Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Anthony Telford, 1992 Fleer #29

Looking for more information on pitcher Anthony Telford, I came to his Baseball Reference Bullpen page. It didn't have much to offer, except for a scan of one of his cards, which he had signed with his name and the Bible verse "Rev 3:20". Lots of professional athletes have been known to quote scripture along with their autographs, but I haven't seen many of them who have borrowed from the Book of Revelations. For those who are curious, the verse reads as follows:

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

While only Telford knows what significance those words have in his own life, I can see how he might have done a little soul-searching in the mid-90s, when he bounced from the Orioles to the Braves to the Athletics to the Indians to the Expos. By the time the 1997 season rolled around, Anthony was 31 years old and had pitched only 20 major league games, the last of them with Baltimore in 1993. Incredibly, he made Montreal's roster in 1997 and went on to pitch 285 games of relief for the team over the next four seasons, fashioning a 3.71 ERA in that span. Telford's career didn't last much longer after that, but considering his late-in-the-game renaissance, he certainly seems to have been blessed by somebody or something.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Scott Erickson, 1998 Donruss Silver Press Proof #242

There are many valuable pieces of advice that I can give fellow collectors for taking proper care of your card collection. You probably know most of the basics (store your cards in Ultra-Pro binder sheets, keep them out of the reach of children and pets, don't place them in damp areas, etc.). But perhaps the most important pointer that I can offer is this: if you own large quantities of cards from the late 1990s, do not take them outside. If you do, a flock of magpies will be attracted to their shiny, foil-coated, die-cut, holographic nuttiness and will descend upon you, pecking at your soft flesh and your juicy eyes until you relinquish your grip on the glittery goods.

Consider yourself forewarned.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Mike Anderson, 1979 Topps #102

Have you ever seen a cheesier airbrush job on an Orioles card than this paint-by-numbers treatment of reserve outfielder Mike Anderson? Sure, the dude only hit .094 in 32 at-bats in Charm City, but he still deserved better. As long as they were making cosmetic touches to Mike's photo, they could have done something to make him look less seedy. If I had been a little'un in 1979 and I pulled this card out of a pack, it would have given me the serious heebie-jeebies. Can any of my older readers confirm any feelings of unease associate with this card? Have at it in the comments.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brian Roberts, 2006 Topps Opening Day SI for Kids #24

Regrettably, this "Funny Photo" isn't actually all that funny - unless, of course, an evening with Dave Coulier is your idea of a hilarious good time. (If it is, please don't tell me. I don't want to know.)

To compound my annoyance with this card, the photo was taken during an Orioles loss: May 29, 2005. On a Sunday afternoon, the O's took a 6-1 lead over the Tigers on the strength of a five-run outburst in the fifth inning. This picture comes from that rally. B. J. Surhoff has just smoked a line drive to right field for the last triple of his long career. I suspect that he took third base on the throw home, which was gathered up by catcher Vance Wilson, who lunged at the feet of Brian Roberts in vain. Jeff Fiorentino and Roberts scored to make it 3-1.

Like so many games in recent years, this one came unraveled late with the help of some overpaid veteran relievers. The regrettable Steves of '05 did the trick in a six-run Detroit seventh, with Steve Reed coughing up five runs in the span of five batters and capping his gasoline act by serving up a three-run homer to the vaunted Craig Monroe. Dumpy Steve Kline followed Reed to the mound because misery loves company, and allowed the Tigers to tack on an insurance run. Baltimore's bats went cold in a hurry, and they found themselves on the wrong end of an 8-6 loss and a three-game series sweep. It was a grim portent for the first-place O's, who would relinquish their lead a month later and just keep on sliding.

So no, this photo doesn't amuse me. I would have gone with a Homer Simpson quote myself, but I suppose "Out of my way, jerkass!" would be taboo in a set aimed at young collectors.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Eddie Murray, 1988 Topps Woolworth Baseball Highlights #5

Today is a great day for celebration! Not only is it the 54th birthday of the Patron Saint of the Chopstache, Death Glare, and Monster Home Run, Mr. Eddie Clarence Murray, but I also finally made it through settlement. Today, I am officially a homeowner. I won't be moving for a few weeks yet, and there are renovations and touch-ups to be done and furniture to be bought before it is truly something of my own, but I'm pretty excited to start getting things done after months of torturous paperwork and lending legalese and delays. I'm ready to step into the box and take my swings.

If you're curious, it's also the 37th birthday of minor league veteran and Canadian hero Stubby Clapp. Many happy returns, Stubby!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Aaron Rakers, 2006 Fleer Tradition #120

I can't believe that it took another card company 25 years to rip off Topps' so-simple-it's-sublime "hat design". I think I like it even better than the original, since it features the actual team logo. If you somehow missed the Aaron Rakers era in Baltimore, well...there wasn't much to miss. If I recall correctly, his surname is pronounced "rockers", as in the high-flying Shawn Michaels/Marty Jannetty tag team of 1980s vintage. Aaron was a 23rd round draft pick in 1999 who got his callup in his sixth year in the Orioles organization. At ages 27-28, he made 13 relief appearances for the club in 2004 and 2005, and pitched well enough: a 3.50 ERA and 14 strikeouts and four walks in 18 innings. He even picked up his only career win against the Yankees, bailing out Bruce Chen in a 17-9 slugfest in September '05.

Rakers' slim chances of a significant major league career were derailed by a torn labrum in 2006. He pitched a single inning for the Padres in 2007, then joined the ex-Oriole pipeline known as the York Revolution in 2008. At last check, he was continuing his pro career in Taiwan. Keep on keepin' on, Aaron.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mike Boddicker, 1986 Donruss #8

The Orioles sure waited until the last possible moment, but word has finally leaked out that they've secured a TV announcer lineup for the 2010 season. There are plenty of familiar names to O's fans, including a couple of surprises.

It was presumed that the only change would be a replacement for Buck Martinez, who handled the analyst job when Jim Palmer was elsewhere. Indeed, Mike Flanagan is returning to the broadcast booth to replace Buck, which I'd easily consider an upgrade. But Palmer's going to have a little extra company. Joining Jim and play-by-play man Gary Thorne on MASN telecasts will be a rotating third man from a four-man roster.

The third bananas will include Brady Anderson, Mike Boddicker, and Eddie Murray, all of whom are intriguing choices for various reasons. Brady certainly seems to enjoy talking, but lives in California. I wonder how many trips he'll be taking cross-country. Boddicker seems to have lived a fairly quiet life since retiring in 1993 and going home to rural Kansas. Eddie, of course, was never noted for being outgoing with reporters during his career, but I can't say that I blame him. He definitely had more personality when interacting with teammates, and I'm in favor of having more of #33 in my day-to-day life. The rumored fourth guy is none other than Billy Ripken, who actually seems like the most natural choice. He's local, he's outspoken, and he more or less knows his stuff.

If nothing else, the Orioles and MASN have gotten my attention. I'll be tuning in early and often anyhow, and I'm optimistic that they're on to something. Maybe they're working on making the current O's team more competitive by osmosis.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Randy Milligan, 1993 Upper Deck #228

As part of my ongoing losing battle to better organize and display my collection, I spent the early part of this evening putting my 1993 Upper Deck factory set in a binder. It was long overdue, since I adhere to the opinion expressed by some of my favorite fellow bloggers that the card company from California was at the peak of its powers in that year. The design is unobtrusive but distinct, and I appreciate the fact that the Orioles are the only team to have a bright orange team-color stripe at the bottom of the card. The Mets are given blue, and the Giants are black. The photos (both front and back) are nothing short of amazing. They offer a great blend of incredibly detailed and dynamic action shots and imaginative and unique poses and candid moments. More than anything, the clarity and quality of the photos is noteworthy.

Randy Milligan's card had the most uniquely composed photo of the team set. Honestly, have you ever seen another card featuring the team trainer applying eye black? I love it all the more because you can read the trainer's watch if your eyes are sharp enough. I couldn't quite decipher the time, but the date appears to be 5-17, or May 17. The O's were indeed on the road that day, visiting the White Sox. It wasn't a pretty game, with Chicago battering Ben McDonald and Storm Davis and outlasting the Birds by a football score of 14-10. "Moose" Milligan had a decent day at the plate, picking up a pair of singles in five at-bats and driving in two runs, probably because the sun wasn't in his eyes.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dave Criscione, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #88

I believe I promised you a Dave Criscione story, and a Dave Criscione story you shall have. David Gerald Criscione was born in Dunkirk, NY, and attended Dunkirk High (go figure) before signing with the Senators in 1969 as a fifth-round draft pick. Despite flashing a solid bat at every minor league level, he spent seven years in the Washington (and later, Texas) organization without ever sniffing the major leagues. After hitting .293 with 15 home runs at AAA Sacramento in 1976, he was traded to the Orioles for another minor league veteran, pitcher Bob Babcock. It was more of the same in 1977 for Dave, who spent the first half of the year at AAA Rochester...until fate intervened.

In mid-July, an injury to catcher Rick Dempsey left the O's shorthanded behind the plate. The 25-year-old Criscione was promoted with little fanfare. He made his debut on July 17 as an eighth-inning defensive replacement, but hit a shallow flyout the following inning to end the game and strand the potential tying and winning runs. A few days later (July 21, to be exact), his wife Marge gave birth to the couple's first child, daughter Keri Lee. Dave appeared in each of the next two games, but only for an inning in each. But Sunday the 24th, a doubleheader with the Brewers gave the rookie his first opportunity to start. In the second game, he caught all nine innings and had his first two career hits, a pair of singles. The appreciative Baltimore fans gave him a standing ovation for each hit, and another in the eighth inning when he sacrificed Doug DeCinces to third base. Two batters later, Elliott Maddox hit a sac fly to score DeCinces with the eventual winning run. That would prove to be Criscione's only start in the big leagues, but not the greatest moment of his brief career.

Monday's game against Milwaukee went into extra innings tied at three. In the ninth, manager Earl Weaver had pinch-hit for starting catcher Dave Skaggs, so Criscione had to enter the game in the tenth frame. The game wore on into the eleventh, and with one out in the bottom of the inning young Dave strode to the plate to face Brewers reliever Sam Hinds. All he did was blast the game-winning home run to send Memorial Stadium into delirium! It was Criscione's first and last home run and RBI, as well as his last hit and last at-bat in Charm City. He played two more road games for the O's, going 0-for-3, before being sent back to the minors for good with a career average of .333 (3-for-9). He hung up his spikes after the following season (also spent at Rochester), but he can spend the rest of his life telling friends, family, and strangers about that one memorable week in the summer of 1977.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Tom Shopay, 1972 Topps #418

"Why are baseball cards so attractive to kids and adults?"
"I can only speak for myself. Years ago that was a source of information. Stats were always big. They were an educational index card. You read all the little small things that were on the back of the card. You'd get the image and you could hold in your hand and play with. The trading element was pretty cool. I was an Orioles fan … seems like it took me forever to get Brooks Robinson. I had a whole bunch of Tom Shopays."

The preceding quote is an excerpt from a brief interview that Cal Ripken, Jr. recently did with USA Today's Game On blog. There are some other great bits about card collecting and his career. But really...don't you pity poor Tom Shopay? Here's a guy who scratched and clawed for his entire pro career, a 34th round draft pick of the Yankees who made it to the majors in his third pro season and did just enough to hang on a little longer and a little longer...eleven years in pro ball distilled to a total of 253 big league games spread across seven seasons. He hit only .201 in the bigs with three home runs (just one of those in his 245 career games as an Oriole), but doggone it, he made it all the same. Then, 33 years later, the most famous player in team history comes out and tells the world what a bummer it was to pull a fistful of Shopays from those old waxy packs of Topps. They were just fodder for his bike spokes while he waited anxiously for Ol' Brooksie. That's gotta sting.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gregg Olson, 1990 Fleer League Leaders #28

If there's a sports Hall of Fame somewhere in North America, chances are good that they're inducting an Oriole soon. I've already mentioned Harold Baines (Orioles Hall of Fame) and Ben McDonald (Lousiana Sports Hall of Fame), but I've heard tell of four more in the past few weeks.

-Gregg Olson will be one of the first honorees on Auburn University's Baseball Wall of Fame, part of a loaded class that also includes Bo Jackson, Tim Hudson, and Frank Thomas.

-Chris Hoiles and pitcher Paul Mitchell have been tabbed for the Rochester Red Wings Hall of Fame, and will bring the total membership to 80. Hoiles hit .348 with 18 homers for the Wings in 1990, and Mitchell had a 32-14 record and a 3.16 ERA for the O's former AAA affiliate from 1973-1975.

-Though he was passed over by Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility, Roberto Alomar gained entry into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Our neighbors to the north also righted another BBWAA wrong by honoring reliever Paul Quantrill, he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. Has anyone ever been to the Canadian Hall in St. Mary's, Ontario? Is there a nifty museum?

-On Monday, catcher Dave Criscione was inducted into the Chautauqua County (NY) Sports Hall of Fame. Dave had a seven-game stint with the Orioles in 1977 in which he went 3-for-9 with a walkoff homer. I'd give you the whole story, but that sounds like a future full-length post to me.

Did I miss anyone?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jeffrey Hammonds, 1994 Upper Deck SP #121

Today, pitchers and catchers reported to Sarasota and Ed Smith Stadium to begin spring training for the Orioles. The world is a little better for it, I'd like to think. I went searching for an image that embodied this time of year and I found Jeffrey Hammonds politely signing what appears to be a Spring Training preview from some newspaper or another. Of course, that's Rafael Palmeiro on the front page, along with a Cardinals player who I believe to be Gregg Jefferies (an odd choice in hindsight, but he did hit .342 the previous season). I'm guessing that this was a St. Petersburg paper, as the O's and Redbirds shared Al Lang Stadium for Grapefruit League purposes from 1991 through 1995.

It's not easy to tell in this way-foily scan, but the teammate signing autographs in the background is none other than Cal Ripken, Jr. Who else would it be?

So play ball already!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Glenn Davis, 1991 Upper Deck #757

The next time you wonder how long the fine sports fans of Baltimore can carry a grudge, consider this: I have a friend who is a fellow card collector. He's been a diehard Orioles fan longer than I've been alive. Although it's been almost 20 years since the ill-fated trade that brought Glenn Davis to Charm City in exchange for three players (Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch, and Curt Schilling) who would go on to play for another 45 combined seasons in the major leagues, this friend throws away and/or destroys any Davis card that comes into his possession. The card you see above is the one and only exception to that rule. He spares this card only because it also features former O's manager and coach Cal Ripken, Sr., who does not deserve the indignity of the scrap heap. I can't argue with his logic, even if I have trouble throwing out any cards myself.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Luke Scott, 2010 Topps #231

Yesterday, my girlfriend Barbara and I started our Valentine's Day off right with breakfast at a small cafe near her house, followed by a quick and relatively bloodless trip to Wal-mart. I've been holding off on buying new cards, hoping vainly that I could do a better job of organizing and storing the ones I already own before I move into my new house next month, but I just had to dip my toes in the water. So I grabbed a 36-card rack pack of 2010 Topps on our way to the checkout, and tore it open as soon as I got in the car.

The card you see above was the first Topps card of the new year for me. I'm hoping it's a good omen, particularly since it took me so blasted long to pull an Oriole out of 2009 Topps last year. As for the card itself, it looks great. I like the design, with the Orioles script large enough to be distinctive, yet placed somewhere relatively out of the way. The little vortex design thingy on the left side of the photo is decent, too. The photo, with Luke Scott celebrating what was likely a home run by giving a little dap to the man upstairs, is pretty unique. You'd probably prefer to see Luke's smiling face, but the picture is framed well and I do like being able to see his name and number on the back of his jersey.

I wish I could place this game, but my best guess is that it's a day game and is not taking place on a Friday (otherwise the O's would have their black alternate jerseys). I think the mook in the second row is wearing a red alternate Red Sox jersey, so we could give him the benefit of the doubt and suppose that the Sawx are the visiting team. If Scott has just gone deep, that narrows it down to two games. On July 1, he took Josh Beckett deep in an eventual 6-5 Oriole loss. On September 20, he touched up Daisuke Matsuzaka in a 9-3 loss. But then again, maybe it wasn't Scott that delivered the big hit. After all, the players in the dugout still seem to be looking out toward the field and applauding another teammate. Ah well, I'm just happy to have this card in my collection.

By the way, I typed in my code for the Million Card Giveaway that I received in this pack. My prize? A 1988 Topps Juan Samuel that I already have. Just another reason for me to dislike the much-maligned current third base coach of the Birds.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gary Matthews, Jr., 2003 Topps #509

With piles of snow still coating the entire state of Maryland, I've been intending to write about the one snowy Orioles game in my lifetime that I can remember. Fortunately, the Baltimore Sun recently made mention of it to jog my memory.

It was Opening Day - March 31, 2003 - at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. When the game started at 3:05 PM, it was 48 degrees and cloudy, but before long the temperature dropped and snow began to fall in the second inning. According to the Sun, the flurries became so heavy that hitters joked that they were aiming at the largest white blob, assuming it was the ball! In the third inning, the visiting Indians took the lead against starter Rodrigo Lopez on a routine Ellis Burks fly ball to right field. Burks couldn't even see the ball land; neither could O's right fielder Jay Gibbons. After that play, there was a 13-minute snow delay until the worst of the storm passed.
The Birds ended up battling back from a 4-1 deficit to force extra innings, with the help of a Marty Cordova two-run homer in the eighth. Gary Matthews, Jr. turned out to be the hero, reaching in the bottom of the twelfth on a single and scoring the tying run on a passed ball after Cleveland had taken the lead in the top of the inning. He thrilled the few thousand hearty fans that stayed until the end by delivering the game-winning single an inning later.

I have a vague recollection of having seen some of this game. I was a junior in college, and I had gone back to my friend Mike's dorm room with some of our other friends after dinner. As I recall, I was the only big Orioles fan in the group and I asked if I could change the channel to find out the score. It had to be somewhere near 6:30 at night, so I assumed the game would be over. I was surprised to see that the O's were still playing, and even more shocked to see replays of the earlier snow-related mishaps. I managed to catch the end of the game, and was thrilled to be able to celebrate a Baltimore win. Back in those heady days, the team was only working on a five-season streak of losing records, but I was still pessimistic about their chances. After all, they'd just concluded a 98-loss season in 2002 with a heinous 4-32 record down the stretch.

I'm choosing to remain optimistic that we're getting the winter weather out of the way early this year. If the white stuff is still falling at the end of next month, I might lose my mind.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mike Mussina, 2000 Topps HD #39

The first year that I played Little League baseball, my jersey number was 35. It was a big deal for me because two of my favorite major league players wore that number: Mike Mussina and Frank Thomas. With all due respect to "Moose", I was actually a bigger fan of Frank in those days. To an 11-year-old in the mid-90s, the Big Hurt was just about the coolest guy walking the Earth. He was humongous (6'5", 257 lbs.), he had this icy death glare, he played for a great team with cool uniforms, and all he did was beat the hell out of the ball.

There was something else about Frank Thomas, another reason why I chose the card I did for a post about him: he absolutely murdered Mike Mussina.

Both players spent their entire careers in the American League and were almost perfect contemporaries; Frank debuted with the White Sox in 1990 and played his final game for the A's in 2008, whereas Mike pitched his first game for the Orioles in 1991 and wrapped up his career in 2008 with the Yankees. Unsurprisingly, Thomas faced Mussina more times than any other pitcher. Among hitters, only Manny Ramirez had more plate appearances against Moose. In 96 matchups between the two, Thomas drew 13 walks and had 30 hits, of which 9 were doubles and 9 more were home runs. He drove in 21 runs and had a batting line of .366 AVG/.458 OBP/.805 SLG...that's an OPS of 1.263. It's a testament to Frank's skill that he so thoroughly dominated one of the best pitchers of his generation.

Mussina faced Thomas and the White Sox in his major league debut, and the results were overwhelming one-sided. The Big Hurt went 3-for-3 with a walk, two doubles, and a home run. The homer was the only run scored in a 1-0 Chicago victory. Incidentally, the two stars faced each other for the final time in the second game of the 2008 season, when Thomas' Blue Jays bested Mussina's Yankees 5-2. The slugger went hitless in two official at-bats against his rival, and was also hit a pitch in their final meeting.

Of course, I'm writing about this today because Frank Thomas just announced his retirement last week after failing to catch on with a team during the 2009 season. It's always bittersweet to say farewell to one of your favorite childhood players, but I'm holding out strong hopes that he'll be called to Cooperstown in five years. Even in Frank's era of inflated offense, 495 doubles, 521 home runs, and a batting line of .301/.419/.555 (with a 156 OPS+!) has got to be worth something.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Earl Williams, 1974 Topps #375

When examining the worst trades in Orioles history, there's a temptation to begin and end with Glenn Davis. Actually, it's usually necessary to stop at Glenn Davis, because the mere mention of his name causes foaming at the mouth and blackouts. But I'm here to give the devil his due...and that devil is Earl Williams.

It's been 37 years since the O's acquired the moody catcher, and Earl Weaver is still refusing to accept blame for the deal. That should tell you everything you need to know. Still, legend has it that the Hall of Fame manager lobbied for Williams to be the offensive force that the Birds were missing behind the plate. So the team surrendered four players, including former 20-game winner Pat Dobson and All-Star second baseman Davey Johnson, to the Braves to land their man. They banked on Williams replicating his fine 1971 season, when he won Rookie of the Year honors with a 33 home run, 87 RBI effort. But they got more than they bargained for.

Earl turned off many of his teammates with his cocky attitude. While he dubbed himself "Big Money", others referred to him as "Small Change" behind his back. Once during spring training, he entered the clubhouse to find his name penciled into the starting lineup for the third straight game. He moaned, "Aren't there any other catchers on this damn team?". As you might suspect, that work ethic was reflected on the field. In his first season with the Orioles, he batted just .237 with 22 home runs and he slugged .425, 66 points lower than his peak. The O's won the East but were dispatched in the ALCS by Oakland. What of the departed Davey Johnson? He hit 43 homers and slugged .543 in one of the all-time fluke seasons.

Williams' game further deteriorated in 1974. Weaver used him in only 118 games and his production dipped to 14 home runs and 52 RBI with a paltry .395 slugging percentage. Once again, Oakland bounced the Birds in the postseason. That was all of Earl Williams that Baltimore cared to see, as they parted ways with the malcontent that offseason. He would play for three teams over the next three seasons, and his career was over at age 28.

If there is a lesson here, I think it's to steer clear of guys who give themselves nicknames.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Roger McDowell, 1996 Fleer Update #U4

I've written in the past about Moe Drabowsky and some of his legendary pranks, but fellow relief pitcher Roger McDowell could have given him a real run for his money. Aside from the usual hot-foots (hot-feet?) and firecrackers, he was revealed on a memorable episode of Seinfeld as the spitter in the grassy knoll who launched a magic loogie onto Kramer and Newman. Here are some of his other greatest hits:

-During a nationally televised game in 1987, he appeared in the dugout with his pants over his head and his jersey on his lower body and shoes on his hands.

-After the Mets traded him to Philadelphia, the two teams played a spring training game in 1990. Roger tried to get a hold of a Mets uniform and sneak into their bullpen, but was unsuccessful.

-Once performed in an on-field mariachi band while with the Dodgers in 1991.

-In another incident from his Dodger days, he took the field with several pieces of sandpaper sticking out of various openings in his uniform and wore a full tool belt. You can see a picture of it here.

Did I miss any?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Brady Anderson, 1991 Donruss #668

At the time that this card was printed, Brady Anderson was struggling to stay in the major leagues. He'd hit .216 in his first three seasons in the major leagues, with only eight home runs in 825 at-bats. The O's had sent him down to the minors at least once each season, and would do so again in 1991, when he batted .230 with 27 RBI in 113 games.

Now, I don't want to be an armchair hitting coach here, but maybe Brady would have had slightly better results if he weren't using seven or eight bats at once. I'm just throwing it out there.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Luis Aparicio, 2008 Topps Ring of Honor #RH-LA

Since I took advantage of another snow day today to finally update my NumerOlogy website, I currently have uniform numbers on the brain. Now I'm thinking about retired numbers, or more to the point, unretired numbers.

I've only heard of two instances in which a team retired a player's number to honor his contributions, only to put the number back into circulation later. Both times, the team in question was the Chicago White Sox, and both times the previously honored player was a former Oriole.

In 1989, the White Sox sent Professional Hitter (TM) Harold Baines to the Rangers in a midseason trade. To commemorate his decade of service to the team, during which he hit 186 home runs and was a four-time All-Star, Chicago took the rare step of retiring his number while he was still an active player. Baines' career took him from Texas to Oakland to Baltimore, and back to the South Side of the Windy City in 1996. Rather than ask him to take a new number, the Pale Hose "unretired" his #3 just for him. The Sox traded him away once more the following season (back to the O's), but re-reacquired him in 2000 via another trade with Baltimore and once again reissued #3 to him. He retired as a White Sox player (as it should have been) the next year. His uniform number went back into mothballs...until 2004, when he joined ex-teammate Ozzie Guillen's coaching staff. Clear as mud, right?

Well, the Sox have done it again. Luis Aparicio was a Hall of Fame shortstop who was best known for his play with the White Sox (1956-1962, 1968-1970). "Little Looie" won nine Gold Gloves and nine straight American League stolen base crowns, and was a ten-time All-Star. He was the first real major league star to come from Venezuela, and generations of his countrymen have have followed in his footsteps at shortstop (Davey Concepcion, Guillen, Omar Vizquel, etc.). Naturally, Aparicio's #11 was retired by the ChiSox in 1984, just weeks after he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Fast forward to the present, and Vizquel (who will celebrate his 43rd birthday in April!) has signed with the White Sox for the 2010 season, which will be his 22nd in the majors. Since debuting with the Mariners in 1989, he has worn the #13 that Concepcion made famous. The only problem is that his new manager Guillen has also worn that number since the 1980s and refused to cede it to the shortstop. So Omar met with Aparicio over the winter and asked the Hall of Famer (now 75 years old) if he could pay tribute to him and perhaps educate a new generation of fans by wearing #11. After giving it some thought, Luis agreed and the White Sox honored his wishes.

Just hashing all of that out makes me glad that the O's retire a select few numbers...and keep them retired.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Melvin Mora, 2007 Topps Allen and Ginter #109

Much like the entire state of Maryland, Melvin Mora is blanketed in white. In fact, with over 60 inches of snow having fallen in just two months and the latest forecasts calling for another foot or two in the next two days, my home state is going to blow away its previous record for the most snow-heavy winter. Officially speaking, there is another six weeks to the season and many of us are close to begging for mercy. This place is looking more like Colorado - Melvin's new baseball home.

Speaking of changing places, Stacey at Camden Chat spent her snowed-in weekend writing (among other posts) a summary of the members of the 2009 O's that have already moved on to greener...well, let's just say other pastures. Let's just say that the majority of the list defines the phrase "addition by subtraction". Sean Henn, we barely knew ye.

If you're in Maryland (or anywhere that has been beset by snow and ice), I hope you're only leaving home when absolutely necessary and that you're taking all possible precautions when you do so. Hopefully you've got electricity wherever you are and you're not having to read this on your phone. I made it safely to my girlfriend's house in Calvert County on Friday afternoon before the snow really started sticking, and tonight (following 72 hours of movie watching, fine comfort food dining, and *ugh* snow shoveling) I returned home no worse for wear...though Route 301 is still in horrendous shape.

Well, if we do get besieged again tomorrow, I'll be staying home this time. So you'll be reading a bit more from me than you did over the weekend.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Jim Palmer, 2006 Topps Turkey Red #587

Yesterday we looked at Jim Palmer's delivery at the midway point. Today we see the famous high leg kick, so high that it hurts just to watch. This Hall of Famer pitched 3,948 innings in the major leagues, meaning that he repeated his outsized motion tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of times in his career. While he had his share of elbow troubles, it's kind of remarkable that he never had any hip or knee maladies. The dude had pretty strong legs, I would say.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jim Palmer, 2005 Upper Deck All-Star Classics #86

No lies - this may be the coolest Jim Palmer card that I've ever seen. A crystal-clear full-color shot of one of the greatest pitchers of all time at the most physics-defying point in his classic deep-kick windup. The picture was taken sometime during the last decade of his career (1975-1984), judging from the uniform. It was obviously at Memorial Stadium, which is always a bonus. Even the design is regal and understated, which isn't always a given with Upper Deck. Two thumbs up!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vintage Fridays: Jim Palmer, 1980 Burger King #7

If you're reading this, I've successfully arrived in Calvert County and I'm snowed in with my girlfriend for the weekend...or I've died trying. Either way, I need some pre-scheduled posts to fill the next few days. How does back-to-back-to-back Jim Palmer cards sound? Great, that's how it sounds. Let's kick it off with a card that combines two delicious tastes: Juicy Whoppers and a carefully coiffed 'Cakes basking in the sun. Oh yeah.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Brian Roberts, 2003 Donruss Classics #62

The border and background of this card are gray with gradients that blend into blinding white, giving the illusion that Brian Roberts is taking his hacks in the middle of a snowstorm. Tomorrow promises to bring the third significant snowfall to the state of Maryland in the span of a week, and this one should dwarf the others (16-24 inches total). I'm no fan of winter anyway, and these frequent weekend whiteouts are really starting to cramp my style. I'm trying to beat Mother Nature down to Calvert County early tomorrow afternoon, and I'm agonizing over when to leave work, assuming that they don't close the building altogether...they won't. Seriously, winter, cut it out already.

This song has been in my head all day, and I think it's kind of apt. So take it away, Richard Shindell:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Eric Bell, 1988 Score #101

Well, my work had a two hour delayed opening today, so you get an uncommonly early post. It should be a nice change from the usual uncommonly late post.

I may have been a little snarky in my treatment of Eric Bell in last night's entry. After all, one of the things that I enjoy about writing this blog is finding the interesting little stories that define even the obscure players. There are a couple of tidbits on Eric's career stat line that grab my attention, and it would be impolite to keep them to myself.

In 1987, his first full season in the majors, he started 29 games for the Orioles. Only Mike Boddicker (33 GS) had more starts for the team. Aside from that rookie season, Bell had only five starts in the big leagues. Though he had a pretty lousy year, the youngster also scraped out ten wins. He tied for the team lead with Boddicker and Dave Schmidt. Sure, it took him 29 starts to eke out double-digit wins, but when you look at his 5.45 ERA (80 ERA+), 1.53 WHIP, and 1.42 strikeout-to-walk ratio, it's a wonder that he made it.

Bell debuted with the O's in 1985 at age 21, meaning that he was only 23 during that 1987 season. But even with the Baltimore roster in practical shambles in 1988, he started that season at AAA Rochester. He went 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA through seven games before getting injured. Elbow surgery cost him the rest of his season, and he languished in the minors for two more seasons before signing with the Indians as a free agent for 1991.

In September of 1991, the Tribe brought him up after the rosters expanded and he had an improbable hot streak. Four years after throwing his last major league pitch, Eric came out of the Cleveland bullpen and tossed 15 and 2/3 innings spanning eight games without allowing a single earned run. After the only batter he faced in his ninth appearance scored, he added another scoreless 2 and 1/3 innings in his final game of the year to wind up with a 0.50 ERA and 0.56 WHIP. Even more improbable, he played the vulture role, posting a 4-0 record in relief. In doing so he set a major league record for the most wins without a loss while pitching on a 100-loss team. As you might imagine, that was the peak of Bell's career. He began the 1992 season on the Indians' roster, but struggled and was shipped out in May. His 1993 season with the Astros mirrored the 1992 campaign, and he pitched his final big league game on May 8. The southpaw clung to his livelihood for three-plus more seasons at AAA, until a 4-14 season at Tucson in 1996 brought his pro career to a close at age 32.

Well, now I feel better. I hope for your sake and mine that there's a pub trivia quiz somewhere out there that has an Eric Bell Round.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Eric Bell, 1987 Leaf #39

This morning, I awoke at 3 AM in a cold sweat. A terrifying thought occurred: I had never, in 25 months of maintaining this blog, featured former ten-game winner Eric Bell. What's worse, I'd never uploaded a scan of him on a Canadian card. What's even worse, I'd never talked about Bell on Groundhog Day.

Now that I don't have that triple travesty weighing on my chest, maybe I can sleep easy tonight.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Leo Gomez, 1993 Studio #99

When I thumb through my cards and come across Leo Gomez, in my mind I hear Jon Miller's stentorian bass announcing, "LAY-o Gomez". It sounded a little ridiculous, but it just rolled so fluidly off of his tongue...he made it work. My formative years as a baseball fan were spent listening to the avuncular, rotund Miller on WBAL. If I had known that he would be walking out the door after the 1996 season, bound for San Francisco, I might have listened more often and more closely. Instead, I have to settle for hearing him work the mic once a week - Sunday nights on ESPN. Usually that means that I also have to choke on the insipid burbling of Joe Morgan. But that's the kind of risk that I'm willing to take to listen to Jon Miller.

Today, Jon was selected as this year's recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award for his achievements in baseball broadcasting. On July 25, he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. He will join several golden-throated greats who have previously received the honor, including the late, great Chuck Thompson, one of his former partners at WBAL. I can't think of anyone more deserving, and I can't wait to hear his speech.