Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Baltimore Orioles, 1959 Topps #48

Could you picture Brooks Robinson in an Athletics uniform? Or Gus Triandos, or Milt Pappas, or Hoyt Wilhelm? It seems hard to imagine, but all of these scenarios very nearly occurred in 1959. At least, that's what former Baltimore Sun sports reporter Bob Maisel claimed.

My friend Ed recently gave me a stack of old magazines, game programs, newspapers, and other various Oriole artifacts. Among them was a game program from August 1987, which contained a series of "Untold Bird Tales" sponsored by USF&G Insurance. Maisel's story was about "the biggest trade never made". Here's his recollection verbatim:

"This is something that I wrote a story on back in 1959. But I'm sure it's forgotten now.

Paul Richards, the former Orioles manager, was a great innovator. And one night in 1959, he and Jack Dunn, an Orioles vice president, were having a big meeting with the officials of the Kansas City ball club. It was after a night game out in Kansas City, and it was right before the trading deadline. They had to make this deal by midnight, or that was it.

I was out there covering the team. And some of my sources told me, 'You'd better hang around. Crazy Richards has agreed to trade his entire 40-man roster for Kansas City's.'

Apparently, it was all agreed. It just hadn't been signed yet. They were going to completely exchange rosters. Each man thought he was getting the better end of the deal.

But in the middle of the meeting, the Kansas City owner got a phone call from his wife that took him out of the room for a few minutes. And when he came back, he had doubts. He said, well, maybe I'll keep Roger Maris. And then Richards said, well, maybe I'll keep Brooks Robinson And the whole deal fell apart.

But it almost happened. According to people who were in the room, it was all but done. If the Kansas City owner hadn't gotten that phone call, I think they would have made the deal."

So what are the odds that things actually unfolded in the manner described above? Well, Richards certainly had a reputation for wheeling and dealing. He had barely settled into his position with the O's when he pulled the trigger on a blockbuster 17-player trade with the Yankees in November 1954. Shortly after his death in 1986, Sports Illustrated eulogized him and mentioned the rumored Orioles/Athletics roster swap...but claimed that it was during the 1961 season. The July 1989 issue of Baseball Digest includes an article about trading that places the date in 1955. A book on the history of the Kansas City A's claims that it almost happened twice - in June 1956 and again in the spring of 1958 - and that it was Richards who balked first, preferring to keep Brooksie. A John Eisenberg column from 2003 gives the 1956 date, and says that K.C. refused to part with Maris and Clete Boyer. These variations in the date and other basic facts suggest that the anecdote is apocryphal.

Another cause for skepticism? This March 1983 Baseball Digest article, which claims that Paul Richards tried to trade his entire 40-man roster AND $5 million to the Braves for their 40-man roster when he was GM of the Astros in 1964! It's curious that the article makes no mention of Richards being involved in a similar proposal back in his Baltimore days, isn't it?

I also noticed that the "Richards tries to trade entire roster" rumors didn't seem to crop up until the 1980s, well after the fact. I went an extra mile and searched the Baltimore Sun archives, finally uncovering a June 16, 1956 article that discusses trade talks with the A's that had fallen through the previous day. No players are mentioned by name, much less any talk of entire rosters being switched. The bulk of the article concerns rumors of unrealized deals with the White Sox; here, specific players are named. The hottest rumor had shortstop Willie Miranda and catcher Hal Smith going to Chicago in exchange for second baseman Nellie Fox and outfielder Jim Rivera. I'd link to the article, but to view the entire article I had to purchase a PDF that I can only access for 90 days.

So sure, it's fun to navel-gaze and conceive of a radical overhaul of two different franchises, with Roger Maris taking aim at the seats in Memorial Stadium and Ralph Terry taking the place of Milt Pappas. But hindsight suggests that the Orioles were better off keeping their talented young building blocks anyway. Just remember: although truth may be stranger than fiction, sometimes a story can be too good to be true.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Miguel Tejada, 2006 Bowman #150

It was a breezy Sunday afternoon in 2005 when it happened. Bottom of the fourth inning, scoreless game, Miguel Tejada on third base with one out following a double and a grounder to the right side. The next batter up was B. J. Surhoff, who cracked a single into left field. Tejada scored easily, but heard a terrible commotion behind him. Crossing the plate, he glanced over his shoulder to see what it was, and was confronted with a terrible sight. A live bear had rushed the field from who-knows-where, and was mauling third base coach Sam Perlozzo. The umpires were pleading with the creature to leave Pelozzo alone and to return from the zoo or cave from which it came, but the bear either did not understand them or did not care to comply. It was, as many reporters and columnists observed, a dark day for baseball.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rafael Palmeiro, 1997 Upper Deck SP #30

"I was telling the truth then, and I am telling the truth now,'' Palmeiro, 46, said in a phone interview with SI.com. "I don't know what else I can say. I have never taken steroids. For people who think I took steroids intentionally, I'm never going to convince them. But I hope the voters judge my career fairly and don't look at one mistake.'' (Source)

I just...I don't know. I wish this story would go away. Either Rafael Palmeiro is telling the truth, or he's one of the stubbornest liars there has ever been. There's no in-between. If he's being dishonest, what does he think he has to gain from trotting out the same story that fell flat five years ago?

For the record, I think he should be judged on his entire on-field body of work, and that by this standard, he is a Hall of Famer. I'm afraid that there are enough BBWAA voters on the self-appointed morality squad to bounce him from the ballot on his first try, though. After all, there are plenty who have said or implied they're not voting for Jeff Bagwell just because he played in the "steroid era" and hit a bunch of home runs. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eddie Murray, 2010 Topps Vintage Legends #VLC13

Remember the outstanding 1963-style Eddie Murray card I posted a few weeks back? I think that Topps may have created it as an apology for this weak effort that was inserted into second-series packs. What's wrong here? Let's count the offenses. Take one of the worst designs in the 60-year history of Topps Baseball (the milquetoast 1964 set), infuse it with a sickly green color, and find a photo of Steady Eddie posing in front of some mostly-empty seats. Sure, Murray is sporting one of the most terrifying scowls ever committed to cardboard, but he can only do so much.

Oh, and since when is Eddie Murray an outfielder? The man played 3,026 games in the majors, and exactly three of those were spent in left field, all coming during his 1977 rookie season. Not one of the Topps cards issued during Eddie's career designates him as an outfielder. It's nice to see that the company hasn't gotten complacent and sloppy since buying the exclusive license to manufacture MLB cards.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1999 Pacific Invincible #4

Despite the fact that I am an avid Ravens fan, and that Baltimore's other franchise gives me a lot more cause to celebrate than the Orioles do, I generally try to keep the football discussion to a minimum here. I know that you're generally here for baseball. But a member of the purple and black set a franchise mark for durability yesterday, and naturally I thought of Cal Ripken, Jr.

Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson has played in 126 games since the team drafted him from the University of Alabama in 2003, and yesterday marked his 112th consecutive game. He hasn't missed a Ravens game since early in his rookie season, and with yesterday's start against the Browns, he surpassed the previous club mark set by fellow linebacker Peter Boulware. It might not be comparable to Cal's 2,632-game, 17-season run with the Orioles, but in some ways it's even more impressive when you consider the physical toll that football takes on the bodies of the men who play the sport. In fact, JJ has been playing with two bad shoulders throughout the 2010 season. He tore his right labrum in training camp and sprained his left AC joint two weeks into the schedule. His personal-best 94 tackles were recorded in the 2007 season while he toughed out a broken thumb.

Congratulations, Jarret. You might not be invincible, but the fans of Charm City appreciate your hard work.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tom O'Malley, 1987 Fleer #477

Once again, a Merry Christmas to one and all, and a happy 50th birthday to Tom O'Malley, one of three ex-Orioles born on this momentous day (1950s pitchers Charlie Beamon and Mike Blyzka are the others).

This year brought a blend of traditions new and old for me and my family. Last night, I joined my parents and my brother-in-law's parents at my sister and her husband's house for a fantastic dinner. This is their first year in the house and my sister's first Christmas Eve dinner, and she aced it. We watched "It's A Wonderful Life" and then went to midnight mass. I've been under the weather for the last week, so I gratefully collapsed into bed as soon as I got to my parents' house at 1:30 AM. They were kind enough to let me sleep in, so I roused myself at 9:30 for a home-cooked breakfast of turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, and toast. My folks and I exchanged gifts and prepared the house for dinner. The extended family trickled in between 3:00 and 5:00 for dinner. We totaled 17 people this year, and the house was loud and warm for several hours while all of our favorite Christmas movies played on DVD (A Christmas Story, Elf, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and A Muppet Christmas Carol). We wrapped up with a Secret Santa gift exchange, and everyone seemed quite pleased. I finally loaded up my car and got back home a little over an hour ago.

I made out really well. My big gift was a Keurig single-cup coffee and tea brewing machine, which is optimal for the lazy gentleman who's always in a rush before work. I also received a black Ray Rice Ravens jersey, a snazzy dark gray Orioles t-shirt, a Nintendo Wii Points card (which will be redeemed for downloadable Rock Band tracks), DVDs of Superbad and the third season of 30 Rock, a couple CDs (The Beatles' remastered "Help!" and Counting Crows' "This Desert Life"), and a couple baseball card-centric books: Cardboard Gods and Mint Condition. Oh, and there were four packs of 2010 Topps Update in my stocking, which filled a few set needs and provided me with two more Million Card Giveaway codes. I did as well as could be expected, receiving a 1968 Bill Henry and a 1981 Al Oliver when I redeemed them.

Now to finish unpacking and enjoy my plunder...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Walt Dropo, 1960 Topps #79

I'd like to wish a Happy and healthy Christmas to all who celebrate it. I hope that you are spending the day with loved ones, and thinking of those who are no longer with you. Unfortunately one of the departed is former Orioles first baseman Walt "Moose" Dropo, who passed away a week ago at age 87. I talked a bit about his amazing rookie season and his embarrassing moments on Walt Dropo Day in one of my earliest Vintage Fridays entries. The only things that I'd like to add:

1) I'm glad to see that his grandchildren still sponsor "Grampie Walter"'s Baseball Reference player page. I'm sure he'll be missed.

2) Since Walt was playing out the end of his career by the time he became an Oriole, I wanted to call attention to one of his great games in Baltimore. On July 4, 1959, he went 3-for-5 with three runs scored, two homers, and four RBI as the Birds beat the Red Sox 11-5. His two-run home run in the second inning gave the O's a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Rest in peace, Walt.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Keith Moreland, 1990 Upper Deck #401

Well, that box break went even more poorly than I had anticipated. The gory details:

Three packs of 1988 Topps

A pack each of 1987, 1989, 1990 Topps

Two packs of 1988 Donruss

A pack each of 1989 and 1990 Donruss

A pack of 1990 Upper Deck

A repack of junk wax (1984 and 1987 Topps, 1988 and 1990 Score, 1992 Upper Deck…you know the drill)

A pack of 1986 Donruss Jumbo All-Stars

A pack of 1989 Topps UK Mini

A pack of 1998 Team Best Minor League

A mangled pack of 2009 Obak

It goes without saying that I was part of the 3,999 out of 4,000 that received no throwback soo-prize. The one pack from the last fifteen years was bent to bejeezus, and I got six packs from sets I’ve already completed. In the Upper Deck pack, I was treated to Keith Moreland, the 35-year-old veteran who the "Why Not?" Orioles acquired down the stretch in 1989. He rewarded them with a .215/.243/.280 slash line and 5 extra-base hits in 33 games, and even as the team was fighting tooth and nail with the Blue Jays for the A.L. East title, he complained about his playing time. When the O's were officially eliminated on the second-to-last day of the season, Moreland left the club and went home before the final game. What I'm saying is that he is the perfect representation for this dud purchase. Let this be a lesson to you: junk purchases are all in good fun, but the cheaper the better.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Billy Ripken, 1990 Topps #468

I made a foolish purchase today...but I absolutely intended to do so.

've been spending my hard-earned money on lots of not-so-fun things lately. Car repairs, new tires, paint for my bathroom walls. All of that lousy grown-up crap. So today, on the cusp of Christmas, I found myself pushing through the post-work traffic to get to the unholiest of unholies, Walmart. It was a necessary evil, to get a prescription filled for antibiotics to kill the lovely cough/whatever else that came to visit right before the holidays. With 30 minutes to waste before I could pick up my magic pills, I decided that I'd earned a trip across the store to the card aisle. I knew exactly what was waiting for me with its garish siren song:

Surprise! It's garbage!
I've seen this exact Pandora's Blaster Box on my last handful of trips to Wallyworld and each time Mr. Rational Side of the Brain has beaten back the impulses that scream, "Oooh! Shiny! 1950s and 1960s wax! Even if you don't get any of that, there's 16 packs! Try to find a better deal for $20!" Mr. Rational Side of the Brain sees the asterisks that decorate this box like one of Ford Frick's forbidden dreams. He sees the black bar at the bottom that promises that "the majority" of these boxes will contain 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s detritus, and he knows exactly what that means. At least 50% of these packs will be the same damned bundles of cardboard that fill boxes of duplicates in my closet: 1987 Topps. 1989 Topps. Maybe a little 1990 Topps, just because it's so monkeychucking ugly. 1990 Fleer. 1988 Score. If you look closely at the background image for the "16 Baseball Packs" boilerplate, you'll see more truth in advertising: I can make out images of wax packs of 1988, 1991, and 1992 Topps, Triple Play, a 1989 or 1990 Score...yep, this is certain doom.

Did I mention that there was one box left?

That was all the extra motivation that my impulsive side needed. Take the guesswork out of it, never spend the rest of my life lamenting that I chose the wrong box. This one was there for a reason. A side panel broadcasts the "Randomly-Inserted" Throwback Packs: 1961 Fleer Baseball Greats, 1964 Topps Stand Ups, 1965-1967 Topps, 1968 something-or-other, 1969 Topps Baseball Stamps. They even show the 1965 Topps Mickey Mantle, one of the 43 cards I need to complete that set! It's a sign. It was meant to be.

While I waited in line at the Pharmacy to check out, I read the ultra-fine print on the bottom of the box. There are 1:4,000 odds of finding a Throwback Pack, which is in actuality a voucher to be redeemed by mail. Redemptions allow you to be entered in a drawing for that "Big Find", the one and only pack of 1952 Topps High Series. Don't hold your breath, especially since the drawing doesn't take place until "on or around" 1/31/13. But hey, what's two years to wait?

Alright, I've taken you through my tortured thought process enough for one night. Check back tomorrow, and I'll let you know what treasures can be had in a box so cruelly enticing. With any luck, I'll at least get something nifty and forgotten like 2003 Topps Total.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nick Markakis, 2009 Upper Deck Sweet Spot #81

If you're looking for a soft news item to put you in good cheer this holiday week (and really, who isn't?), look no further. Earlier today, Nick Markakis and his wife Christina picked up Jacqueline Bassett and her five children in a limousine and accompanied the family to a Target store in Cockeysville, MD for a Christmas shopping spree. The entire day was arranged by the OriolesREACH charity and Nick and Christina's Right Side Foundation for distressed children in Maryland.

Oh, and the Oriole Bird was there too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Jason Berken, 2010 Topps When They Were Young #WTWY-JB

The card you see above came with today's mail as part of a trade with Randy Krolewicz, reader and friend of this little corner of the blog world. We had discussed a 2010 Topps trade, as I have plenty of dupes and still have some needs to fill from the Update Series. Though Randy wasn't able to fill any of those needs, he did have some insert cards featuring several Orioles. I noticed on Randy's website that he had some 1965 Topps available, so I figured it couldn't hurt to ask if he would be willing to throw one or two of those into the trade as well to even things out. He went above and beyond, including five of my 1965 Topps needs in a custom-made 1965 Topps "wrapper" and topping it off with a Boog Powell Gold  Embossed card from that year's insert set! Thank you for the early Christmas gift, Randy! If anyone else would like to talk trade with him, check out his website and drop him a line.

As far as this card in particular is concerned, it's somewhat reassuring to see that Jason Berken had to wear the same cheesy foam-and-mesh caps and uncomfortable polyester pullover jerseys that I did in Little League. Major leaguers aren't all that different from you and me...except for the $400,000 starting salary, of course.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chris Hoiles, 1997 Collector's Choice #38

Nothing beats a great play-at-the-plate photo. Here we have Chris Hoiles lunging and laying the tag down with authority on Bernard Gilkey of the Mets. Hoiles has his tongue sticking out in intense concentration and his upper body twisted 45 degrees away from his legs. Gilkey has his batting gloves tucked in his left rear pocket, and his sliding legs have kicked up one hell of a dust cloud. With his left arm outstretched and his hand frozen in a clawlike gesture, it looks like he's trying to gouge the catcher's eyes out. Nice try, Bernard. You are OUT.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eddie Murray, 1988 Fleer Baseball All-Stars #28

If you spent the 1980s watching Eddie Murray dominate the competition at first base, you probably find it hard to believe that the Orioles are a week away from Christmas with a big question mark at that crucial position. Realistically, first base has been a revolving door and a weak spot for the O's since Rafael Palmeiro departed for the first time after the 1998 season. Here are the men who have played there most frequently by season in the ensuing years, with AVG/OBP/SLG, and home runs and RBI listed:

1999: Jeff Conine (.291/.335/.453, 13, 75)
2000: Will Clark (.301/.413/.473, 9, 28) Played only 79 games, injured and later traded to St. Louis
2001: Jeff Conine (.311/.386/.443, 14, 97)
2002: Jeff Conine (.273/.307/.448, 15, 63)
2003: Jeff Conine (.290/.338/.460, 15, 80) Played 124 games, traded to Florida
2004: Rafael Palmeiro (.258/.359/.436, 23, 88)
2005: Rafael Palmeiro (.266/.339/.447, 18, 60) Played only 110 games...you know why
2006: Kevin Millar (.272/.374/.437, 15, 64)
2007: Kevin Millar (.254/.365/.420, 17, 63)
2008: Kevin Millar (.234/.323/.394, 20, 72)
2009: Aubrey Huff (.253/.321/.405, 13, 72) Played only 110 games, traded to Detroit
2010: Ty Wigginton (.248/.312/.415, 22, 76) Made 89 of his 144 starts at 1B

Pretty sad, right? At a premium power position, the Birds haven't even had 25 homers in the past 12 years. Last year, thanks largely to the big steaming pile of awful that was Garret Atkins, they didn't get a single home run from a first baseman until the last day of June (a team-record 76 games). There have been plenty of first basemen available this offseason on the free agent market, but the O's were outbid for Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn and claim that they didn't make an offer to Carlos Pena. They are supposedly negotiating with both Adam LaRoche and Derrek Lee. The fact that either of them would represent an upgrade for the Orioles is telling; no one is going to rush to the ballpark to see them do their thing. Fans (yours truly included) are getting restless with the lengthy process that has unfolded, and are probably a bit worried that the team will get neither if they haven't wrapped one of them up already.

My preference, such as it is, is for LaRoche, who is four years younger and seems to have more power at this point in his career. It seems like the O's try to get him every year, and eventually they have to succeed, you would think. Besides, he's not an ex-Cub like Lee; I'd rather not hear the lame jokes about GM Andy MacPhail's Cub fetish. A word to the wise, should Adam ink a deal with Baltimore: he is a notoriously slow starter, with a .211/.304/.396 career slash line before May 1. It's his worst career month by nearly an 80-point margin of OPS. So we might just need - you guessed it - that much more patience.

I wish Eddie Murray could find the fountain of youth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Pat Kelly, 1977 Topps #469

And now, a snippet of conversation between Pat Kelly and Earl Weaver:

KELLY: "Skip, don't you want me to walk with the Lord?"

WEAVER: "I'd rather you walk with the bases loaded."

Aaaand scene.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brian Roberts, 2010 Bowman #37

I consider myself a Brian Roberts collector, in that I collect baseball cards (and particularly those with Orioles on them) and he is my favorite player. Although I haven't sought out his cards in particular, I do currently have 72 of them. But I know that's just scratching the surface. After all, he's been an Oriole for 10 years, and the number of different cards released in that time has remained astronomical even as the card companies funneled down to two. Consider that night owl owns over 100 of Clayton Kershaw's cards, and the Dodgers pitcher has only been in the majors since 2008. Nonetheless, the 72 B-Rob cards that I own are a nice starting point. There are base cards and inserts, retro designs and shiny cutting-edge creations, bat relics and serial-numbered. There are pictures of him clean-shaven and scruffy, posing, batting, running, and fielding. There are cameos by Dustin Pedroia (pictured above), Lee Mazzilli, Gerald Laird, and Melvin Mora. It's time to get cracking, and expand the boundaries of my Brian Roberts player collection.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Robert Andino, 2010 Topps Heritage #71

I'm starting to get the idea that the Orioles really don't want Robert Andino around. Two years ago he was a surprise addition to the roster at the end of spring training, arriving via a trade that sent Hayden Penn to the Marlins. He spent all of 2009 as the O's utility infielder, and was...a pretty awful hitter: .222 AVG, .274 OBP, .288 SLG, 48 OPS+. It seems that last spring he turned off team officials with his lackadaisical approach to defense, so he began the season at Norfolk. Even though Brian Roberts was not healthy, the Birds decided that a decrepit Julio Lugo was preferable to Andino at second base. Instead, he got to play every day at AAA and didn't do anything special: .264/.302/.405, though he did flash enough power to hit 30 doubles and 13 homers. He committed 31 errors, which could mean that he got to a lot of balls, but it could also mean that he was sloppy. Anyway, he finally made it back to Baltimore in September and played better than expected, albeit in a small sample size: .295/.333/.459 in 16 games, with 4 doubles and 2 homers. Oh, and the home runs came in consecutive days against A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia. He played second base, third base, and shortstop, and made only one error. However, after trading for shortstop J.J. Hardy, the O's re-signed Cesar Izturis to be the utility infielder. At best, Andino can hope to compete with Brendan Harris (also acquired in the Hardy trade) and possibly Nick Green (who was rumored to be signing a minor league deal last week) for another bench spot. But considering Izturis' negligible offensive value and the likeliness of a 12-man pitching staff, it's unlikely that the team will carry two light-hitting backup infielders. Sorry, Robert.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Earl Weaver, 1982 Donruss #27

Most of us will never have to let the media know that we are indeed still alive. But Earl Weaver had that unique honor yesterday.

It seems that Saturday, in none other than the New York Times, political columnist Ross Ramsey used a tortured metaphor to compare Democrats in the state of Texas to the Baltimore Orioles and suggested that in the afterlife, former Texas governor Ann Richards must be commiserating with Weaver on the current sorry state of their respective teams. Way to do your homework, Ross.

Not only is Earl still here with us on Earth (Florida, to be more precise), at 80 years old he hasn't lost his spark. Baltimore Sun reporter Mike Klingaman reached the Hall of Fame manager by phone yesterday to clear the air. His first reaction to the news that he'd been presumed dead: "I'll be damned." He also mentioned that he is no longer able to golf due to bad knees, and put a punctuation mark on his comments:

"I’ve always said that there were two places that I wouldn’t mind dying. One was Memorial Stadium; the other, the golf course...Now I’ve got to wait forever [to go], because both of those places are gone.”

Take your time, Earl. We'll be glad to put up with you for a while longer.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Brady Anderson, 1997 Topps Gallery #57

In all of the weeks-long supposition and guesswork about the 2011 Oriole coaching staff, Brady Anderson was one of the few ex-O's who was a popular candidate. (Can I just say how relieved I am that we've gotten to the point in the offseason where we can chase rumors of actual player moves?) Brady, who played his last game in Baltimore a decade ago, didn't get hired. It seems like Buck Showalter put an emphasis on experienced coaches, men with whom he had a pre-existing relationship. That's all good and well. But I'm glad to read that Brady is still offering his advice and instruction to a few players whose success will be critical to the fortunes of next year's team.

Anderson and young outfielder Nolan Reimold started working together last year, as the slugger struggled to right himself following a disastrous start to the season both on and off-field. They've continued their partnership, and Brady has reported back to the Birds in the affirmative about Reimold's health and his ability to return to his 2009 form. The O's single-season home run record holder is convinced that Nolan had not fully recovered from offseason Achilles tendon surgery when he went north with the club last April. He also points out that while the left fielder was rehabbing his injury the previous winter, he was unable to take swings and continue with his usual offseason training regimen. I thought that the rumored Reimold-for-Jason Bartlett swap was a mistake that the team was fortunate to avoid, and it sounds like Anderson agrees. I just hope that he can train and mentor as well as he played.

As happenstance would have it, new third baseman Mark Reynolds also solicited Brady's assistance shortly before the Orioles traded for him. They're due to meet up in Arizona soon for some workouts and batting practice. I'll say one thing about Anderson; he certainly knows how to pick his pupils. He's coming in on the ground floor with Nolan and Mark. If they could each hit .250 with power in 2011, he'll look like an offensive guru.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dennis Martinez, 1986 Fleer #280

Things I learned from this photo:

1) Dennis Martinez donates his hair to "Locks for Labradors", a pet wig service that I just made up.

2) El Presidente's head was disproportionately large for the rest of his body.

3) Martinez used a Mizuno glove with his name embroidered on it.

4) The large blurry gentleman in the light blue shirt at top right must really enjoy watching Dennis pose for baseball card pictures.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sammy Sosa, 2005 Upper Deck MVP #79

Here's my makeup post for yesterday. It features a player who accomplished many great things in his career, regardless of the questionable means he used to do so. Sammy Sosa was a seven-time All-Star, an MVP, and the second man to ever to hit 62 home runs. He topped Roger Maris' former single-season record three times in four years and only six players all-time have exceeded his total of 609 home runs. But I feel that I accomplished something even greater yesterday: I finally painted my bathroom.

It took most of my Saturday, required the help of a more ambitious friend, and left me feeling like I could use some of Slammin' Sammy's pharmaceuticals, but at long last all of the walls in my inner sanctum are one color...and that color is no longer a frightening bright institutional mint green. Eat your heart out, Sosa.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Ellie Hendricks, 1976 Topps #371

Occasionally, I like the layout and photo of a card so much that I feel like my own words couldn't do it justice. Such is the case with this sublime card featuring Elrod Hendricks soaking up the sun on a bright afternoon late in his career and flashing a candid and typical smile. Just another day at the office for Mr. Oriole.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Koji Uehara, 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions #139

I'm very pleased with the moves the Orioles have made in the past 24 hours.

First, they reached an agreement late last night on a new contract for Koji Uehara. I was confused when the O's declined to offer him salary arbitration, but in hindsight they saved money. If he'd accepted arbitration, he likely make at least $6 million in 2011 (his 2010 salary was $5 million). Instead, Koji signed a one-year deal for $3 million guaranteed with another $2 million in incentives and an option for 2012. It's a pretty low-risk deal for someone who was excellent when he finally got healthy.

Around lunchtime today, the Birds finally completed a trade for another talented infielder in his prime, acquiring shortstop J.J. Hardy and utility infielder Brendan Harris from the Twins for minor league relievers Brett Jacobsen and Jim Hoey. Minnesota even threw in $500,000 to offset some of the salary difference. Hardy is 28, has some pop (he hit a total 61 doubles and 50 homers in 2007 and 2008 with the Brewers), and is regarded as a strong defender. At this point in his career, he's just as good as Cesar Izturis with the glove and even if his offense remains at the lower level of his 2009-2010 numbers, he's actually a significant upgrade over Cesar with the bat. Twins fans are howling over the deal, which I'll take as a good sign.

I feel much better about the deals Andy MacPhail has made this week than I did about the retread Band-Aids he slapped on last year's team. It's starting to look like a major league club...of course the less said about the Red $ox and the Yankee$, the better.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mike Mussina, 1999 Pacific Prism #19

Mike Mussina's 42nd birthday is today. Believe it. Believe these fun facts, too:

-With 270 career wins, he nearly doubles the total of all of the other pitchers born on December 8 combined (139).

-He won at least one game in 26 different stadiums, which is more impressive when you consider that he pitched for American League teams for all of his 18 years in the majors.

-Despite bolting to the Yankees in mid-career, he had more W's at Oriole Park at Camden Yards than at Yankee Stadium, 77-72.

-Moose pitched to 21 catchers in his career, including the uncle-nephew tandem of Rick Dempsey and Gregg Zaun.

-Amongst opposing hitters, former Rookie of the Year Bob Hamelin had the most at-bats against him without a hit, going 0-for-21 with a walk. Kirk Gibson was 0-for-15 with a walk, and current Frederick Keys coach Denny Hocking was 0-for-16 with a sac bunt.

-Mike's top five strikeout victims: Jason Varitek (30), Carlos Delgado (29), David Ortiz (27), Brian Daubach (25), Manny Ramirez (25).

-He pitched in 537 games, more than other Stanford University product. Other Orioles who played college ball at Stanford: Chuck Essegian, Pete Stanicek, Jeff Ballard, Jeffrey Hammonds, Paul Carey, Rick Helling, Brian Sackinsky, and Jeremy Guthrie.

-Other December 8 birthdays: Mary Queen of Scots, Eli Whitney, Diego Rivera, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jim Morrison, Sam Kinison, and Dwight Howard. Of interest only to me: WWE broadcaster Michael Cole (he was born on 12-8-68, same as Moose. Mussina's middle name is Cole. Spooky.) and LOST costars Dominic Monaghan and Ian Somerhalder.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ty Wigginton, 2009 Topps Heritage #649

Just like that, another player becomes an ex-Oriole. Today Ty Wigginton signed a two-year, $7.5 million deal with the Rockies. He essentially replaces Melvin Mora as Colorado's utility infielder. Yesterday Mora signed with the Diamondbacks right after they traded Mark Reynolds to the Orioles. Circle of life. So long, Wiggy. We'll always remember your unusual April-May 2010 power surge, the sublime humor of your 13 innings at shortstop in 2009, and that time you flipped out on the first base umpire in that game against the Twins.

I probably shouldn't pay such close attention to the Hot Stove rumors. I spent a good deal of time today pre-emptively flipping out over reports that the Orioles were likely trading Nolan Reimold to the Rays for shortstop Jason Bartlett, but the deal fell through by dinner time. With any luck, it's dead in the water. Bartlett would be an upgrade over the offensively impotent Cesar Izturis, but it would be a crime to sell so low on Reimold. It was just two years ago that he was one of the best-hitting rookies in the league, and I'd expect him to be healthier, more focused, and back in form in 2011. We'll see what news tomorrow holds.

Monday, December 6, 2010

David Hernandez, 2009 Topps Chrome #198

It took a few weeks, but the Orioles have made their first significant move of the offseason. Today they traded David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to the Diamondbacks for third baseman Mark Reynolds and a player to be named later. I'm cautiously optimistic about this move. I feel like the O's didn't give up too much. Hernandez is a promising young pitcher and seemed to come into his own once he was switched to the bullpen (7-3, 3.16 ERA, 45 K in 37 IP), and Mickolio took a major step back in 2010 - he'll be 27 in May, and can't be considered a prospect any more. I'm just relieved that they didn't give up Chris Tillman as previously rumored.

As far as Mark Reynolds, the deficiencies in his game jump right out at you. In 2008, he was the first player to strike out 200 times in a season, and he blew his own record out of the water with 223 the following year. Last year he had 211 whiffs and his batting average plunged from .260 to .198. But strikeouts aren't as stigmatized as they once were; they're not any worse than any other type of out, and they're better than double plays (I'm looking at you, Miguel Tejada). And even with all of the strikeouts and the low batting averages (.242 for his career), he still has a lot of value as a hitter. Unlike the aforementioned Tejada and the rookie Josh Bell, Reynolds is not afraid to take a walk. Last year he walked a career-high 83 times, nearly four times as often as Baltimore's cast of third basemen combined. Then, of course, there's the power. Whether or not the University of Virginia product ever matches the 44 home runs he hit in 2009, there's no question that he is a legitimate power hitter. In a down year last year, he still clouted 32 homers, one every 15.6 at bats. The O's have only had three 30-homer seasons in the last decade: Aubrey Huff in 2008, Miguel Tejada in 2004, and Tony Batista in 2002. Besides, Reynolds is still relatively young (27) and affordable. He's under contract for two more years, with a team option for a third. I guess what I'm saying is that he is not another Garrett Atkins.

Welcome to Baltimore, Mark. I look forward to watching you swing for the fences at Camden Yards.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1993 Topps Stadium Club Master Photo Winner

A few months back, my aunt and uncle called me from a flea market to let me know that they'd found someone selling sports cards. My entire family has become a hobby recon squad in the past few years, sniffing out cardboard wherever their travels take them. I listened to my uncle rattle off a short list of junk wax for sale, and asked him to pick up a $10 box of 1993 Stadium Club Series 1 for $10. I finally picked it up at Thanksgiving dinner, and spent a week or so ripping packs. The collation was pretty lousy; I think it was about 50% doubles. But what do you want for a cool Alexander Hamilton? Besides, I did snag this Cal Ripken, Jr. winner card. Tell him what he won, Rod!

"CONGRATULATIONS! This card entitles you to three (3) Stadium Club Master Photos from Stadium Club Baseball series #1. A MASTER PHOTO is the uncropped version of the photograph used in the Stadium Club 1993 Series with 22% more photo area than a 2 1/2" X 3 1/2" card. A MASTER PHOTO lets you see what the photographer sees through his lens. Each MASTER PHOTO (Ed. Note: Enough with the Caps Lock!) is printed on high grade 5" X 7" white stock enhanced with our Stadium Club Master Photo Design.

The Group A02 MASTER PHOTOS you have won are CAL RIPKEN (pictured on this card), MIKE SCIOSCIA and CARLOS BAERGA..."

Okay, enough with the boilerplate. Time to put my $1.50 shipping charge in an envelope and reap my sweet Master Ph- what's this?

"*MASTER PHOTO WINNER* Cards must be redeemed no later than 1/31/94."

Aww, rat farts! Oh well, at least I've got the Winner Card to add to my Orioles collection.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Alan Mills, 1998 Pacific Online #94

This is a pretty transparent attempt by Pacific to capitalize on that "Inter-net" thing that everyone was talking about back in the late 1990s. I can't tell you for sure whether the first URL actually led to a web page about Alan Mills; today, it leads nowhere. The other URL actually redirects to the Orioles' official website. I do remember the halcyon days when teams maintained their own sites independently of Major League Baseball, but I don't know why "theorioles.com" was necessary. I'm guessing some other quick-thinking wonk snapped up "orioles.com", but the O's and MLB eventually got their mitts on it.

As long as we're accessing the WABAC machine, you can see the Orioles' website as it looked in June 1997 by following this link. It seems like another lifetime, doesn't it?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Carlos Lopez, 1979 Topps #568

I was leafing through my vintage Orioles binder today and realized that I know less than nothing about Carlos Lopez. That's why we have the Internet, I suppose. Now I can tell you that Carlos was born in Mexico, making him one of twelve all-time O's from south of the border. The most prominent were Fernando Valenzuela and Rodrigo Lopez. The outfielder played in the Mexican League from 1969-1973, at which point the Angels purchased his contract. He batted .321 with 126 extra-base hits in three years in the minors. He went 0-for-10 with a pair of walks in a late 1976 audition with California, and was claimed by the Mariners in that offseason's expansion draft. At age 28, he started 75 games in right field for Seattle and batted a team-high .283 with 8 home runs and 34 RBI. His 16 steals were surpassed only by Dave Collins' 25 thefts.

In December 1977, Carlos and journeyman pitcher Tommy Moore were traded to the Orioles for pitcher Mike Parrott. Moore was released by the Birds in March, but Lopez spent the entire 1978 season in Baltimore as a bench player. He appeared in 129 games but started only 47, batting .238 with 4 homers and 20 RBI. He was error-free in 62 chances in right field, and had a pair of three-hit games. It proved to be his last season in the majors and his penultimate year in pro ball. In 1979 he hit .282 and went 24-for-31 as a base stealer for the Rochester Red Wings. Thirty years later, some shlub wrote a blog post about him.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eddie Murray, 1985 Topps #700

This past Tuesday I got a complimentary email from a reader named Robert. He has visited and enjoyed this blog for a few months now, and he requested that I post this very card. Robert supposes that this is his favorite card, and I must say that he has exquisite taste in cardboard.

This is the Mona Lisa of baseball cards, says I. Instead of a knowing smirk, Steady Eddie wears an icy-cool stare. The juxtaposition of his game face and the wide smile of the cartoon bird on his cap is pitch perfect. His afro glistens in the afternoon soon as though it were ringed with fire. His mutton chops join with his mustache to create an unbreakable wreath of hair from his skull to his face and back again. Of course I don't have to tell you that Eddie puts the soul in the soul patch, a finishing touch that he pulls off with aplomb.

If I had my way, this card would hang in the National Portrait Gallery.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tom Underwood, 1985 Fleer #194

While making the card blog rounds this morning, I learned some sobering news. Former Orioles (and Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Yankees, and Athletics) pitcher Tom Underwood died last Monday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 56 years old, the same age as my parents.

Tom was a solid major league pitcher for a decade, though he didn't quite reach the heights than many expected after his first few years with the Phillies. He won 14 games as a rookie in 1975, and followed up with a 10-5 record and a 3.53 ERA for the National League East champs the next year. A low point came in 1978-1979, when he was saddled with a combined 15-30 record for some awful Blue Jays teams despite a solid 3.88 ERA. He split his time between the bullpen and rotation for New York and Oakland over the next few years and fared better, then joined the Orioles as a free agent for the 1984 season. Used almost exclusively in relief, Underwood had one win, no losses, one save, and a 3.52 ERA in 37 games. He wasn't unhittable by any means, allowing a .283 average by opposing hitters and giving up nearly 10 hits per 9 innings. But his ERA was also inflated by a disastrous debut; he coughed up six runs in an inning of work on April 7. Without that meltdown, he would have been at 2.80 for the year. Nonetheless, he was released at season's end. He spent 1985 struggling back in the minors for the Yankees, and then hung up his spikes with a career record of 86-87 and a 3.89 ERA.

Long before I knew who Tom Underwood was, he was in my life. When I was a kid I had a small stack of cards that were probably given to me by a relative or friend of the family. Included were four 1982 Topps cards: three Orioles (Steve Stone, Gary Roenicke, and Al Bumbry) and one Athletics (Tom Underwood). Up until a few years ago, I didn't even realize that he had ended his major league career as an Oriole. That card seemed significant; it was the oldest non-Oriole card that I owned until I was in my mid-twenties. What's more, it was from the year I was born. Without looking at the card, I can see it in my mind: Tom stands before the camera with his arms crossed, a warm and bemused smirk on his face. He always looked like a friendly, approachable guy.

You'll be missed, Tom. It doesn't mean much, but one young boy was happy to have your card in his collection.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

B.J. Surhoff, 2000 Topps Stadium Club #61

The 2011 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot has been released, and it's both a Who's Who of 1990s and early 2000s MLB and a stark reminder of how old we're all getting. Former Expos and Giants pitcher Kirk Rueter is eligible this year; I remember him going 8-0 for Montreal as a rookie in 1993. Bobby Higginson debuted with the Tigers in 1995, for the love of Jeff!

There is no shortage of ex-Orioles on the ballot, either. Holdovers Roberto Alomar, Harold Baines, Tim Raines, and Lee Smith are joined by first-timers Kevin Brown, Charles Johnson, Rafael Palmeiro, and B.J. Surhoff. That's eight guys who wore the orange and black out of a total of 33 eligible players. It figures to be a brutally competitive vote, as Alomar and longtime bridesmaid Bert Blyleven both fell just short of enshrinement last year and are early favorites for 2011. The biggest name to join the field is Jeff Bagwell, who put up a .297/.408/.540 slash line - or 449 home runs and 1529 RBI if you prefer counting stats.

There are some returning ballot members who are have gotten bafflingly anemic vote totals thus far, including Raines, Smith, Alan Trammell, and Edgar Martinez. With Mark McGwire meeting up with new candidates like Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez, the morality play about steroid use will take center stage once more. I'm fatigued by the whole thing, and it's my opinion that there's no way we'll ever know for sure that any player from the past two decades was clean, so every player should be judged on their career performance. The "steroid era" will just be another label some day, much like the pre-integration era or the dead-ball era. Under this criteria, McGwire and Palmeiro are Hall of Famers, but not Juan Gone.

Let the debate begin...or continue. We won't know who is in and who is out (and who's dropped from the ballot altogether) until January 5.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mark Belanger, 1981 Donruss #472

Since I kvetched about the placement of the 1971 Orioles' starting rotation in a recent installment of MLB Network's "Prime 9" series, it would be unsporting if I failed to mention last week's countdown of the top nine double play combos in baseball history. In a list that featured such dazzling shortstop-second base duos as Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar, and Dave Concepcion and Joe Morgan, the #1 pair was none other than Mark Belanger and Bobby Grich.

Although Grich did not take over for Davey Johnson at second base until 1973, and joined the Angels as a free agent after the 1976 season, he and Belanger made their four-year partnership count. They each won all four Gold Glove Awards given at their respective positions in that span, providing support up the middle for a club that won back-to-back American League East titles in 1973 and 1974 and averaged 91.5 wins from 1973-1976. With backup from Bobby and "the Blade", the O's pitching staffs finished first, second, first, and fourth in the A.L. in team ERA, and Jim Palmer won all three of his career Cy Young Awards. (He struggled with injuries in 1974; Mike Cuellar finished sixth in voting that year despite 22 wins as Catfish Hunter topped a competitive field.)

If you ever wonder how important a defensively skilled double play combination can be, look at the Brian Roberts-less Orioles from the first two-thirds of last year. How many innings were extended because the Birds couldn't turn two? The same problem occurred in 2008, when Roberts was healthy but Miguel Tejada was gone. Miggi's replacements were found wanting, to say the least. We might never have a Belanger-Grich combo again, but I'd settle for competence.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Brooks Robinson, 2005 Upper Deck All-Star Classics #80

Of all the photos of Brooks Robinson that have appeared on baseball cards, this one may be my favorite. Judging by the Major League Baseball logo patch on his left sleeve, this shot would have been taken in 1969 when MLB commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first professional baseball team. So here you have the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, in the prime of his career, poised to pounce on a ground ball. It looks like he's standing in foul territory down the third base line at Memorial Stadium. From the scoreboard on the outfield fence, it would seem that the Yankees were in town, unless the photo was taken during the World Series against the Mets. The only thing that would make this picture better would be if Brooks were placing Tommie Agee in a chokehold.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Jeff Conine, 2003 Upper Deck #317

In retrospect, "Jazzercise With Jeff" was one of the truly underappreciated physical fitness DVDs of the mid-2000s. However, it was probably a bit of a reach for Jeff Conine to dub himself "DJ Jazzercisey Jeff".

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Boog Powell, 1962 Topps #99

From the "Where the Hell Does the Time Go?" files, tonight is the 10-year reunion of my graduating class from Archbishop Curley High School. More to the point, it's a reunion event for several classes, in increments of five: 1965, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005. This academic year also marks the 50th anniversary of Curley High, the first high school in the Archdiocese of Baltimore established exclusively for the education of young men. (Translation: it's a stag-fest.) The school was founded in 1960, opened in 1961, and was dedicated in April 1962. How long ago was that? Back in those days, it seems that Boog Powell played left field, and some people still called him "John".

I skipped my five-year reunion, so this is my first chance to witness this spectacle first hand. Keep your fingers crossed that I might make it through the evening unscathed.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Albert Belle, 1999 Topps Gallery #44

I hope that everyone reading this blog had a happy Thanksgiving spent with friends and/or family. Hopefully you got to eat all of your favorite foods, watch a ton of football (the games were better than they usually are, I'd say), and see Santa Clause roll in at the end of the Macy's parade.

I went up the road to my aunt and uncle's house in Harford County and stuffed myself with turkey, rolls, green beans with turkey bacon, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, and apple pie a la mode. I made it back home in one piece, and now it's about time to slip into a food coma.

There are many things that I am thankful for this year, but at the moment I am extremely grateful that I have the day off from work tomorrow. Of course, I'm also thankful that I've never run afoul of Albert Belle!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

John Shelby, 1986 Donruss #643

After entirely too much hand-wringing by fans and media alike, the Orioles have finalized their 2011 coaching staff at last. For the first time in a dog's age, they've made a clean sweep; sorry, John Shelby. It's a novel idea, letting your manager choose his own coaching staff. As a result of these circumstances, there are no former O's players on the major league staff for the first time since the days of Earl Weaver. I'm okay with that. It would be nice to see a familiar face or two, but the top priority is getting competent men who know how to communicate their knowledge to the current players. By most accounts, that's just what Buck Showalter has at his disposal. As an added bonus, the Phillies took Juan "The Windmill" Samuel off of our hands!

I like being able to branch out from my O's collection to show you what else lurks in the boxes and binders in my house. Let's root through the non-Oriole portion of my collection and meet the coaches.
1994 Collector's Choice Wayne Kirby
The first base coach is Wayne Kirby, a former outfielder who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1983. He didn't make his big league debut until 1991 with the Indians, and didn't get to play a full season until 1993, when he was 29 years old. That 1993 season was his best, as he hit .269 with 6 home runs, 60 RBI and 17 steals for Cleveland. He last played for the Mets in 1998, and was a .252 hitter for his career. His brother is Terry Kirby, a former NFL running back who I remember from my previous life as a Miami Dolphins fan. Wayne will also work with the outfielders.
1987 Topps John Russell
The third base coach is John Russell, recently deposed manager of the Pirates. He had a 186-299 record in three years at the helm. He was also a backup catcher for the Phillies, Braves, and Rangers from 1984-1993 and caught Nolan Ryan's sixth no-hitter on June 11, 1990. John was a career .225 hitter, and he'll be working with the catchers.
1988 Topps Jim Presley
Ex-Mariner, Brave, and Padre third baseman Jim Presley will replace Terry Crowley as hitting instructor. He previously served under Buck Showalter as Arizona's hitting coach, and spent the past five seasons in the same capacity with the Marlins. As a player he peaked early, hitting 79 home runs in his first three full seasons with Seattle. He was an All-Star in 1986, when he drove in a career-high 107 runs. In eight seasons (1984-1991), he batted .247 with an off-putting .290 on-base percentage. But I suppose you don't have to be a good hitter in order to teach others how to hit. Jim also has a master's degree in educational leadership, for what that's worth.
1993 Upper Deck Willie Randolph
The most prominent member of Buck's staff may be bench coach Willie Randolph, who was fired by the Mets in 2008 despite having a 302-253 record as their manager in three-plus years. He spent several years on Buck and Joe Torre's Yankee staffs, and most recently served as bench coach for the Brewers. Of course he was also a dependable second baseman for six teams (most notably the Yankees) from 1975-1992, batting .276 with an impressive .373 on-base percentage for his career. Willie was a six-time All-Star and will instruct the team's infielders. Despite his significant New York ties, he has started out his Orioles career by saying the right things about his respect for the team's history and his dedication to Baltimore and its fans.

Unfortunately I don't have any cards for pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Rick Adair, neither of whom had any major league playing experience. Connor is a trusted associate of Showalter, having been his pitching coach in New York, Arizona, and Texas. Adair has spent the last 25 years as a minor league pitching instructor and occasional big league coach, most recently serving as Seattle's pitching coach.
2004 Topps Buck Showalter
And of course you all know this guy.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Rafael Palmeiro, 1999 Upper Deck Black Diamond #12

I was just trying to get home from work today, but an inattentive driver sideswiped me on I-695. Fortunately, I am unharmed and the driver's side of my car is dented and scratched but nothing worse. Still, I'm not in a mood to talk shop tonight. Enjoy the shininess.

Monday, November 22, 2010

LaTroy Hawkins, 2006 Upper Deck #533

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and former Oriole LaTroy Hawkins is helping scores of families in his hometown of Gary, IN to have a better holiday.

Yesterday Hawkins and his family (wife Anita, 9-year-old daughter Troi, and 18-year-old son Dakari) paid a visit to Embassies of Christ Ministries and donated and distributed 250 10-pound turkeys to needy parishioners and members of the community at large. The ex-Oriole and current Milwaukee Brewer now makes his home in Texas, but insisted that he is a Hoosier at heart and that he's appreciative for all that the city of Gary and its people have done for him. LaTroy also gave away 15 gift baskets via a drawing.

Since Thanksgiving is all about being grateful for the things that we have, it's also important to remember that there are millions of people who are less fortunate, especially in these trying economic times. If you have a bit of discretionary income to spare, please consider donating to a local non-profit like the Maryland Food Bank. A little goes a long way.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Caleb Joseph, 2010 Bowman Prospects #BP55

If you don't know who Caleb Joseph is today, there's a chance that you will know him in a few years. The Orioles drafted the catcher out of Nashville's Lipscomb University in the seventh round of the 2008 draft. He flashed decent power with the Aberdeen IronBirds in his first pro experience that year, cracking 19 doubles and 8 homers in 63 games. He further progressed with the Frederick Keys in 2009, batting .284 with 12 home runs and 60 RBI in 103 games. Joseph entered the 2010 season as a top-twenty prospect in the O's farm system, but struggled a bit in his first look at AA Bowie. His average dipped to .235 and he slugged just .368, and he committed too many passed balls and errors.

Caleb should still enter the upcoming season on a high note, though. Baltimore sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he and several other Birds minor leaguers played for the Scottsdale Scorpions. Yesterday the Scorpions beat the Peoria Javelinas 3-2 to capture the AFL championship. Though he played only three innings in the final game, Joseph led his club (albeit in a small sample size) with a .390 batting average in 12 games.

One more thing: Caleb took this excellent headshot for mlb.com's Arizona Fall League site. So he's photogenic as well.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cal Ripken, Jr., 2007 Upper Deck Goudey #244

This card is part of the "Heads Up" subset from Upper Deck's first Goudey retro issue. It borrows the design of a set originally released by the Goudey Gum Company in 1938 that featured stars like Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, and Bob Feller. If you can look at this card for at least two minutes without having nightmares, you are a stronger person than I am.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Bobby Grich, 1971 Topps #193

This is Bobby Grich's rookie card, as he debuted with the Orioles in 1970 three years after the Orioles drafted him and Don Baylor with their first two picks. Not a bad haul, huh? Grich was promoted in late June and appeared in 30 games, batting .211. As you can see here, not only did he make most of his appearances at shortstop (rather than second base, his customary position for the rest of his career), but he was also clean-shaven. When I think of Bobby Grich, I picture his trademark mustache, less a fashion statement than a way of life. He looks very much like an earnest, driven young player here, but you can sense that something is missing - something besides the ball that has yet to bounce into his outstretched glove. That upper-lip-warmer was just lying in wait, biding its time until Bobby was ready to harness its power and realize his destiny as a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glover.