League East Championship.

Schilling wasn't a major contributor to that team, as a hard-throwing 22-year-old with more talent than brains. He pitched just 8 and 2/3 innings of relief, allowing six runs and thirteen baserunners. But he's still a part of that team, no matter how small. It's the end of an era. As for the rest of the 1989 Orioles, tomorrow I will be attempting a "Where Are They Now?" entry. Truly I am the master of suspense.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fred Lynn, 1985 Topps Traded #77T

Fred Lynn played for the Orioles from 1985 through 1988, a four-year run near the end of his accomplished career. But someone at Fleer didn't get the memo. A few months back, I was trading some cards with Ed and I came across Carlton Fisk's 1992 Fleer card. I glanced at the photo and noticed that "Pudge" and the Oriole batter were both wearing their team's old uniforms. I figured it was a Turn Back the Clock Day, but then I took a closer look at the batter:

If you click on the image to enlarge it, you should be able to spot the #19 on the bill of the dejected Oriole's helmet. No Baltimore hitter wore #19 in 1990 or 1991 (pitcher Ben McDonald was in number nineteen). Larry Sheets donned #19 in 1989, but that's pretty clearly not him. That brings us back to Fred Lynn. The White Sox didn't wear these uniforms until 1987, so the picture was taken in either 1987 or 1988. It's a great photo, with Fisk decked out in the tools of ignorance and intensely shouting orders to his pitcher, while Fred looks like he's headed back to the dugout after coming up short. But the real question is why Fleer chose a four-to-five-year-old image for a veteran star's baseball card? I hope that it had something to do with a bet between two bored card designers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Doug Jones, 1996 Donruss #237

Off the top of my head, I can't remember seeing too many cards that feature handshakes between players. I like this one in particular. It seems like a genuine moment of congratulations and respect between battery mates. Any time that Chris Hoiles (the O's underrated and workmanlike catcher) can get a little more face time on a card, it's all good. It's pretty safe to assume that this scene took place after Doug had closed out a Baltimore victory. It would be pretty funny if Chris wandered out to the mound to talk about how to pitch to Paul Molitor and felt it necessary to formally introduce himself. "Hey, Mr. Jones, I'm Chris Hoiles and I'm your catcher today. It's a pleasure to meet you, sir."

I've got a little time to kill tonight, so I thought I'd try to pinpoint the game depicted in this photo. The Orioles are wearing their road grays, and the surface they're playing on is clearly AstroTurf. There have never been many American League stadiums with artificial turf, and they appear to be outdoors, which leaves Toronto's SkyDome as the only possibility. (Kansas City switched from turf to natural grass for the 1995 season.)

Surprisingly, Doug pitched in Toronto only twice in 1995: July 1-2. In the first of those two games, the O's had tacked on two runs in the ninth to take a 6-2 lead, allowing the walrus-mustached closer to pitch in a non-save siuation. He made things interesting anyway, loading the bases after getting two quick outs. After John Olerud doubled, Jones issued walks to Ed Sprague and Candy Maldonado to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of outfielder Mike Huff. A liner to second base allowed the Birds to put one in the win column.

The next day was even more exciting for the Orioles. Jays starter Woody Williams took a 7-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the O's knocked him out of the box with a two-run homer off the bat of Gregg ZAUN! But they still trailed by five runs heading into the ninth. Manny Alexander (of all people) hit a solo home run to lead off, and Rafael Palmeiro and Cal Ripken, Jr. each singled to chase reliever Danny Cox. Ricardo Jordan retired Jeffrey Hammonds on a sac fly and struck out Kevin Bass, and the Birds were down to their last out with one runner on base and a 7-4 deficit. For some reason, Cito Gaston pulled the man who had put out the fire and sent Tim Crabtree to the mound. That's when Toronto game unglued.

Bret Barberie hit a pinch single, and he and Cal both scored when right fielder Domingo Cedeno botched pinch hitter Chris Hoiles' fly ball. Rookie outfielder Curtis Goodwin's grounder to short should have ended the game, but Domingo Cedeno made the second consecutive Blue Jay error to put the winning run on base. Brady Anderson walked, and Manny Alexander again came up big, grounding a single up the middle to give the O's an 8-7 lead. A wild pitch scored Anderson with the seventh Baltimore run of the inning (five of them unearned), and Doug Jones came into the game for an unlikely save. This time, he retired the side in order to earn his twelfth save.

There weren't many good days for Doug Jones as an Oriole. He went 0-4 with just 22 saves, and his 5.01 ERA was the second-worst of his long career. He also infamously tipped his cap and argued with a Baltimore fan after a meltdown at home against the Blue Jays (6 ER without getting a single out) turned a 10-6 lead into a 12-10 loss. But that wouldn't be appropriate to depict on a baseball card, now would it?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Johnny Lipon, 1954 Topps #19

This is not only one of the oldest cards in my collection, it is without a doubt the most schizophrenic. As you can see, Johnny is pictured in a Red Sox cap, but identified as an Oriole. If you take a close look at the full-body photo at bottom left, you'll see that Topps attempted to airbrush the Orioles' crossed-bats-and-ball logo onto his cap. It gets better if you flip the card over. The team name on the back is the White Sox.


Here's the timeline. On September 8, 1953, the Browns purchased Lipon's contract from the Red Sox. Of course, that offseason, the Brownies moved from St. Louis to Baltimore and became the Orioles. In February of 1954, the Birds dealt Johnny to Chicago in a four-player swap. Clear as mud? The infielder's travels didn't end there. On April 18, he was traded to the Reds, who released him 11 days later. His eight-plus year career ended with just one official at-bat in 1954.

The split personality of this card doesn't end with the team affiliation. As you can see, Johnny's listed as a third baseman. However, his card back talks about his defensive prowess at shortstop; indeed, he led American League shortstops in assists and double plays in 1950, and topped the circuit with a .980 fielding percentage two years later. It's worth noting that Lipon played 717 career games at shortstop, and only 15 at the hot corner. (There were also two games at second base tossed in for good measure.) To throw in one more bit of surreality, a previous owner of this card wrote "O.F." in ink next to Johnny's name on the card back.

Who knew that baseball cards could be so confusing?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eddie Watt, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #476

Former reliever Eddie Watt attended the University of Northern Iowa. I had no connection to the University of Northern Iowa until yesterday, when I picked the 12th-seeded Panthers to advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. This was a "sleeper pick", or an "upset pick". It's what smart people do.

UNI lost their first-round game this afternoon to 5th-seeded Purdue, 61-56. Just like that, my chances of winning the office pool took a big hit. I also picked Maryland, the only team that I've followed closely all year (and a team that pleasantly surprised me with their success in the ACC tournament), to lose in the first round to a vulnerable Cal team. So Eddie Watt stands here tonight as a testament to my stupidity, as I once again remind myself why I don't spend much money on the gambling arts.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Luke Scott, 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes Green #168

Without a doubt, this has to be the greenest card in my collection. It's a fitting selection, since we just celebrated St. Patrick's Day yesterday (at least I did, with a six pack of Smithwick's). I'm also thinking green because bit by bit, Spring is coming. I stubbornly believe that. Calendar-wise, the vernal equinox is this coming Sunday. I loathe cold weather and most everything that comes with it. But little indicators are sprouting up to give me hope and encouragement. The dehumidifier in my basement just kicked on for the first time in months, and I saw fit to buy a new lightweight jacket during my last shopping trip. Opening Day is less than three weeks away, and thanks to the bump in Daylight Savings Time, it's light outside when I get home from work. Now the frustrating dance begins. High of 65 today, but Maryland tops out at 50 tomorrow. Still chilly enough in the mornings to wrap up in a heavier jacket and scarf, but warm enough in the afternoon to awkwardly stuff the ensemble in my backpack. Come on, Spring. We're waiting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sidney Ponson, 2004 Topps Cracker Jack #158

Has any quotation gotten more use than P. T. Barnum's old chestnut that "there's a sucker born every minute"? That phrase was the first thing that came to my mind earlier this evening when I heard that the Royals had hopped aboard the Sidney Ponson train, giving everyone's favorite drunken, ruddy, judge-punching Aruban a minor league deal and an invite to camp. It's hard to say anything about Sir Sidney that hasn't already been said, so let me share a hilarious anecdote from Sam Walker's book Fantasyland. In a nutshell, a sports columnist who had never played fantasy baseball talked his way into the 2004 season of Tout Wars, the most prestigious rotisserie league in the country (other participants included Matthew Berry and Joe Sheehan). To make up for his novice, he went completely overboard, touring Spring Training sites and interviewing players to try to determine who was worthy of his team...and more importantly, who wasn't. To wit:

"...Ponson had managed to win seventeen games in 2003, and the Orioles, desperate for arms, rewarded him over the winter with a new $22.5 million contract. Ponson promptly showed his appreciation by ballooning to 266 pounds on a diet of beer and cholesterol and showing up to spring training struggling to do calisthenics. 'I swim,' Ponson said when I asked him about his winter conditioning program. 'I swim in the ocean at my house.' "

It gets better. During the live auction draft, the owners take turns nominating players for bidding. The idea is to toss out a guy that you have no personal interest in or need for, and to sit back while your opponents screw up their budgets. Naturally, Sam's sacrificial turkey is Sidney. In addition to the weight gain, Sid's pitching philosophy is lacking:

"...He'd been pitching around people. In other words, when tough batters came up, he tried to retire them by throwing garbage and hoping they'd flail away. Not only was this a dubious strategy, it was a dramatically dumb thing to admit to a guy with a tape recorder. When hitters finally caught on to him, Ponson would start walking more people than a pack of leader dogs."

So Sam nominates Ponson (valued by some roto previews as high as $19) at $12, and...deafening silence. Of course no one in that league of experts would be dumb enough to fall for Sidney. They started jeering poor Sam, referring to Ponson as the "fat hobbit", and in one case, even tossing out a joke bid of $11. No one made a serious bid; per the rules of rotisserie, Walker was stuck with the pitcher that he least wanted.

You know most of the rest of the story. Indeed, Ponson was hideously awful in the first half of 2004: 3-12, 6.29 ERA. But before the bottom completely dropped out, Sam was lucky enough to hook up with another relative newcomer to the league and unload Sidney for Jose Guillen. Crisis averted, right?

Um...right. Until he reacquired him in a failed attempt at a three-team trade. Inexplicably, the trade didn't end up a total loss, as Sidney went 8-3, 4.21 in the second half. Walker continues visiting with "his" players throughout the season, and his encounter with Ponson on September 3 at Yankee Stadium is one for the ages. The pitcher claims that he was opening up in his delivery too early during the extended slump. Later, Jim Palmer explains to Walker that the majority of Ponson's struggles can more accurately be blamed on his weight:

"While Palmer elaborates on the problems of rotund pitchers, Sidney Ponson walks up behind him. It takes a few seconds for Palmer to register the look of panic on my face, but when he wheels around Ponson is glowering at him. Palmer, trying to play it off, points to me.

'He has you on his rotisserie team.'

'Ya! He traded me!' Ponson says, stomping off."

Oh, to be a fly on the wall. Naturally, Ponson shut out the Yankees the next night, giving up two hits and winning 7-0. It was his last career shutout to date.

Caveat emptor, Kansas City.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Billy O'Dell, 1957 Spire #376

A few months ago, I told you about my growing addiction to the online baseball card game known as Baseball Boss. I eventually gave in and decided to purchase one of the more budget-conscious monthly memberships, but even so, I realized that trying to collect all of the cards in their various virtual sets would be a tall order. I'm trying to keep it simple by focusing on certain themes; for instance, I'm attempting to assemble the best possible All-Kevin team (per another recent blog entry). Unsurprisingly though, my main focus is the Baltimore Orioles.

Today, I completed one of my team sets: the premium 1957 Spire 39-card set. I love this design, as it's low-key and uses a darker shade of orange that adds to the retro feel. These cards commemorate an important milestone in team history. In just their fourth season in Baltimore, the young Birds finished at .500 (76-76) for the first time. Paul Richards had laid the groundwork for a future dynasty. By my count, all but four of the players who suited up for the O's in '57 are included, including 20-year-old Brooks Robinson and 18-year-old Milt Pappas. The card I've highlighted is that of Billy O'Dell, one of the most heralded of the "bonus babies" and the most valuable Oriole in the set. He was given this honor based on his 2.69 ERA and career-best 1.04 WHIP.

Now that I've completed this set (and only need four cards from 2007), I can turn most of my attention to the new sets that are rolling off the...um...presses. Last week the 2008 cards hit, with Aubrey Huff and Jim Johnson slotted as the big prizes. The set that I'm anticipating the most is being released tomorrow: 1998. While this season was the zenith of the steroid era (topped off by the McGwire-Sosa home run battle) and marked the beginning of the Birds' lengthy decline, there are lots of great names and notable individual performances to be found in that group of Orioles. Rafael Palmeiro (.296, 43 HR, 121 RBI) ended his first stint in Charm City on a better note than the second one, and Roberto Alomar, Chris Hoiles, and Eric Davis (.327, 28 HR, 89 RBI) also bid farewell to the O's. There are also fan favorites like Cal Ripken, Jr., Brady Anderson, Harold Baines, B. J. Surhoff, Mike Mussina, and Scott Erickson...

If they ever churn out a 1970 or 1983 set, I'm going to be in trouble.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Harold Baines, 1994 Studio #121

I can't believe I beat Steve to this one. Today is Harold Baines' fiftieth birthday. I'm not entirely sure that he couldn't still bat .300 with 15 home runs, but the White Sox seem content just to have him on the coaching staff. Their loss, I'd say.

Actually, March 15 is a busy day for Oriole birthdays. Also born on this day were third baseman Mike Pagliarulo (49 today) and utility player and current Nationals camper Freddie "Boom Boom" Bynum (29 today). Between them, the three birthday boys hit 115 home runs for the Birds. Of course, 93% of those longballs came off the bat of Baines, but who's counting?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Brooks Robinson, 2005 Upper Deck Past Time Pennants #10

Since last week's 1979 Orioles photo gallery was such a big hit, I thought I'd dig back into the family archives. The photos below aren't quite as old as the shot of Brooksie that was used for the card above, which was likely taken between 1958 and 1962. But they're still great pictures of Brooks and Jim Palmer, the two cornerstones of Baltimore's glory years. They were clearly taken on a photo day, and I love the "B. ROBINSON" placard on the ground at Number Five's feet. "Oh, so THAT's Brooks Robinson! Ya know, I thought he would be taller." Also, how many pictures have you seen of Jim Palmer holding a bat? It figures that he would forgo the hat, the better for the ladies to see that handsome helmet of hair.

So when were these snapshots taken? We can take our cues from the uniforms. Brooks is wearing the black cartoon bird cap, the "Orioles" script has no tail, the sleeves have a black-white-orange striping pattern top-to-bottom, and the pants have a matching striped waistband in lieu of a belt. That narrows it down to the era of 1971-1974, some very good years for the Birds.

Looking at these photos transports me back in time. I feel like I'm there in Memorial Stadium on a summer afternoon, with Rex Barney on the P.A. and Chuck Thompson on the radio, not to mention Wild Bill Hagy leading the Roar from 34. Maybe the Yankees are in town, and they're clearly no match for Brooks, Boog, and Blair. Palmer or Cuellar will keep the game rolling at a crisp pace. The crowds might not exactly fill the multipurpose stadium on 33rd Street, but if you're one of the faithful that come out to the game, you're in for a treat.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Doyle Alexander, 1975 Topps #491

Hey, it's Friday the 13th. Didn't we just have one of these last month? I don't mind, because 13 happens to be my favorite number (my birthday is August 5: 8+5=13). I wore it when I played fresh-soph lacrosse in high school, and kept it for three years of CYO softball. So I'm not big on triskaidekaphobia.

Baseball is a sport that is choc-a-bloc with superstitions, so it's not surprising that some teams refuse to even hand out the number thirteen. The Orioles are not one of those teams, and it's never done much to hurt them. There have been 16 players who have worn #13 in Baltimore, in addition to two coaches and one manager. Many of them were forgettable (Roger Freed, Mike Figga, and the like), but three especially notable players have bucked the hoodoo.

Aside from Bill Miller, whose O's career lasted five games in 1955, lefty Steve Barber was the first to wear the one-three. After donning #29 as a rookie, the Maryland native switched to the spooky number in 1961 and wore it right up until his trade to the Yankees in mid-1967. In between, he won 85 games, was an All-Star twice, and won 20 in 1963. He was a member of the 1966 World Champions, and is seventh in team history in strikeouts. Of course, arm troubles plagued him for much of his career, so maybe he was a bit jinxed.

Lanky righthander Doyle Alexander might have felt a bit spooked when he joined the Orioles as a 21-year-old in 1972. He had just been traded (along with three lesser players) for Frank Robinson, the emotional leader of a Baltimore team who had just been to three straight World Series and four Fall Classics since 1966. Doyle pitched to a 2.45 ERA in a mostly relief role in his first season with the Birds, but never really took flight in Charm City. His overall record as an Oriole (1972-1976) was 35-37. But he makes this list because of another headline-making trade. On June 15, 1976, he was one of ten players swapped by the O's and Yankees. Though he would go on to win 194 games in a nineteen-year career, he was a journeyman; meanwhile, the players that came to Baltimore in the deal would become the glue of the next ten years. Tippy Martinez. Rick Dempsey. Scott McGregor. Not too shabby, huh? Alexander had a knack for being trading for big names. Near the end of his career, the Tigers nabbed him from Atlanta for the stretch drive. Heading to the Braves was a minor league pitcher by the name of John Smoltz.

Finally, there's a more recent Oriole pitcher, Rodrigo Lopez. I've talked about him recently, so I don't want to belabor the point. Suffice to say, he rose from relative obscurity (a 26-year-old with just six MLB games pitched) to win 15 games in 2002 and finished a close second to Eric Hinske as A.L. Rookie of the Year.

Well, by the time you read this, Friday the 13th will almost be over. That wasn't so bad, now was it?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Eugene Kingsale, 1997 Bowman Foil #129

I don't really remember having much interest in the first World Baseball Classic as it unfolded in 2006, which might have something to do with the United States being bounced in the first round and my reluctance to root for the abominable Roger Clemens. But this year's competition has already exceeded my expectations. I watched several back-and-forth innings of Saturday's USA-Canada thriller while having a beer with my friends at Uno's, and on Monday night it was a blast to see American players from Chris Iannetta to Kevin Youkilis contributing to an eight-run sixth-inning outburst to pull away from Venezuela.

But the most thrilling game was undoubtedly Tuesday night's elimination game between the Dominican Republic and the Netherlands. The heavily-favored Dominican, stacked with big names like Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada, and Hanley Ramirez, had already been upset once by the Dutch baseballers. In the early going, D.R. starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez was the story, striking out a WBC-record ten batters in four scoreless innings. But the Netherlands players were game, and the teams traded zeroes for ten innings.

In the top of the eleventh, former Oriole outfielder Eugene Kingsale misplayed a Jose Bautista fly ball, allowing Jose Reyes to race around the bases with the go-ahead run. But Kingsale redeemed himself almost instantly. In the bottom of the inning, he tied the game with a single off of Cubs closer Carlos Marmol. Distracted by the outfielder's speed, Marmol threw away a pickoff try, allowing him to race to third. It was unreal to watch the Netherlands players jump to their feet in jubilation, even though Kingsale was only on third and hadn't scored yet. Three batters later, Yurrendell de Caster's two-out grounder deflected off of first baseman Willy Aybar's glove, allowing Eugene to race home with the winning run. His teammates game unglued, as well they should have. They had just singlehandedly brought down a team whose players outpaced them in 2008 Major League Baseball earnings, $83.4 million to $400,000.

Obviously, I hope Team USA beats the Netherlands this weekend. But it's hard to root against a team that has Bert Blyleven as a pitching coach and wears black and orange...

Even if that team includes Sidney Ponson.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tim Stoddard, 1981 Fleer #176

Well, it seems that I've stirred up some interest with my All-Kevin team! Several of my readers and fellow bloggers have taken it upon themselves to compile their own All-Namesake teams, with some fascinating results.

-In the comments on the original post, reader Commish (a.k.a. Bob) typed up his All-Bob team. If I were him, I totally would have stuck Grich at second base; most of his Topps cards referred to him as "Bob".

-Reds fan Nachos Grande has put together his All-Chris team, featuring Hoiles and Ray for us O's fans. Again, if I'm calling the shots, I would put Chris Young in the rotation. I'm a fan.

-Dodgers fan Night Owl goes for broke with the All-Greg team. He's got ZAUN, Olson, and both Greg Harrises! Oh, I guess that Maddux guy is a decent #1 starter, too.

-Billy Suter of West Virginia Cards isn't fooling around with the All-Bill(y) team. His lineup includes three Hall of Famers.

Finally, I got an email from Tim, who often comments as Rounding Thirty3rd. He took the time to draw up an all-Tim team, and after all that he's contributed to this blog (both sending cards and making comments), it's only right that he supply the first-ever guest post. So I've copied and pasted the All-Timothy Team below. Enjoy!


I don't know how this will match up with your team. I have good starting pitching (hopefully giving me plenty of innings), weak middle relief, but a decent closer. My bats are not overly powerful, but solid with a bit of speed.

I have 7 All-Stars (denoted with *) on the team and one Hall of Famer.

All-Time All-Timothy Team

*Smiling Tim Keefe - Starter - Hall of Famer - 554 complete games - enough said!

Tim Lincecum - Starter - Young star with lots of potential, ironically his middle name is same as my grandfather's first name, down to the same capitalization (LeRoy).

*James Timothy (Mudcat) Grant - Starter - 21-7 in 1965, 145 career wins, his middle name was Timothy, but with a nickname like Mudcat, I had to include him on my list.

Tim Wakefield - Starter - 2-time World Champion but never an All-Star?!?

Tim Belcher - Starter - First overall pick in 1984 draft. Never fully fulfilled his potential.

*Tim Burke - Mid Relief - 2.72 career ERA

Tim Worrell - Mid Relief - former Oriole, brother Todd was better, but Tim had longer career

Tim Crabtree - Mid Relief - good name, need someone to mop up in the bullpen

Tim Crews - Mid Relief - just need another arm in the pen

Tim Stoddard - closer - Orioles second coming of Don Stanhouse, plus had an appearance in "Rookie of the Year"!

*Tim McCarver - catcher - 1967 MVP runner-up and can also fill-in the broadcast booth on off-days

Tim Jordan - 1B - had to go old school to find me a first sacker

Tim Teufel - 2B - needed another infielder - solid but unremarkable.

Tim Foli - SS - almost banned from team for hitting career high .291 for 1979 Bucs

*Tim Wallach - 3B - 5-time AS, 3 Gold Gloves, and 2 Silver Sluggers

Tim Salmon - OF - ROY and 5 30+ homer seasons

*Tim "Rock" Raines - OF - former Oriole, ROY runner-up, 808 stolen bases, potential Hall of Famer??

Tim Hendryx - OF - I was really struggling for a third Outfielder

*Tim Laudner - catcher - 1988 All-Star - I am sure he called a good game.

Voiceless Tim O'Rourke - Utility Infield - great nickname, and swiped 81 bases without a CS (look it up in B-R).

Tim Hullett - Utility Infield - makes team as a former Oriole

Tim Naehring - DH - better bat than my other utility players

Tim Raines, Jr. - batboy, 4th outfielder - former Oriole

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

T. R. Lewis, 1994 Upper Deck Minors #11

Every once in a while, there's a surprise waiting for me in my inbox. On Sunday, I had a new email from T. R. Lewis. Someone had made him aware that I'd featured him on this blog, in a December entry in which I lamented the unfairness of the universe. A guy with a name like Theodore Roosevelt Lewis, who survived being tossed from a car at 75 mph, would have made a great story as a major leaguer. T. R.'s email was entitled "What's fair got to do with it?", but it really sounds like he's got a positive outlook. He says that he has been making lemons from lemonade, and that his derailed path to the majors was complicated by the fact that he was a clean player in the steroid era. However, he rightfully asserts that his namesake would have been proud, and assured me that he has no problems sleeping at night.

T. R. is currently working as a scout from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Gulf Coast region (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi), and is a father of two boys. His optimistic approach to life may have been influenced by the car accident that was referenced on his 1993 Bowman card. As he told me in his last email, a passenger in his car was also ejected and died as a result of his injuries. Despite not making it to Camden Yards, Lewis recognizes that he is lucky to be alive, much less to have played pro baseball after the accident.

T. R., if you're reading this, thanks for taking the time to get in touch.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kevin Brown, 1995 Topps Traded #148T

Yesterday I had my first fantasy baseball draft of the year, a true sign that Spring is on its way. Through pure happenstance, I came to select two Kevins to my team (Messrs. Youkilis and Kouzmanoff). My mind started wandering, which I'm sure will come as a shock to most of you. I began to wonder whether I could compile a full all-time team of my namesakes, and if so, how it would take shape. It's times like this that I'm really glad to have baseball-reference.com in my life. So let's take a peek at the All-Kevins, including their career-best seasons, shall we?

C Kevin Cash - Definitely a weak link. 2008: .225, 3 HR, 15 RBI.

1B Kevin Youkilis - Elbows his way onto the team with a monster '08. 2008: .312, 29 HR, 115 RBI.

2B Kevin Jordan - Former Phillie split time at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. 1999: .285, 4 HR, 51 RBI.

SS Kevin Stocker - The Devil Rays traded Bobby Abreu to get him...yikes. Peaked as a rookie. 1993: .324, 2 HR, 31 RBI.

3B Kevin Seitzer - A quintessential contact hitter. 1987: .323, 15 HR, 83 RBI.

RF Kevin Bass - One of four Orioles on this team, and the only one to end his career in Charm City. 1986: .311, 20 HR, 79 RBI.

CF Kevin McReynolds - I knew a Mets fan who absolutely hated this guy. 1988: .288, 27 HR, 99 RBI, 21 SB.

LF Kevin Mitchell - Hey, we've even got an MVP! 1989: .291, 47 HR, 125 RBI, 1.023 OPS.

DH Kevin Millar - I'm glad I could find a spot for Kevbo in the lineup. His on-base skills give him the nod over Kevin Young. 2001: .314, 20 HR, 85 RBI.

The bench includes catcher Kevin L. Brown (.254 in 189 career AB), first baseman Kevin Young (1999: .298, 26 HR, 106 RBI, 22 SB), shortstop Kevin Elster (1996: .252, 24 HR, 99 RBI), third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff (2007: .275, 18 HR, 74 RBI), corner outfielder Kevin Mench (2004: .279, 26 HR, 71 RBI), and left fielder Kevin Reimer (1991: .269, 20 HR, 69). Just missing the cut was 1B/DH and Yankee flash-in-the-pan Kevin Maas (1990: .252, 21 HR, 41 RBI, 12.1 AB/HR).

And the pitching staff:

SP Kevin Brown - This is a slight cheat, as his given name is James Kevin Brown. 1996: 17-11, 1.89 ERA.

SP Kevin Appier - As a KC Royal, he used to kill the O's. 1993: 18-8, 2.56 ERA.

SP Kevin Millwood - Should become third-winningest Kevin early this year. 1999: 18-7, 2.68 ERA.

SP Kevin Tapani - The Twins' major yield from the Frank Viola trade. 1991: 16-9, 2.99 ERA.

SP Kevin Gross - The man currently tied with Millwood at #4. 1985: 15-13, 3.41 ERA.

RP Kevin Kobel - The swingman on this staff. 1978: 5-6, 2.91 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 108.3 IP.

RP Kevin Rogers - Really a one-year wonder, but I'm comfortable with that. 1993: 2.68 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 80.7 IP.

RP Kevin Hickey - A unique career took him from the softball field to the 1983 ALCS to the Cinderella 1989 Orioles, with a six-year absence from the majors in between. 1989: 2.92 ERA, 1.23 WHIP.

RP Kevin Saucier - Nicknamed "Hot Sauce" because of his demonstrative nature on the mound. 1981: 1.65 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 13 SV.

CL Kevin Gregg - With just two seasons as a closer, leads all Kevins in saves. 2008: 7-8, 32 SV, 3.41 ERA.

Well, that's not such a bad team. We've got a big hole at catcher, and not a lot of speed, but there's tons of power up and down the lineup (though that 1996 season for Elster is a crazy fluke). The starting rotation is strong from one through five, and it's a good thing, because there's not much sustained success in the bullpen. I'd like to think that the Fightin' Kevins would hold their own against most any other namesake All-Star team out there.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Billy Ripken, 1987 Donruss The Rookies #16

This is Bill Ripken's only rookie card from 1987, the year he debuted with the Orioles. As you might have guessed, the photo was taken during Spring Training, as Billy never wore #56 in the regular season. Judging from the blurry figure in the dugout behind him, the opponent was the Rangers.

Former Orioles second baseman and manager Davey Johnson is the skipper of this year's United States team at the World Baseball Classic. If you watched yesterday's win over Canada or tonight's game against Venezuela, you probably saw another ex-O's second baseman in the first base coaches' box: Mr. William Oliver Ripken. Nice work if you can get it, but Billy's had a bit of rough sailing this Spring. Last Tuesday, Team USA traveled to Steinbrenner Field (urgh) to face the Yankees in an exhibition game. Someone apparently entered the locker room during the game and stole $400 and a credit card from Ripken's wallet. Nothing else was reported missing, though pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre's wallet seemed to have been taken and moved to another part of the clubhouse.

If you have any information concerning the whereabouts of Billy Ripken's personal effects, feel free to contact USA Baseball. Maybe they'll offer you an autographed Joel Hanrahan ball or something.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Rodrigo Lopez, 2003 Topps Heritage #27

Where is Rodrigo Lopez these days, you ask? Well, I hope at least one of you really is asking. It can't just be me. After all, the righthander is the winningest Orioles pitcher of this decade, having notched 60 victories between 2002 and 2006. In addition to representing Mexico in the ongoing World Baseball Classic, he just signed a minor-league deal with the Phillies. It's a longshot attempt to get his career back on track after a couple years of arm problems. In 2007, he pitched reasonably well with the Rockies, going 5-4 with a 4.42 ERA. But he was shut down that summer with a bad elbow, and missed a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Last August he signed with the Braves, but pitched only three games in the minors and had his 2009 option declined. With Philadelphia, he doesn't even have an invite to big league camp but is expected to make the AAA Lehigh Valley staff if he's in decent shape. It's a far leap from the IronPigs to the Phillies, but stranger things have happened.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1973 Topps #278

I went looking for a team card today because no particular player was jumping out at me. As I perused the group shots of the entire Orioles club, there was a constant presence on the margins of each year's photo. Take a look at the rotund, white-haired man in the white pants and black Orioles jacket standing front row right. Longtime O's fans know him to be Ralphie Salvon, who got his start working in the St. Louis Browns' organization in 1953. He followed the team to Baltimore and worked his way through the ranks before becoming the head trainer for the big league club in 1968. He would stay in that position for two decades, right up until his death in 1988. He did a lot with a little - the trainer's room in Memorial Stadium was 10' by 5'.

According to Mike Flanagan, Ralphie was something of a confidant to the players, serving as a sympathetic ear when they were fed up with Earl Weaver's abrasive personality and then deflecting the tension by telling amusing anecdotes in his own genial, boisterous way. It also goes without saying that he was very skilled at his job. Under his care, Oriole arms stayed healthy enough to post twenty-three seasons of twenty wins or more.

But the most memorable stories about Salvon involve food, as you might imagine by looking at him. Jim Palmer wondered if "there was a maitre d' between Baltimore and Tokyo that Ralphie didn't know on a first-name basis". The squatty trainer was on such good terms with a restaurant owner in Milwaukee that he would call ahead when games ran late and get the guy to keep the place open for the team. Palmer also claimed that a friend was honeymooning in Puerto Rico, and even in San Juan, the mere mention of Mr. Salvon served as an international credit card: front row table, meal on the house, the whole nine yards. Flanagan mused about Ralphie having "sponsors". He would apparently wait around the lobby and intercept different players on their way out the door. Guys would be so honored to have his company that they would pick up the tab, and he was covered for three square meals a day!

Ralphie Salvon is one of the great characters of Orioles history, the unheralded working men that did the grunt work to make this team one of the model franchises in baseball.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Gary Roenicke, 1981 Topps #37

It's hard to believe that this look didn't catch on. You might have to click on the image to get a closer look, but Gary Roenicke's batting helmet is adorned with a football-style face mask on the left side of his jaw. It was a temporary precaution that was taken after he was hit in the face with a pitch. There's a clearer shot of the makeshift guard here, and an excellent article by Uni Watch's Paul Lukas here. It largely focuses on former Pirates outfielder Dave Parker; to be fair, his helmet stylings were much more terrifying and unusual than Gary's.

What's your favorite unusual uniform modification? Brooks Robinson's sawed-off helmet brim? Frank Robinson's extended stirrups?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Scott McGregor, 2004 Maryland Lottery #20

On an absolutely frigid day in the mid-Atlantic, it's as good a time as any to reminisce about one of the all-time great Orioles teams. I just remembered a decrepit old photo album stuffed in a box in my closet. In that album are ten pictures of the 1979 Orioles, photos that my Aunt Denise snapped at a rally for the team that autumn in downtown Baltimore. In the process of scanning them, I discovered that they're a little worse for wear, but I still think they're worth sharing. Enjoy!

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jim Palmer.

Dave Skaggs and Rick Dempsey prepare to catch some tosses as Cal Ripken, Sr. and other team personnel observe.

El Presidente! Dennis Martinez is ready for his closeup.

Eddie Murray: The Man.

Elrod Hendricks flashes the smile that made him the goodwill ambassador of Orioles baseball. There's also a rear view of Jim Palmer...ahem.

Check out the banner behind Mike Flanagan: "Go to bat for the Birds."

It would be a shame for Don "Fullpack" Stanhouse to hide that outstanding hair underneath a cap. (ETA: A subsequent email from Ed brought it to my attention that this is probably Steve Stone.)

Do you suppose Ken Singleton is signing one of his baseball cards?

There's a lot of funny business going on for Scotty McGregor. His eyes are obscured by his cap. Speaking of the cap, that can't be an official Orioles uniform piece. The Bird looks grotesque and distorted. Then there's the WJZ Channel 13 jacket with yellow t-shirt underneath. Why was the young lefty out of uniform? Did his luggage get lost?

A great picture of Tippy Martinez, with Cal Senior in the background.

To close things out, who else but "Brother Lo", a.k.a. John Lowenstein?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mike Devereaux, 1993 Upper Deck Fun Pack #132

Now more than ever, we need to embrace truth in baseball card advertising. The very brand name of this card promises fun, and it is in fact one of the most fun photos I've seen on a baseball card. We see a flattopped Mike Devereaux having a good laugh while seemingly sumo wrestling with teammate Mark McLemore. What could be the cause for their impromptu grappling match? It's hard to say. After all, it was the mid-1990s, when Cal Ripken, Jr. ruled the Orioles clubhouse with an iron fist (pardon the pun). If there's anything I know about Junior, it's that he loved to wrestle with teammates such as Brady Anderson and Ben McDonald before and after games. Rumor has it that he flat-out beat the hell out of his peers. So Devo and Mac probably just figured, "When in Rome..." Then again, Cal never clamped a bear hug or a headlock on a teammate in mid-game. Something must have gotten lost in translation.

Monday, March 2, 2009

David Haehnel, 2007 Bowman Prospects #BP30

I have something to confess. I will never, ever make a living as a baseball scout. How do I know? Because of David Haehnel.

David and I (weren't not really on a first-name basis) arrived at Aberdeen within weeks of each other. He was the Orioles' eighth-round pick out of the University of Illinois-Chicago, a thin 6'4" lefthander who was just a few weeks older than me. I was an unpaid fall intern, putting off the inevitabilities of the real world by hanging around a baseball stadium and doing whatever was asked of me and generally loving every minute of it. I only caught a few baseball games, as the season ended at the beginning of September and I'd come on board in late August. But from what I saw of David Haehnel (and heard from those around the team), I thought he was a star in the making.

David was the ace reliever of the IronBirds in his first stop in the minors at age 21. He'd blanked the opposition in 17 of his first 18 appearances and 23 of his first 25. A late season mini-slump bumped his ERA from 0.82 to a still-miniscule final figure of 1.69. He struck out at least one batter in 26 of his 28 games, and whiffed 14.7 per nine innings. From August 2nd through the 22nd, he factored in the decision in each of his eight appearances, winning two and saving six. To my untrained eyes, this guy could deal.

I lost track of the southpaw after we both left Ripken Stadium, but he seems to have avoided the sophomore jinx. Beginning at lower-A Delmarva, David barely broke a sweat, saving 16 games and tossing up a 0.79 ERA in 34 innings with a strikeout per inning. The O's gave him some stiffer competition, promoting him to higher-A Frederick. He was no longer called upon as a closer, but he still held his own with a 3.41 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 9.7 K/9 IP. But the road to the Show was about to get rocky.

Returning to Frederick to begin 2006, Haehnel was inexplicably converted to a starter. He hit the ground running, posting a 2.60 ERA in April, but couldn't maintain that momentum. He wound up leading the Keys with 11 losses against just two wins, racked up an awful 6.23 ERA, and walked two more batters per nine innings than he had in 2005, and his K/9 IP dropped by three. But the Baltimore brass apparently saw enough promise to bump him up to AA Bowie in 2007...either that, or the rest of the pitching in the organization was even worse. Thankfully, the ill-conceived starting experiment was over and David was back in the bullpen. But the spark was gone. His ERA was a lofty 6.00 even, and he was now walking an inexcusable six batters per nine innings. The Birds cut ties with the lefty after just three and a-half seasons in the minors.

Despite a functioning left arm and relative youth (25 at the start of the 2008 season), Haehnel did not catch on with any other MLB team in 2008. Instead, he found himself in the independent Northern League, toeing the rubber for the Kansas City T-Bones and rubbing elbows with such illustrious ex-major leaguers as Bo Hart and Ken Harvey.

Whether Haehnel just crumpled against more experienced hitters or the Orioles organization botched his development by yanking him out of a role that he had seemingly aced, it's hard to say. It's probably a combination of the two. At any rate, I wish he would have made it, so I could have said that I spotted that talent way back when.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mike Young, 1988 Score #393

In their inaugural baseball card set, Score really did it right. I think these bright green borders might have been the best of the six colors they used; they really pop, and nothing says baseball like green. Each card back had a full-color headshot and paragraphs full of biographical details about the player, giving you insight that you just didn't get from the other cards out there. And some of these photos are fantastic.

Here we see power-hitting outfielder Mike Young during a road game, most likely on AstroTurf (Toronto? Minnesota?), running the bases. Though he's contorted in sort of an odd and ungraceful position, you still get the impression that he's turning on the afterburners because his batting helmet has been left behind. It's shades of Willie Mays, who reportedly wore his cap one size too big so that it would fly loose while he was on the move and make it look like he was even faster than he actually was. After I read about that, I used to knock my own hat loose when I played kickball at recess in middle school. Considering my lack of coordination, I probably should have paid more attention to the intricacies of the game.

This card is already great because of the sort of midair moment that some of my fellow bloggers appreciate so greatly. But it's made even better because while Mike Young's attention is fixed off-camera and on the next base (and possibly his base coach), his helmet is facing the camera, straight ahead. It's almost as if one of the ghosts of the diamond has inhabited the inanimate piece of equipment and has begun to slide into the upcoming base.

Can you think of any other cards that capture a disembodied batting helmet? How about a regular cap? For some reason, I imagine the latter is more prevalent.