Wednesday, September 30, 2009
The good news? The season will end before the Birds can try for twenty.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
At least I can continue to linger in the past. On this date in 1953, the American League owners approved the sale of the sad-sack St. Louis Browns to an ownership group headed by Baltimore mayor Tom D'Alesandro. The league honchos also okayed the group's plans to move the club East to Charm City, where they would become the Orioles. The city of Baltimore owes a great debt to the Browns' previous owner, Hall of Famer Bill Veeck, who badly wanted to move the team himself. Of course, the other owners were beyond annoyed with the beer-swilling, free-thinking, sideshow-creating Veeck and they insisted that they would not approve the relocation of the franchise unless he sold the team. Rather than dragging out the process or retrenching himself in St. Louis, Bill chose to be the bigger man and stepped aside. Without this selfless act, Baltimore may have had to wait even longer to re-enter the major leagues for the first time since the turn of the 20th century. Instead, the stage was set for April 13, 1954, when second baseman (and Granite, MD native) Bobby Young became the first player to take the field for the new Orioles, grounding out to first base at Tiger Stadium on Opening Day at the onset of a 3-0 O's loss. It wasn't the result that local fans wanted to see, but there would be plenty of chances for better games. The Birds had found their nest.
So there's the upshot: at least we have a team.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Someone has to celebrate Todd's birthday, especially when the alternative is talking about yet another loss and Dave Trembley's extremely tenuous job status. I'll pass.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Steve Kline's foot-in-mouth moment was pretty low, but it's got nothing on the depths that the current team is plumbing. I've tried to ignore them, but the futility is pretty staggering right about now. When the Birds won their 60th game a week and a half ago, I assumed that they would at the very least be able to grab three W's in their final 17 contests to avoid the big ugly round number of 100 losses. Ten straight defeats later, I look like an idiot. They've just been swept by an Indians team that entered the weekend on an 11-game skid of their own, and in the grotesque finale today, Baltimore's baseball team allowed Cleveland's team to score more (nine runs) than Baltimore's football team allowed to their Cleveland counterparts (three points). Only those perpetual punch lines in Pittsburgh and Washington are keeping the O's from being the worst team in all of baseball. I hate this, because I know how many great young players have made their mark on the 2009 team, but hardly any of them are left standing due to injuries and/or organization-mandated shutdowns and it's not making the current team any easier to watch. Everything has changed and yet nothing has changed.
162 games is a death march when your team is no good, and when it's been no good since you were in high school. If Baltimore didn't have a stable, talented football team, I just don't know what I'd do with myself.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Before this card came into my collection, I had no idea that the immortal Jeltz had played out the string in the Orioles organization. Still fiesty at 32, he had played his way out of the majors by batting .210 in eight seasons with the Phillies and Royals; a .155 average, .394 OPS, and 12 OPS+ in 1990 was the final nail in the coffin. So it was that Steve began the next season as a Rochester Red Wing, keeping the shortstop position warm for the up-and-coming Ricky Gutierrez. Jeltz finished the season with Toronto's AAA club in Syracuse and Baseball Reference regrettably doesn't break out his stats, but I can tell you that between the two clubs he batted .188 and slugged .254 in 71 games. In other words, it's not likely that this dude was ever in danger of becoming a Baltimore Oriole. Still, all it might have taken was a Cal Ripken, Jr. ankle sprain...there but for the grace of God.
Friday, September 25, 2009
First, I had to register for a free account at Dean's site, but that was quick and painless. In all, he sent 13 cards (my favorite number), all in pretty good condition. Of course, the patriotic-looking Jerry Walker rookie pictured above was part of the shipment. They shipped quickly, and came packaged with a nifty marble coaster that featured images of some early 1900's cards of some of the game's greats. While I've never ordered from Dean's Cards before, I will certainly keep the link handy the next time I've got some cash burning a hole in my pocket and I get that familiar itch for the good old cardboard stuff. I'd recommend that you do the same.
I'm sure some crank out there will say that I've "sold out", but if a baker's dozen of semi-stars and commons from 1957-1974 is enough to buy me out, then I'm a cheaper date than most, haha. Thanks again, Dean!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Since I've dragged jheri curls into the conversation, let me just add another early-90s observation: the stadium in the background (most likely Anaheim's ballpark) has a half-visible Bud Dry sign. "Why Ask Why? Dry Bud Dry." It terrifies me that I remember that slogan and yet managed to get all the way to the checkout line at Walmart tonight before realizing that I had left my wallet in the car.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
So I got halfway through the box and suddenly I found Ben McDonald, informing me that I had a front row seat to the Gun Show. Thanks for the boost, you crazy Cajun.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I'm so disgusted that I'm subjecting you to Jose Morban and his mismatched uniform-and-team-identification on a hideously ugly card and his wasted roster spot in 2003 (.141/.187/.225...that's an OPS+ of NINE. As in, 91% below league average). I'm sorry, but baseball is not for the faint of heart.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I've traded a few cards back and forth with Alan, a loyal blog reader who has seen his share of Atlantic League games. Recently, he's been kind enough to send me cards signed by the last two managers of the York Revolution: ex-O's catchers Chris Hoiles and Andy Etchebarren. He also sent along a ticket stub that was inked by former Baltimore bullpen catcher Sammy Snider, and I can't tell you how awesome and thoughtful that is. I'll do a little "show and tell" with those cards at a later date.
Though I'm really starting to build a tidy little Orioles autograph collection (I've got fourteen or so now), I must bow at the altar of Ryan, a.k.a. "Orioles Magic", whose Great Orioles Autograph Project escaped my radar for far too long. Ryan has collected autographs of 557 of the 871 players in Orioles history, which blows my mind. He's incredibly organized and has lists of autographed cards that he is offering for trade, and players whose autos he seeks in return. If you can help him out, make him an offer. If not, just enjoy the great scans and stories!
I almost forgot that another great trade partner, Max, recently sent me a package that included an autographed Mike Cuellar card. That's another one that I'll wait on, and post it on some future rainy day. How's that for foreshadowing?
Sunday, September 20, 2009
-Why is Jeff Ballard's jersey unbuttoned halfway? Was he coming on to the photographer?
-Why does he have two gloves? Did he run off with Bob Milacki's leather so he could stuff it full of potato salad?
-How did jersey manufacturer Rawlings feel about Jeff wearing a Wilson glove?
-Who is the man in the black coat and khakis standing in front of the backstop? What's in the briefcase? Is the the Red Sox team doctor, dispatched to medicate some unruly fans?
-Why am I spending so much time staring at a Jeff Ballard card from the 1980s?
Well, I can answer the last one at least...because someone has to do it, and I'm sparing you the horrors. You're welcome.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
But enough of my blather. Go read the interview here.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
But as I was flipping through my 1989 Orioles box the other night, I took a closer look at one of Fleer's notorious bombs and found some eye-raising photos. This Dave Schmidt card is the best of the bunch in my humble opinion. It's a crummy shot of the featured player, of course. He's not looking at the camera, he's not pitching or even warming up, and we can't begin to guess what has grabbed his attention. But we can also see a blurry fan in a bright red jacket sitting a few rows back who appears to be clutching his head in pain, probably because he just spent his hard-earned money to see the home team play against the dreadful 1988 Orioles. Tomorrow night Frank Viola and the defending champion Twins come to town...why didn't you double-check the paper before you left the house, pal? Your loss.
But even Mr. Red Jacket pales in comparison to the horror that lurks over Schmidt's right shoulder. Outfitted in sinister black and glowering malevolently, Mike Morgan swears oaths at his teammate and plots the coming moment in which he will strike out at his fellow righthanded journeyman starter, because there can be only one. Sure, they all say Morgan is mad when he tells them that he will pitch across the decades, straight on into the 21st Century. But he'll do it, all right. He'll show them all, even if he has to drain Dave Schmidt of his life force to make it happen. Poor Dave doesn't suspect a thing. They never do.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It's going to be a pretty full weekend for Mora. On Friday night the team will honor him in a pregame ceremony; he recently passed Doug DeCinces for second place among all Orioles third basemen in games played. Tonight he's playing game number 794 at the hot corner, putting him only 2,076 games behind Brooks Robinson. In a great bit of news for O's fans, Brooks will actually be on hand Friday night as part of the celebration. As you may know, the Hall of Famer is very rarely seen on Eutaw Street, purportedly due to strained relations with the Angelos family. Let's hope he comes back again very soon.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
"Brian Roberts broke Brian Roberts' club record for most doubles in a season with No. 52 in the third inning, which scored Felix Pie with the Orioles' first run of the night. Brian Roberts ranks third on the list with 50."
Simply incredible. His 295 doubles since 2003 are the most of any player. If you're curious, he's also set a new career high with 74 RBI in 2009 and is seven runs away from a personal best in runs scored. Kudos, Brian.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Indeed, Charm City native (he graduated from Loyola Blakefield High School) Linskey was every bit the phenom himself. He was a 6'5", 200-pound southpaw who had gone 10-1 as a senior at James Madison University and boasted a four-pitch repertoire. He went 29-21 with a 2.59 ERA in his first three seasons in the Baltimore organization, shooting up to AAA Rochester by midseason in 1990. So what happened? He scuffled badly in 1991, going 7-10 between AA and AAA with a 5.23 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. The O's gave up on him at age 25, and he was out of baseball two years later, having failed to regain his form in the Padres farm system.
If anyone out there can fill in some of the blanks as it pertains to Mike Linskey, I'd love to hear from you.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Both were hit in September games in Baltimore against the Tigers. In both instances, the O's were bound for the playoffs (as the A.L. East champs in 1971 and as the A.L. Wild Card in 1996). They were trailing in each game at the time of the milestone home run, though Eddie's blast tied the score. Both men were batting behind fellow Oriole greats (Boog Powell and Cal Ripken, Jr., respectively).
There's more to the story, though. Both of these first-ballot Hall of Famers grew up in California, and both were traded from the Orioles to the Dodgers. They each played for the Indians and Angels as well. Frank played his last major league game in 1976, when he was player/manager of the Indians. Eddie played his first major league game the following April. Of course, Robby also managed Murray during the woeful 1988 season. Pretty wild, huh?
Saturday, September 12, 2009
1) "He's hatless again. What do you know?
2) "Look at his pinky sticking out, like he's drinking tea. That's odd."
3) "What a tiny glove - it's hanging halfway off of his hand."
4) "Wait a minute...he must be playing pepper! Cool!"
As you can see, I didn't even get around to the backdrop, which I believe to be Fenway Park. I've never played pepper myself, but it was recently explained in one of those in-studio demonstrations on the MLB Network by Harold Reynolds, Dan Plesac, and somebody else. Let's say Mitch Williams. I'll cut and paste from Wikipedia because I'm lazy:
"Pepper is a common pre-game exercise in baseball, where one player hits brisk ground balls and line drives to a group of fielders who are standing close by. The fielders try to make a play on the ball, and throw it back as quickly as possible. The batter then attempts to hit the return throw, and so on.
Some ballparks have banned pepper games because of the danger of balls landing in the stands and injuring spectators. Some of these stadiums may display a "NO PEPPER" warning on the edges of the field near the stands. Major League Baseball has also discouraged pepper because it damages the infield grass."The way the ex-players described it, you wanted a glove that was as hard and small as possible, making it more so a paddle than a glove. In recent years, Upper Deck has been using one particular photo of "Cakes" over and over again, so it's nice to see a really creative action shot like the one on this card. Can you think of any other cards you've seen that depict a game of pepper?
Friday, September 11, 2009
To think, most of you probably assumed that Billy Ripken was the most licentious Oriole to ever pose for a baseball card.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
(On the plus side, the commute to work is much more favorable, even with Beltway traffic. Also, most of the litany of speakers were at least skilled and witty enough at their jobs to make the presentations more palatable.)
Monday, September 7, 2009
Further compounding my shame, yesterday was the thirteenth anniversary of Eddie Murray's 500th home run, which he hit in Baltimore off of Tigers pitcher Felipe Lira. You would think that I would remember these sort of things, especially since I witnessed them in my formative years as a baseball fan. In my defense, I've had two weeks off from work and it's thrown off my calendar. (I'm sure you're very sympathetic to my plight!) At the very least, I suppose I've learned a lesson about publishing blog posts before I've checked my RSS feed. Anyway, there's never a bad time to celebrate Steady Eddie, is there?
Sunday, September 6, 2009
The Philadelphia 76ers drafted Mark in the second round (31st overall) in 1997, and he played for four seasons in the NBA with the Sixers, the Nets, the Kings, and the Cavaliers, averaging 3.3 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. Of course, he was scraping by in basketball, so at that point he turned to baseball. Eight seasons in the big leagues later, he's the second-tallest pitcher to ever win 50 career games (the first is that Randy Johnson guy, who stands 6'10"). My favorite story about Hendo is as follows: last season, he pitched with the Marlins. Some of his teammates found a Michael Jordan poster that pictured His Airness dunking over none other than Mark Hendrickson. Needless to say, that poster hung in the Florida clubhouse all season long!
Picture courtesy of The Fightins
Frankly, I give Mark a lot of credit. As others have pointed out, he played at the highest professional level in baseball and basketball. MJ topped out at AA Birmingham during his short-lived try at baseball.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
DISCLAIMER: The above text refers to a card that you cannot see because my Internet connection is on the fritz and I can't manage to upload any scans. That's what I get for waiting until near midnight to throw something together. I guess you'll get a doubleheader tomorrow!
EDIT 9/6 8:41 PM: Now with images!
EDIT 9/7 9:35 PM: I knew I could count on you guys. Thanks!
Friday, September 4, 2009
Sadly, Ernie announced yesterday that he has been diagnosed with incurable cancer of the bile duct and he had reached a consensus with his loved ones and doctors to not pursue treatment. At most, he expects to live for another year. But he's lived a long and full life, and if this article is any indication, he's accepting his fate with grace and aplomb. I wish him the best in the time he does have left. I'll wrap this post up with the Bible verse that Ernie quoted to kick off each baseball season:
"For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." (Song of Solomon 2:11-12)
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Yesterday was designated as Roberto Clemente Day across Major League Baseball, in honor of the Pirates Hall of Famer who lost his life in a 1972 plane crash en route to delivering aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Each team celebrated their nominee for the 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, given to a player "who combines exceptional performance on the baseball field with devoted work in the community". Like Clemente, the Orioles' nominee is an excellent right fielder who wears #21. Nick Markakis, who signed a contract extension in the off-season and recently moved to Baltimore with his family, is making himself right at home.
In May, Nick and his wife Christina established the Right Side Foundation to improve the lives of disadvantaged children in Maryland. One of the first programs launched was "Fun for 21", in which the couple treat a group of 21 kids to a day of activities (such as lunch at the ESPN Zone and an afternoon at the National Aquarium). Last month, the Foundation's first 5K run and 1 mile fun walk was held at Patterson Park to raise funds; nearly 600 runners participated. The Markakises also regularly donate their suite at Camden Yards to a local youth group.
Nick's philanthropy extends beyond his activities with the Right Side Foundation. He's committed $75,000 annually to the Orioles Charitable Foundation, with a portion of that money earmarked for a partnership between the O's and Baltimore City Schools. He's also represented the Birds in MLB initiatives to promote breast cancer awareness and prostate cancer awareness.
If you'd like to vote for Nick Markakis to win the league-wide 2009 Roberto Clemente Award, just follow this link. It's reassuring to know that one of Baltimore's most visible players doesn't confine his best efforts to the baseball diamond.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Stupid Yankees...some day you won't have the Orioles to kick around. Some day soon? Wieters willing.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Darnell McDonald was a two-sport high school athlete from Colorado when Baltimore made him their first-round pick (26th overall) in the 1997 draft. The club enticed him to turn down a football scholarship to the University of Texas, and he made a steady (if unexceptional) ascent through the minor leagues. He also endured the death of his mother Nina in 1999, which caused him to briefly question his desire to continue playing. As spring training drew to a close in 2004, the 25-year-old was told that he had made the big league team. He had boarded the plane and made arrangements to send his car to Baltimore when he was informed at the last moment that he was being sent to Ottawa to make room for Rule 5 draftee Jose Bautista. Darnell finally did make his debut later that month, but played in just 17 games for the O's in a few separate stints, collecting only 5 hits in thirty-two at-bats (.156 average), including a hitless run for the duration of his September callup. That would bring an end to his time in the Orioles system.
The Indians signed McDonald for 2005, as he'd played out his seven-year obligation to the Birds. Unfortunately, this also kick-started the itinerant phase of the outfielder's career; he was released by the Tribe that June and has plied his trade for five organizations in the past five seasons. Until this year, he'd seen a lot of AAA ballparks (877 games) and not nearly as many big league parks (4 games with the Twins in 2007 in addition to the 17 with the Orioles). Finally, at age 30, he made the Reds' Opening Day roster in 2009 and even started in center field when Willy Taveras came down with the flu. Again, he struggled, hitting .175 and getting sent down to AAA in late May.
But there's still time for Darnell to rewrite history. He was recalled late last month and is on a 5-for-13 streak, bringing his average up to .226. On Sunday, he hit his first career major league home run, a memorable moment in what has been a twelve-year odyssey. As the Birds and the Reds each play out the string in September, I'll be keeping tabs on McDonald.